This journey in the Atacama desert takes you to some of the most spectacular desert scenery on the planet. You’ll see sputtering geysers, salt flats where flamingoes roam, and gorgeous sunsets over otherworldly rock formations. This Chilean adventure is for active-minded travelers, with biking and hiking among astonishing Andean landscapes.

Highlights

  • See the steaming Tatio geysers erupting on a geothermal field 
  • Watch the sunset over the bizarre rock formations of the Moon Valley
  • Spot flamingos while exploring the Atacama Salt Flat
  • Learn about the ancient Andean cosmos on a stargazing excursion  
  • Float effortlessly on the turquoise waters of the Cejar Lagoon
  • Bike to Death Valley, a dramatic terrain of jagged rocks and towering sand dunes

Overview

This seven-day trip to northern Chile is a great destination for adventure lovers. You’ll head off on bike rides to chiseled red-rock canyons, hike to the top of rocky hilltops, and soak in sparkling blue lagoons. By night, you’ll go stargazing beneath one of the world’s clearest night skies. The destinations are often evocative, including Death Valley, the Devil's Canyon the Moon Valley. 

On this trip, you’ll also learn about the indigenous beliefs and cultural traditions, with llama trekking and visits to native settlements and ancient archeological sights. Your base for the trip will be in San Pedro de Atacama, a charming village packed with great restaurants, outdoor cafes, and colorful handicraft stores.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights  Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San Pedro, bike ride to Death Valley  San Pedro
Day 2 Bike ride to Pukara de Quitor archeological site and Devil's Canyon, visit Toconao village and Atacama Salt Flat San Pedro
Day 3 Bike ride to Coyo to learn about Atacamenian traditions, evening stargazing tour San Pedro
Day 4 Swimming in the Cejar Lagoon, afternoon tour and sunset at the Moon Valley San Pedro
Day 5 Visit traditional Socaire village, hike to top of Cerro Kapur San Pedro
Day 6 Experience the Tatio Geysers, hike around Copa Coya hill San Pedro
Day 7 Final day, explore San Pedro, transfer to Calama airport  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San Pedro, cycle to Death Valley

Dramatic rock formations of the Death Valley. 

On the first day of your trip, you'll be met at the airport in Calama and transferred to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama. That afternoon, guides will come to your accommodation and outfit you with a bike for the first tour. Then, you’ll set off from San Pedro de Atacama towards the Death Valley. The route will follow the ancient river beds that have carved the landscapes into enigmatic shapes and figures, some measuring up to 40 meters in height. 

This desolate valley in the Salt Mountain Range has a landscape with strange formations and colors. You will ride around huge sand dunes that form a natural labyrinth. You'll have a chance to can climb up the dunes to admire a beautiful sunset over the Atacama.

This is the perfect experience for cross country adventures who want to experience the wild side of nature. At night you will enjoy a welcome dinner in one of the best restaurants in town.

Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 7874 feet (2400 m.) above sea level
Bike Distance: 7.5 miles (12 km.) on a mix of asphalt and dirt road   

Day 2: Cycle to Devil's Canyon and archeological sites, Atacama Salt Flats 

Atacama Salt Flat, a habitat for flamingoes 

After breakfast, you will depart the hotel by bicycle towards the Salt Mountain Range, through the Catarpe Valley. Your first stop will be at the Pukara de Quitor, an old fortress built by the Atacamenian people. These ruins are where the Atacameños fought to preserve their independence from the Inca Empire and later the Spanish.

Afterwards, you will continue biking towards the scenic Devil's Canyon and will be riding at an average height of 8000 ft. (2438 m). After crossing the San Pedro River, you'll arrive at the Canyon, which has narrow, quartz-flecked corridors and a sandy bottom in places. The ride is a gentle climb until you come out of the labyrinth on to the Catarpe plateau

The return journey follows the natural course of the San Pedro River until you reach the village and homeward to your hotel.

Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 8530 ft. (2600 m.) above sea level
Distance biked: 15.5 miles (25 km.) along dirt road

In the afternoon you will depart from San Pedro in a van to the town of Toconao. Once here you will visit the main plaza, the church, and the historic bell tower, all historic symbols of this town.

After taking in the village sights, you will continue towards Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos. This is where the Atacama Salt Flat is located and offers amazing bird watching. This national reserve is formed by a gigantic depression that occupies some 1200 square miles (3000 sq km) at an altitude of about 7545 ft. (2300 m).

The Salar is the biggest salt field in Chile and its large quantities of salt make the surface white and rough. You can get great panoramic views of the salt field as there is little on the dry horizon to obscure your view. Several lagoons have formed here, providing a habitat for Puna, Chilean and Andean flamingoes. Here you will watch another spectacular sunset, then head back to your hotel in San Pedro.

Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 8530 ft. (2600 m.) above sea level

Day 3: Indigenous community experience, walking with llamas, astronomy

Stargazing in the Atacama Desert.

After breakfast, you will bike towards Coyo, one of the historic settlements in the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama. The morning will be dedicated to a Likan Antay experience. The Atacameños, or Likan Antay, have inhabited the desert for thousands of years and have learned discovered many of its secrets.

Wildo, a community member, will share with you the story of his ancestral background and describe lifestyles among the desert people. You will learn about growing corn and alfalfa crops here, the raising of livestock, craft making, and other traditional Likan Antay practices.
For lunch, you will taste typical Atacamenian recipes. Afterwards, you will cycle back to your accommodation for a short rest.

In the afternoon you will bike again to Coyo to visit the house of Sandra. There you will set off on an ancestral caravan with llamas. This excursion allows you to experience the thrill of walking with llamas in the Atacama Desert. A local guide will teach you more about the history of the desert and Atacamenian relationship to llamas and travel. After sunset, you will ride back to your hotel.
 
Later that night, you will join a small group for an astronomy excursion. The Atacama sky is one of the best in the world for stargazing. Local guides will teach you about Andean and occidental constellations and how to understand the cosmos according to the ancient inhabitants. Peering through modern telescopes, you will see spectacular objects in the universe.

Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 7874 ft. (2400 m.) above sea level
Distance: 19 miles (29 km) round trip

Day 4: Float in the Cejar Lagoon & a cycle to the Moon Valley

Cooling off in the mineral and salt-laden Cejar Lagoon.

Today you'll travel by bike towards the Cejar Lagoon, where you’ll get the chance to swim in a picturesque turquoise lagoon. Owing to the high salt content here, you'll be able to float quite easily. 

Afterwards, you'll go to the small twin lagoons of Ojos del Salar, then continue to the Tebinquinche Lagoon for a picnic.
Following lunch, you’ll be driven back to San Pedro de Atacama.

Bike distance: 21 miles (35 km.) along dirt road
Difficulty: Easy
Altitude: 7874 ft. (2400 m.) above sea level

In the afternoon, you’ll bike from San Pedro de Atacama towards Moon Valley, a valley of statuesque, rocky formations. Salt covers the surface in a dry, parched layer, giving the landscape a lunar aspect. You'll visit the statues of salt called Las Tres Marias, a salt mine and salt caves. Then, you'll walk past sand dunes until you reach the summit of a big dune. You'll watch the sunset in this valley known for its spectacular colors. Afterwards, you'll return to your lodging in San Pedro de Atacama.
 
Difficulty: Medium
Altitude: 7874 ft. (2,400 m.) above sea level
Bike distance: 21 miles (35 km.) along a mix of asphalt and dirt road

Day 5: Capur Salt Flat Hike

The saltwater lake of Talar. 

On the fifth day, you’ll depart towards Socaire village, located at an altitude of 10,826 ft. (3300 m.). There you'll acclimatize and have a look at the small church of San Bartolomé.

Afterwards, you'll continue towards Cerro Capur (Capur Hill) and set off on a four-hour hike to the top. Atop the 14,996 ft. (4571 m.) summit, you'll enjoy fabulous views of the salt lakes of Aguas Calientes and Talar, with Andean Volcanoes in the distance.

Once you descend the hill, you'll enjoy lunch against the backdrop of striking colors of the Andes Mountain Range. You'll also get a closer look at the salt lakes. These are a wondrous habitat for a variety of avian species, such as the Chilean flamingo, the small parina, and the horned crane, among other birds.

Difficulty: Hard.
Altitude: 13,123 ft. (4000 m.) above sea level
Distance: 3.72 miles (6 km.) 
Time Hiking: 4 Hours

Day 6: Tatio Geysers - Copa Coya Mount

Hiking amid the desert landscape near Copa Coya. 

Today, you'll depart by van to the Tatio Geysers. At an altitude of 14,271 ft. (4350 m.), the valley has a wild landscape shaped by sputtering fumaroles and steaming geysers of volcanic origin.

After taking in the surreal landscape, you will set on a hike from the geothermal field around Copa Coya hill. This hike offers another dramatic perspective of the Tatio Geysers. This is one of our favorite hikes in Chile, with surprising views amid amazing rock formations and bizarre landscape. It ends with a well-deserved lunch near the steam columns.

That night, you'll enjoy a farewell dinner back in San Pedro.

Difficulty: Hard.
Altitude: 14,271 ft. (4300 m.) above sea level
Distance: 5 miles (8 km)
Time hiking: 4 hours

Day 7: Transfer San Pedro - Calama airport

The low-slung town of San Pedro de Atacama. 

After breakfast, you will have time to walk around town and browse for souvenirs for family and friends. You'll then be provided with a transfer to Calama airport for your return journey.