Travel to Chile

Day 4 Chiu Chiu - Tatio - Atacama Salt Flat - Chiu Chiu (424 Km.)

We wake up at 4:00 in the morning to go on the way to Caspana and later to El Tatio by dirt roads plenty of stones and barely marked.

(in 87 Km.) El Tatio: The Tatio Geyser is an altitude of 4320 m. Is classified as one of the geothermal fields highest in the world. By breaking the Day, huge jets of boiling water and steam emerging from the underground and are projected tens of meters against the cold and crystalline air. Pools of thermal water, mineral deposits of beautiful colors with crusting, upholstery 10 km² of geothermal field, while in the background, the snowy summits of volcanoes are cut against a blue metallic sky. It is a sublime spectacle.

Geysers of El Tatio Geysers of El Tatio

Geysers of El Tatio

The activity of the fumaroles starts at 5:30 and ends between 7 and 8:30 pm, when the sun has already gone completely. That is the appropriate time for an invigorating swim in thermal wells. The altitude here makes the water boils at only 86° C; about 600 m deep, however, have been detected at temperatures up to 240° C. The water from wells, however, is the perfect temperature for a bath. No closer to the mouth of the fumaroles. The ground around them is hollow and very fragile. Several people die each year falling to the boiling waters of the interior. There are no posters warning.

We continue to San Pedro de Atacama on a road that reaches a maximum altitude of 4,500 meters, passing through the passage of Vizcachas (6 km.). About 6 km. later we went through the highest point of the trail (4,500 meters). Advancing some 36 km. more and from the plant of Azufrera Saciel down for another 9 km by the Cuesta del Diablo until it stopped in the Baños de Puritama (Puritama Hot Springs), to make a dip in the hot springs in a beautiful stream.

(in 68 Km.) Termas de Puritama: Located north of San Pedro de Atacama, it is a fantastic place, with cold temperatures and no possibility of locating firewood. There are several swimming pools that are perfect for bathing, the only problem is that they are not as hot as one would wish (33 Degrees). The water rises from a river and flows underground through the canyon to the lower altitudes of San Pedro, to create a micro climate.

Puritama Hot Springs

Termas de Puritama/Puritama Hot Springs - Pool

Puritama Hot Springs

Termas de Puritama/Puritama Hot Springs

We continue the descent into San Pedro de Atacama contemplating the southern slope of the volcano Lincancabur of 5917 meters. After 27 kilometers we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama.

Vicunas and volcano Licancabur

Vicunas and volcano Licancabur

(in 64 Km.) Toconao: Village located at an altitude of 2475 meters and consisting of 546 inhabitants. It is an oasis, thanks to the purity of water, allowing the cultivation of all kinds of fruit. In front of his square lies the Church and bell of San Lucas (St. Luke), declared a National Monument. It is of special beauty Quebrada de Jerez, a small canyon where a river passes and it becomes a little oasis in the desert.

(in 19 Km.) Atacama Salt Flat: The Salar de Atacama is the largest in Chile, with an area of over 3,000 km². The air here is extremely dry, which gives him a perfect transparency. So much so that at first glance it´s easy to see the other end of the salt flat, about 70 kilometers. This same clarity, however, makes it difficult to judge distances.

Atacama Salt Flat - Chaxa lagoon

Atacama Salt Flat - Laguna Chaxa

Below is a salt lake, hidden by a thick crust of salt and rough soiled with the dust of the desert, which contains the largest reserves of lithium in the world, a mineral used in some high-tech industries and is exploited in the south area of the salt flat. This crust, in some places, has opened to make room for small gaps that are a favorite habitat for waterfowl, including flamingos, Taguas and guallatas.

The most important thing is the Chaxa lagoon, which is part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. Located 56 km south of San Pedro de Atacama and partially covered with salt surface, in its margins grow some plants adapted to the saline environment and the desert climate, with species such as pitch, cachiyuyo, Ephedra Brean and salt grass. The fauna includes Chilean flamingos and Andean flamingos.

(in 56 Km.) San Pedro de Atacama.

(in 130 Km.) We´re going to sleep to Chiu Chiu.