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by December 13th, 2018

San Pedro de Atacama-Hikes and trips

When I came to San Pedro de Atacama for the first time in 1994, it had the flair of a Wild West city. Today it is regarded as a tourist metropole of the Atacama desert.  The approach from the nearest airport in Calama already shows the modern picture. Today windmills are turning along the asphalted road, where in former times only whirlwinds  swept over the dry desert floor like vacuum cleaners. I would like to introduce to you a large part of the tours I have already been on. To some tours links lead to exact route descriptions with map which you can also use offline with our Trekkingchile App in the area. On another blog post you can inform yourself about the whole Atacama desert.

An incredible number of travel agencies offer various excursions. Some of them are classics like the half day tour into the moon valley with sunset and starry sky. Almost everyone visits the geothermal field of El Tatio, early in the morning steam fountains hiss into the steel blue sky. On the way back, you can relax in the thermal baths of Puritama, only the high entrance fee dulls the pleasure a little. The thermal baths can also be reached by foot along the Guatin Gorge. Another hike leads near El Tatio to the Geysir blanco, hot springs with white sinter deposits. Also since the beginning, the Lagunas Altiplanicas, situated high at the foot of the volcanoes Miscanti and Meninques, attract huge crowds of visitors. Those who do not tolerate the altitude so well will rather keep the flamingos company in the Laguna Chaxa or walk through the green Quebrada Jerez.

For mountaineers San Pedro is a paradise anyway, the volcanic peaks crowd together closely. The Cerro Toco is particularly easy to reach, but due to its activity the Lascar volcano, the star among the mountain tours, is and remains the Licancabur.  These tours can easily be done through local agencies. If you have your own vehicle, you can also contact a guide directly. Not that the Licancabur has more to offer than that, but you can see it every day. No matter where you are, you can see the Licancabur. For hikers, however, there are hardly any offers of tours, probably because there is no real demand. Thereby, the close surroundings of San Pedro offer some great tours in a not too high altitude, ideal to acclimatize actively.

Good walkers can go up to the tunnel without transfer past Pukara de Quitor and over the sand dunes of Corniza into the Death Valley. Easy to find, great view and surprising the dune in the middle of the rocky desert. It is also fun to watch the people sandboarding. Perhaps even more beautiful is the Alto San Pedro round trip. It is 6 km to the starting point at the Devil’s Gorge. A narrow path winds through the narrow gorge containing gypsum up to the Mirador and now we go to the church San Isidro. Now it gets really extreme, the path leads up to the edge of the San Pedro gorge and along it for a good hour. With a view to dozens of volcanoes, the path leads to the tunnel and back to the Devil’s Gorge.

A geological highlight is the circular hike through the Arco Iris valley. The name says it all – the Rainbow Gorge. The name is really not exaggerated. Piroxen, Epidota, Plagioklas, Diorit and different sulfates shine here under the desert sun. The tour starts at the petroglyph field of Yerbas Buenas. A variety of rock paintings show shamans, flamingos but especially guanacas, carved for eternity. After a desert tour one longs for some cooling down. The Laguna Cejas is known, where one floats on the surface without swimming because of the high salt content.The Laguna Escondida is less overcrowded, as the name already says it hides from the crowds of tourists.

Tip: Try the ice cream flavours of different desert fruits like Chanar or Algarrobo.