- Enjoy the hospitality of San Pedro de Atacama, a small oasis town
- Enjoy incredible stargazing opportunities in the highest-elevation desert in the world
- Marvel at the colors of the arid desert landscape
- Explore the Tatio geysers and swim in the mineral-rich waters
- Get a chance to view endemic Andean wildlife and plants
|Arrive in Santiago de Chile, Explore
|Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama & Moon Valley Tour
|San Pedro de Atacama
|Tatio Geysers & Machuca Village
|San Pedro de Atacama
|Excursion to the Cejar Lagoon, Ojos del Salar & Tebenquiche
|San Pedro de Atacama
|Return to Santiago, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago de Chile, Explore
Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at Santiago International Airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. You'll have the rest of the day to explore the city at your leisure.
Suggested activities include:
- Hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, the most magnificent viewpoint in Santiago. When visiting any new city, it's a good idea to get your bearings by surveying the area from a high vantage point. Pathways lead 2,788 feet (850 m) up this central hill to a series of lookouts that offer wraparound views of Santiago. Enjoy the reconnoitering, and if you're not the hiking type, don't worry: you can catch a scenic gondola to the top.
- Stroll the cobblestone streets of Barrio Bellavista. On the north side of Santiago, you'll find this trendy enclave, at once fashionable and bohemian. Brightly painted old houses adorned with graffiti art sit alongside modern shopping complexes featuring an eclectic array of eateries and bars. It's a great place to come for dinner, a glass or two of Chilean red, and people-watching from a patio table.
- Visit the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historic center. There's a lot of history within the four corners of this expansive stone plaza, as it was founded back in 1541. Also here is the impressive Catedral Metropolitana, a neoclassical church dating to 1748 and whose towering twin bell towers dominate the north side of the plaza.
- Snap pics in front of the Palacio de la Moneda. Chile's opulent Presidential Palace (La Moneda) is just a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas, and like the plaza, it's filled with history. It was here in 1973 that Chile's armed forces, backed by the US government, overthrew President Salvador Allende, kicking off a brutal right-wing military dictatorship that would last for 17 years. Today, the country is under democratic rule, and visitors are welcome to visit the palace.
For dinner, leave the hotel and enjoy a culinary adventure in the city. In recent years, Santiago has emerged as a global foodie destination. Chilean chefs are reinventing traditional dishes like empanadas, cazuelas (stews), and seafood with ingredients harvested from the northern deserts and southern Patagonian regions. You can find great restaurants and wine bars not only in the Bellavista neighborhood but also in the revitalized historic barrios of Yungay and Italia.
Day 2: Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama & Moon Valley TourThis morning, transfer from your hotel in Santiago to the airport for your flight to Calama. Upon arrival in Calama, transfer to San Pedro de Atacama for check-in.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 3: Tatio Geysers & Machuca Village
Today's an early start as you'll depart the hotel at 4:30 am for the 1.5-hour trip to the Tatio Geysers. Getting a jump on the day will pay dividends, though, as seeing the sun rise over the Atacama Desert is a singular experience. Also, sunrise is the best time to visit Tatio. The contrast between the cold outside temperatures and the boiling water of the geothermal field beneath the earth's surface causes the pillars of steam here to rise as high as 30 feet (10 m).
At an altitude of 14,173 feet (4,320 m), the Tatio Geysers are the highest in the world. So take your time and admire these otherworldly landscapes, snap plenty of photos, and at the appropriate hour, breakfast will be served on-site. Another option is to relax in a natural geothermal pool—Mother Nature's Jacuzzi.
On the return drive to San Pedro, you'll stop at Machuca, a small, humble village on the Altiplano whose residents have bred llamas and harvested Yareta (moss-like evergreen plants that can survive for thousands of years) for generations. It's a small but welcoming town, comprised of only about 20 homes and a simple chapel. That said, some locals sell crafts, and you can admire the llamas in the area and the flamingoes that reside in nearby marshlands. You'll then return to San Pedro for lunch and can spend the remainder of the day relaxing in town.
Day 4: Excursion to the Cejar Lagoon, Ojos del Salar & Tebenquiche
After breakfast, a driver will meet you at the hotel, and you'll transfer a little over an hour to the Salar de Atacama, the famous salt flats of San Pedro de Atacama. Here, you'll find the Cejar Lagoon, notable for its electric turquoise water and shoreline turned bright white by crystallized salt. If you're lucky, you might spot some local avian wildlife, such as flamingoes and coots. Believe it or not, this desert lagoon is perfect for an afternoon bath. That's because the salination content of the water adds buoyancy, which means, like in the Dead Sea, you'll easily float on the surface.
After a swim in the Cejar Lagoon, you'll head south to visit the Ojos del Salar, two desert lagoons where you can take another dip. These are unique pools in their own right, as their geological formation resembles a crater complete with a high outer rim that makes a perfect diving spot. The ambience here is great, too, as surrounding you're the Domeyko and Andes mountain ranges and myriad volcanoes.
Finally, you'll travel to the Tebenquiche Lagoon, another lake where you might see more flamingoes and even foxes. It's the perfect spot to watch the sunset as the glassy waters of the lagoon create a mirror effect. When the sun goes down, the surrounding painted hills flash bright red, and the image of mountain peaks is reflected in the water. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama.
Day 5: Return to Santiago, Depart
This morning, you'll have free time to relax and explore San Pedro de Atacama on your own. In the afternoon, transfer to the Calama airport for your flight back to Santiago. Upon arrival in Santiago, transfer to the international terminal for your flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!
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