Spend four days taking advantage of the natural beauty of the town and hinterlands of San Pedro de Atacama. Visit geysers, volcanoes, valleys and salt flats on this trip around the arid Chilean plateau and be wowed by the formidable grandeur of the Andes at every turn.

Highlights

  • Explore the small oasis of San Pedro de Atacama
  • Spot flamingoes in the high lakes of the Atacama Desert
  • Hike in the Valley of the Moon, a stark landscape of salt and clay 
  • Soak in natural hot springs and watch the Tatio Geysers spurt boiling clouds of water and steam

Overview

This four-day excursion is the perfect introductory tour of the Atacama Desert. You'll explore this stark landscape of lakes, high plains and adobe villages by vehicle and by foot. The final day you can relax in hot springs and see geysers spurt boiling water skyward. In between, there are opportunities to visit small desert communities, spot wildlife and get to know the hardy people that call this area home.

San Pedro de Atacama, located on an arid plateau, will be your base of operations during this trip. The small town of low-slung buildings is a popular destination for foreign travelers and offers a range of excellent accommodation and restaurant options. The Atacama area is best reached by flight to Calama airport, which is a 1.5 hour drive from San Pedro.    

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlights  Overnight 
Day 1 Free day to explore San Pedro de Atacama San Pedro de Atacama
Day 2 Explore salt flats and high altitude lakes San Pedro de Atacama
Day 3 Hiking in the Valley of the Moon  San Pedro de Atacama
Day 4 Visit Tatio geysers and soak in hot springs  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San Pedro de Atacama

Street view of San Pedro de Atacama.

Upon arrival in the small oasis of San Pedro de Atacama (or the nearby town of Calama), you'll be taken to your hotel and have a free afternoon to enjoy the town at your leisure. San Pedro has a few historic buildings, an archaeological museum, and lots of hostels, cafes and shops catering to the foreign tourists that have discovered this remote oasis. 

Day 2: Tour salt flats, high altitude lakes and Chilean villages

Beautiful Lake Chaxa in the Atacama Desert.

After breakfast, you'll be taken by car to the Atacama Salt Flat and the Altiplanic lakes. We'll spot flamingoes at Lake Chaxa and then take a road into the highlands to visit the Miscanti and Miñiques lakes, starkly beautiful bodies of water located some 13,800 ft above sea level in the Andes Mountains.

We'll have a traditional Chilean lunch in Socaire village and then visit the town of  Toconao, a desert community at 8153 ft above sea level. Tocanao is best known for its three-tiered bell tower, separated from the main church, and built in the year 1750. 

Day 3: Explore the Valley of the Moon 

Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert.

After a free morning, we set off in the afternoon for a half-day tour of the Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna), nestled deep in the middle of the mountains, about 8 miles from San Pedro. The valley contains an unusual landscape of eerie rock formations and eroded, multi-colored hills sculpted by the wind and water over millions of years. We'll hike across the salt, gypsum and clay covered hills, enjoying this inspiring mountain range. After a day in the Andes, we'll watch the sunset and return to our hotel.  

Day 4: Visit geyers, natural hot springs and Machuca village

Enjoying the steamy Tatio Geysers

After a very early morning pick up, we travel to the Tatio Geysers, where steam and boiling water spurt from the earth. Here we will enjoy an outdoor breakfast while taking in excellent views of the Andes mountains.  The show of gurgling and steaming water fizzles out by 10 am, not starting again until the following day. 

Next, we set off for Pozon Rustico hot pools, where you can soak in hot natural spring water. Taking the road back to San Pedro, we'll pass through beautiful landscapes and make a stop in Machuca, a small adobe village home to several llama shepherds. Many of its residents earn a living producing Andean handicrafts. This is a nice town to enjoy freshly cooked Llama meat and empanadas. Finally, we visit the Church of San Santiago, a small adobe church and bell tower.

Upon completion of the tour, you'll be taken to the bus station or to the airport in Calama.

 

Map

Map of Discover the Atacama Desert - 4 Days
Map of Discover the Atacama Desert - 4 Days