- Spot flamingoes in the Salar de Atacama, Chile's largest salt flat
- Hike amid the mesmerizing colors of the aptly-named Rainbow Valley
- Soak up the view while floating effortlessly in the Laguna Cejar
- Watch steaming geysers in the high-altitude geothermal field of El Tatio
|Arrive in Santiago, Explore
|Fly to Calama, Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama
|Hiking in Cuchabrache & Valle de la Luna, Evening of Stargazing
|Visit a Traditional Village & the Salar de Atacama
|Hike to Guatín, Soak in the Puritama Hot Springs
|Hike from Machuca Village to Río Grande Village
|Visit the Quebrada de Nacimiento, Salt Flat & Lagoons
|Hike Rainbow Valley, Visit Cejar & Tebinquinche Lagoons
|See the Tatio Geysers & Cerro Copa Coya
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago, Explore
Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival in Santiago, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. You'll have the rest of the day to explore the city at your leisure. You could hike to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal, the most magnificent viewpoint in Santiago, stroll the cobblestone streets of fashionable Barrio Bellavista, visit the Plaza de Armas, located in Santiago's historical center, or snap some pictures in front of the Palacio de la Moneda.
For dinner, 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 all the way 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: Fly to Calama, Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama
Transfer by private car to the airport and catch a flight to the city of Calama in northern Chile. When you arrive, another driver will meet you for the 1.5-hour drive to the desert outpost of San Pedro de Atacama, the embarkation point for all excursions and adventures into the Atacama Desert. This high-altitude desert abounds with seemingly endless salt flats, painted hills that change color depending on the light, towering Andean peaks, and the volcanic Cordillera Domeyko, whose flaming red mountains form the base of the Valle de la Luna.
Upon arrival in San Pedro de Atacama, check into your hotel and use the remainder of the day to enjoy the town however you see fit. San Pedro is small, and you can walk around the entire town in about 15 minutes. It's unique in Chile in that there is quite a bit of pre-Spanish Indigenous influence here. You'll find many souvenir shops selling basketwork, ceramic pottery, and artisan crafts. Visit the Church of San Pedro de Atacama, which dates back to 1540, or enjoy some Chilean or international food at one of the local restaurants.
Day 3: Hiking in Cuchabrache & Valle de la Luna, Evening of Stargazing
Leave San Pedro de Atacama and head toward Catarpe. This lush valley is located in the middle of the Cordillera de la Sal and is nourished by the rushing waters of the Río San Pedro. Follow the river until you reach the area known as Cuchabrache. Once here, start hiking to the summit plateau. From the top, you'll have spectacular views of the valley, contrasting with the dry Cordillera de la Sal and towering volcanoes in the distance. Afterward, walk for about 2.5 hours, surrounded by spectacular geological formations. The hike ends when you reach a tunnel that was once part of an old road to Calama.
After lunch, drive toward a different section of the Cordillera de la Sal. Your hike starts in the Valle de la Luna at the famous Coyote Rock, a strange rock formation offering an unrivaled vantage point over the mountain range. Walk for two hours by the Kari Gorge, admiring beautiful views of the Atacama. Later, eat dinner back in San Pedro de Atacama, then head out for a star-filled astronomy outing. At the start of the tour, you'll get an overview of the Andean night sky, followed by open-air stargazing and guided observations by telescope.
Day 4: Visit a Traditional Village & the Salar de Atacama
Visit a traditional Indigenous village, where a community member will relate the story of his own family and describe their traditional Atacameño lifestyle. Learn about the cultivation of corn and alfalfa crops, animal farming, craft making, and other activities. Enjoy a traditional meal for lunch, then drive to the village of Toconao in the afternoon. There, visit the central plaza and the historic church, which has become a symbol of this peaceful settlement. Afterward, continue on to the Reserva Nacional los Flamencos, the gateway to some incredible bird-watching.
This national reserve is formed by a giant depression of more than 1,350 square miles (3,500 sq km), located 7,545 feet (2,300 m) above sea level. It's part of the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt field in Chile. The highlight of this tour is a visit to one of Salar's enormous lakes. Fed by mountain rivers and melting snow, the nutrient-rich lake attracts various wildlife, including three types of flamingoes that inhabit the area: the Puna, the Andean, and the Chilean. Before heading back to San Pedro, relax as you watch the sunset.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Hike to Guatín, Soak in the Puritama Hot Springs
Head northeast for a scenic four-hour hike that starts at Punta del Inca. Follow the course of the river up through the ravine until you reach the settlement of Guatín. There, you will enjoy a picnic lunch. The hike then winds along a slope through ancient settlements and 100-year-old cacti. It's a scenic, rocky trail that leads to the Puritama Hot Springs. At the springs, you can relax in rejuvenating mineral water and refuel with snacks before returning to San Pedro for the evening.
Day 6: Hike from Machuca Village to Río Grande Village
Today's outing begins in the village of Machuca, situated at 13,123 feet (4,000 m) above sea level. The hike starts with a descent through a desert moor toward a picturesque gorge, passing through lands used by shepherd caravans. Stop for lunch midway at an abandoned homestead called Peñaliri. After lunch, continue hiking downriver until you reach the village of Río Grande, where you'll catch your ride back to San Pedro de Atacama. Spend the evening exploring the restaurants and craft markets of San Pedro.
Day 7: Visit the Quebrada de Nacimiento, Salt Flat & Lagoons
Head up to the traditional village of Socaire today, and visit the small San Bartolomé Church. Afterward, hike through the Nacimiento Gorge, which features striking rock formations created by ancient lava flows. Following the two-hour hike, continue by vehicle to the entrance of the Chaour Trail, which leads to the Talar Salt Flat. On the way back to San Pedro, stop at the photogenic waters of Miscanti and Meñiques. These sparkling lagoons have an intense blue color and make a gorgeous setting for a short hike.
Set against a backdrop of Andean peaks and towering volcanoes, the lagoons provide a habitat for a variety of species. With luck, you'll spot the Chilean flamingo, the James's flamingo, Baird's sandpiper, and the horned crane, among other birds. After the hike, head back to San Pedro de Atacama for a bit of downtime before joining the group for dinner around 8:30 pm.
Day 8: Hike Rainbow Valley, Visit Cejar & Tebinquinche Lagoons
Enjoy a day of hiking in the Rainbow Valley, one of the most beautiful and least-visited destinations in the region. Throughout the walk, you'll pass cacti and hills of violet, gray, red, and blue, colored by rich mineral deposits. Have lunch back in San Pedro, then grab your swimsuit for the next activity: a trip to the Laguna Cejar. After a short walk in the area, take a dip in the water. Not unlike a mini Dead Sea, the turquoise lagoon has a high salt content, making it very easy to float in.
Afterward, you'll stop by two small watering holes known as the Ojos del Salar and then continue on to Laguna Tebinquinche. There, you'll have a cocktail and enjoy one of the best settings in Atacama to watch the sunset.
Day 9: See the Tatio Geysers & Cerro Copa Coya
Set off after breakfast for one of San Pedro's most dramatic sights, the Tatio Geysers. At an altitude of 14,271 feet (4,350 m), this geyser field is full of sputtering and steaming fumaroles of volcanic origin. After taking in the dramatic scene, take a hike from the geothermal field around Cerro Copa Coya. This hike follows trails that offer extraordinary views over the Tatio Geysers. Finish with a well-deserved lunch overlooking Tatio's steam columns. Tonight, you'll enjoy a farewell dinner back in San Pedro de Atacama.
Day 10:Transfer to Calama, Depart
On your last day, you'll have breakfast, followed by a private transfer back to Calama Airport. Have a safe journey home, or to your next destination!