I arrived in San Pedro de Atacama after a 19 hour overnight journey from La Serena (the same bus that leaves Santiago to San Pedro but takes 24hours) I had paid more to get a Salon Cama seat so I had lots of legroom and a nice big seat (You have to be a flashpacker sometimes) so I woke up after a fairly good sleep surrounded by the Atacama desert, the driest desert in the world!
San Pedro de Atacama was pretty much what I imagined, it’s a small town that rises out of the desert, all the buildings are one story and there’s just a few blocks of streets filled with travel agencies selling tours and plenty of restaurants.
I stayed at Hostel Laksar which was good for the standard of the town but pretty expensive compared to what I had been paying elsewhere in Chile (I guess they can charge the prices though because they know people have to stay there and there aren’t many accommodation options).
As soon as I arrived I went into the town and booked my 3 day Bolivia tour (more about the actual tour in the next post but yes it was amazing!), there are also many other full and half day tours that are offered around the town at fairly good prices so with the time and money that I had I did two of these..
I had heard about Moon Valley and how you could watch the sunset from there so on my first afternoon I booked this trip and was picked up at 16.00 and taken to Valle de la Luna (Moon valley) this trip cost 11,000CLP/£11 in total plus the park fee so it was pretty decent for Chile. We didn’t have to walk much as the bus takes you to each place and then you get out, take some photos and get back in the bus so it was an easy evening/afternoon, we saw what is now known as the ‘amphitheatre’ due to it looking like one out of the rocks, we went up to Death Valley and finally watched the sunset over Moon Valley, the views were really amazing and although there was a lot of people up there there was still some good chances to take some photos with the view in the background. All in all a good 4-5 hour trip with a knowledgable guide and lots of amazing photo opportunities.
The next morning I did my second trip which was to Tatio Geiser, this involved getting picked up at 4.30am (!!) but we then got to sleep for about an hour in the bus until we got to the Geisers so it wasn’t too bad. I had also read about how cold it got in the mornings in the desert, I didn’t quite believe that it got that cold because it was soo hot during the day but getting out of the bus at 6.00am it was 0c so I was pretty pleased with the gloves I had brought but made a note to buy a wooly hat and socks later that day! The geisers are most active in the morning hence the early start. It was pretty amazing being in the middle of some huge mountains with steam and water shooting from the ground and then watching the sun come up over the mountains. After an hour or so we had some breakfast and a well needed hot chocolate.
The geisers are at the highest altitude I have been at so far- 4300m and to put that into perspective the highest mountain peak in Europe is just over 5500m I believe, so we were pretty high! We even reached 4500m at one point on the way back where we stopped and took in the amazing views. I didn’t feel too ill but I could feel my heart racing from just walking that bit too fast and my head felt a little funny.
After seeing the Geisers and getting the chance to walk around on our own and get some pictures we headed to the hot springs. I took a bikini and towel just in case but there was already a lot of people in the pool who really didn’t look like they were having fun as it was still freezing outside and the water wasn’t that hot so I decided against it. (This is also where I became a travelling snob as I have been in better hot springs in New Zealand so I felt I didn’t need to experience it here too).
We then headed off back to San Pedro de Atacama but stopped quite a few times to take photos of the amazing landscape- lakes with the reflection of the mountains and even more mountains, we even saw some flamingos and lamas.
This trip cost 25,000CLP/£25 in total including park fees so it was a bit more expensive but it took up 8 hours in total and I had the same guide as I had for the Moon Valley tour who was good and we got breakfast so I would say it was worth it!
I stayed in San Pedro de Atacama for 2 nights so my last afternoon was spent chilling out and trying not to get too hot- the heat during the day was well over 30c and a really dry heat, getting some more layers ready for the Bolivia trip (ironic considering I was so hot when buying them!) and uploading the amazing photos that I had from the last 24hours!