San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Three Excursions In San Pedro de Atacama That Will Knock Your Socks Off!
EPIC ACTIVITIES IN THE ATACAMA DESERT
It took two buses, four movies and plenty of shut-eye before arriving at San Pedro de Atacama, a village in the middle of the world’s driest desert (less than 1mm a year). When I stepped off the double-decker bus and grabbed my backpack I felt like I was in a ghost town. All that was around were empty dirt roads, a sports field of some sort and the Licancabur Volcano lurking in the distance. I followed other travelers and found my way to the hostel, which was only a few blocks from the bus depot.
After checking into Hostel Rural, showering off the 17-hour bus journey and having a quick nap, I walked through this quaint adobe village. It only took ten minutes to meander through the narrow streets of San Pedro de Atacama which was a blessing because acclimatizing to 2200 meters above sea level was a bit of a b**ch. It’s amazing how hard it is to hold a conversation while walking; you don’t realize the breath you need to put words together. By the early evening, I got it together and planned my trip for the next three days. Since San Pedro de Atacama is geared toward tourists, every other shop offered excursions. All I had to do was choose the activities that interested me the most, choose the tour company that didn’t allow more than twenty people on their bus and show up on time.
ATACAMA DESERT EXCURSION 1
VALLE DE LA LUNA, VALLE DE LA MUERTE, AND TRES MARIAS
Holy Cow! This is what I would imagine the surface of Mars or the Moon to be. Makes sense that NASA tests some of its vehicles here, how cool is that? Roaming the vast, uneven Terrain and getting close to the peaks edge was exhilarating. When the last of the sun’s rays set over the sand dunes and the temperature slightly dropped, the stillness of the valley was peaceful and eerily quiet.
ATACAMA DESERT EXCURSION 2
This was one of the coolest activities I have ever done – floating like a feather in a pool of salt! As I slowly made my way into the cooler pool of water, it became clear that this was going to be a lot of fun. It is utterly impossible to swim and doing the breaststroke caused awkward somersaults. Be careful, as you never want to put your face in contact with the salt – this lagoon has a higher salt concentration than the Dead Sea! The amazing part was the 360-degree views of the Andes that surrounded the Lagoon.
OJOS DEL SALAR
After bathing in mounds of salt, we headed to two circular fresh water craters, known as the ‘eyes’ of the Salar. How on earth did these two perfectly round lakes end up in the middle of the desert? Astounding. I jumped off the ledge and swam around, trying to get the salt that clung to my body, off.
It looked like I was walking on snow in the middle of the desert! I enjoyed a Pisco Sour as the sun set over the Andes, creating amazing pink hues over the lagoon.
ATACAMA DESERT EXCURSION 3
I was both nervous and excited about this excursion. Nervous because we were heading to 4200 m.a.s.l. and excited because I will get to view hundreds of flamingos in their original habitat (not at a hotel in Maui). Since we were heading to a high altitude, we first stopped at Tocano Village, which is known for its bell tower and church. We spent an hour wandering the old town and observing the architecture which dates back to the 1700s. We then slowly drove and ascended the mountain to Laguna Miscanti.
As evident by one of my photos, I survived being at 4200m.a.s.l.. Honestly, I thought I was going to die on top of the mountain and they would leave my body there. Can I blame the altitude for my craziness? The views of Miñiques Volcano and The Cerro Miscanti Mountain range as a backdrop to the heart-shaped and turquoise color lake was remarkable. It felt very peaceful here. No one was around except the fifteen of us on the tour. After lunch we descended back down, passing Llamas that wouldn’t budge in front of us on the road, to our last stop, The Los Flamencos National Reserve.
RESERVA NACIONAL LOS FLAMENCOS
Chaxa Lake at The Los Flamencos National Reserve is a breeding site for three species of Flamingos (Chilean, Andean, and James). The beauty of these delicate birds was stunningly reflected in the still lagoon.
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