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Places of Interest Pedro de Atacama Chile
 
Important Advice:
San Pedro de Atacama is located at altitude (2,438m). The vast majority of excursions out from San Pedro de Atacama are at higher altitudes, some reaching over 4,000m. You should NOT participate in any high altitude excursions if you are not fit, are in bad health (ie have a less-than-healthy heart condition) and without first adjusting to the altitude in San Pedro de Atacama. You should also drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and get a good amount of sleep.
 
Many of the excursions involve travelling long distances for several hours and the only bathroom facilities are in the open behind the nearest rock. 
 
In order to acclimatise and enjoy fully your stay in San Pedro de Atacama, consider a minimum stay of 4 nights and use your first day to relax and acclimatise.
 
Altitudes
  • Calama : 2,460m approx (8,000ft)
  • San Pedro de Atacama : 2,438m approx (8,000ft)
Altitudes Excursion Destinations:
  • Geisers del Tatio : 4,321m approx (12,000ft)
  • Centinelas de la Pakana : 4,500m approx (12,000ft)
  • Laguna Verde : 5,900m approx (18,000ft)
  • Lagunas Altiplánicas : 4,200m approx (12,000ft)
  • Miskanti & Miñique : 4,500m approx (12,000ft)
San Pedro de Atacama Main Areas to Explore from San Pedro are:

East
Licancabur Volcano
The main volcano, often snow covered, that dwarfs San Pedro village, is accessible to climbers.
 
The Salara de Tara
Located at 4,300m, and 100 km from San Pedro de Atacama, this is a high-altitude Altiplano lake with a surface area covering 48km2.
 
North East
Puritama Hot Springs
Natural hot springs (entrance fee)
 
El Tatio Geysers
El Tatio is a volcanic geyser field with over 90 active geyser-water pools, located at 4,321m above sea level, in the heart of the Andes Mountains 210km from San Pedro, high in the Altiplano. The drive from San Pedro takes about three hours because the route is along narrow, unpaved, steep roads at altitude and for this reason departure from San Pedro is usually at 04:00 hrs, in order to arrive for the dawn spectacle of the geysers bubbling into the air. The incredibly clear night sky, the natural phenomena of hot water from the ground boiling an egg and the opportunity to bathe in natural thermal springs is what coming to the geysers is all about.
 
WARNING: People have fallen through the hard crust that surrounds the geysers and consequently been scalded. In some cases people have died. Although most people wander all over the site, you would be well advised to not get too close to even the smallest pools of water.
 
Caspana
A truly remarkable Andean village known for its simplicity, Inca architecture and terraced farming methods. Located in a vertical-sided, narrow canyon, the people and way of life appear to be the same as it was thousands of years ago. For some, a visit to this village feels intrusive and in many respects our view is that “Westerners” should stay away. Great care should be taken to respect the inhabitants and their way of life.

South
Toconao Village
Toconao village, with a population of around 700 people, is at 2,475km above sea level and located 38km south of San Pedro de Atacama, sitting on the edge of the vast salt flat “Salar de Atacama”. The geographic landscape that surrounds the village is formidable. The village itself is an oasis, with a sweet water supply free from mineral contamination such as arsenic or acids, and ideal for the cultivation of fruit trees such as pears, plums and quince as well as vegetables. Most buildings are constructed from white, soft liparita stone, quarried locally. Areas of interest are the charming central plaza with a bell tower (built in 1750) and the canyon at the base of the quarry (2km out from the village) where the lush-green vegetation of fruit trees and vegetables, irrigated from the natural water supply, contrast starkly with the completely dry, sandy desert walls.
 
The Cejas Lagoon
Located in the Salar de Atacama in the northern sector, closer to San Pedro de Atacama, is the Cejas Lagoon. This is a roughly circular opening in the Salar offering a very deep pool of clear, saline water that appears to be “bottomless”. The excessively high salt content provides incredible buoyancy for bathers and is an interesting experience for those who enter. The view of the unbelievably impressive, surrounding landscape whilst bathing is a draw-dropper.
 
Note: The surrounding edges of the lagoon are made from salt crystals that are sharp and can cut feet, so best to wear bathing shoes. Also, after bathing the salt will be all over your body, so best to wash down with bottled mineral water, or sweet water brought from the hotel.
 
The Salar de Atacama
The Salar de Atacama is a vast salt plain covering around 8,000km2 in the heart of the Atacama Desert. The road entrance is located about mid-way along the eastern side of the salt plain, approximately 80 km south from San Pedro de Atacama. Within this salt flat is the Chaxa Lagoon, which is within the Los Flamencos National Reserve, home to flocks of pink flamingos and other types of birds, all feeding on microscopic organisms in the shallow waters.
 
Socaire
About 110km south, but in the hills, from San Pedro de Atacama, is the village of Socaire. This is a quiet, very small village (population cerca 400) with a very slow, agricultural-based life style.
 
Miscanti and Menique Lagoons
Located approximately 140km from San Pedro de Atacama, at 4,000m above sea level in the heart of the Andes Mountains are two adjacent lagoons that radiate a vivid blue colour. Dwarfed by two volcano cones at each side, the lagoons offer a haven for birds. On the return journey there is a spectacular view back over the massive Salar de Atacama.

In and Close to San Pedro de Atacama
Archaeological Museum
San Pedro is home to a fine archaeological museum named after its founder Gustavo Le Paige – a Belgian Jesuit Priest who came to San Pedro de Atacama in 1955 to run the Parish. Amazed by the plentiful supply of historical artefacts found in the area Gustavo le Paige set about creating a collection of these finely-preserved archaeological pieces for documentation. In 1958 the North Catholic University lent its support and is still administering the museum today. The Museum illustrates the historical evolution of the Atacamanean peoples and the influence that the Tiawanaku, Inca and Spanish cultures brought about. Archaeological specimens in the Museum include ceramics, clothing, engravings, textiles and mummified bodies dating back thousands of years, as well as a relief model of the geography of the zone.
 
San Pedro de Atacama Church
Declared a National Monument in 1951, the church is built from adobe walls and its ceiling is made from wood of the Cañar and locust tree, and clay then covered over with cactus-wood. It served as a parish in 1641.

Valley of the Moon
Located 19 km from the village of San Pedro de Atacama and a popular tour for practically all visitors is the "Valle de La Luna" (Valley of the Moon), so called because of its resemblance to the surface of the moon.

Valle de la Muerte
“Death Valley” – a dry and hot valley with high dune sides and large rocks.
 
 
Pukara de Quitor
A 12th century fort built by the “Atacameno” tribe, restored in 1981 and declared a National Monument in 1982, located on the outskirts of the village. There are around 200 ruins of dwellings.
 
Street Festivals in San Pedro de Atacama
Usually around these dates: 01 – 03 February, are colourful street parades in the village.
 
Other Activities
There are many other places to see and things to do such as horse riding and star gazing.
 
Trekking Excursions Options for Guests at the Explora Hotel
 
1. KARI
Duration: 3 to 3.5 hours (half-day), 2 to 2.5 hours of walking.
Distance by foot: 4.8 km (3 miles).
Itinerary:
Departure by van (20 min.) along the road towards Calama. Trekking along Quebrada Kari, a small canyon formed by water erosion and flanked by it´s enormous salt walls. Return by van (15 min).
Level: Easy, with the exception of two 8 foot-high vertical descents.
 
2. GUATÍN – PUNTA DEL INCA
Duration: Half-day, 2 to 2.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 4.2 km (2.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure fromexplora by van (35 min.) on the road towards theNorth-East. The excursion starts out by descendingfrom the Guatín settlement until Punta del Inca,following the river’s course down through the ravine/canyon. Return by van (35 min.)
Level: Easy descentthrough rocky terrain, with a bit of loose ground.
 
3. CORNISAS
Duration: Length: 3 to 3.5 hours (half-day), walking for 2 to 2.5 hours.
Distance by foot: 4.2 km (2.6miles).
Itinerary: Departure by van (30 min.) towards Catarpe Valley. Trekking along the cornices of the Cordillera de la Sal with panoramic views of the oasis, the Salar de Atacama and the Andes, ending at the dunes of Valle de la Muerte. Return by van (15 min.).
Level: Easy.
 
4. KAMUR (VALLE DE LA LUNA)
Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours (half-day), walking 2 to 2.5 hours.
Distance by foot: 8.5 km (5.3 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van (35 min.) towards the Valle de la Luna. From there the trekking will allow visitors to appreciate the variations of sunlight and the spectacular landscapes at Cordillera de la Sal. The highest point at 2,520 mts (8,400 ft) is reached near the end of the walk.
Level: Easy
 
5. ATACAMA CULTURE
Duration: 3.5 hours by van (half-day).
Distance: 15km (9.5 miles) approx.
Itinerary: Departure fromexplora by van to Museo Padre Le Paige. This is a goodintroductory approach to this area. Then, departureby van towards Pukará de Quitor. Trekking with anoptional climbing to the Pukará’s summit. By van wevisit Ayllu de Solor with a chance to observe how theAtacama people live nowadays.
Level: Easy.
 
6. CUCHABRACHE
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours (half-day), walking 2 to 2.5 hours.
Distance by foot: 4.8 km (3.0 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van (50 min.) towards the bocatoma of San Pedro river. Uphill walk to Alto de Cuchabrache, identifying petroglyphs along the trail, with views to Catarpe and Quitor valleys. Return to Hotel de Larache by van (35 min.).
Level: Easy.
 
7. SALAR DE ATACAMA (LAGUNA CHAXA)
Duration: 3.5 hrs. (half-day), 30 minutes walk.
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van towards the town of Toconao located 38 km. (23.5 miles) South from San Pedro de Atacama. Once in Toconao you visit the Plaza de Toconao, the Church and the historic Bell Tower, all of them historic symbols of this town. After 25 minutes of exploring through the village, we make our way towards the “Reserva Nacional los Flamencos” to the Laguna Chaxa, were the Salar de Atacama is located and bird watching is amazing. Here we wait for dawn to arrive in order to head back to the Hotel de Larache.
Level: Easy trekking (3,000 - 4,000 mts / 9,840 - 13,120 ft) These explorations can be done starting from the 2nd day.
 
8. GUATIN - PURITAMA
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours (half-day), 2 to 2.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 5 km (3.1 miles).
Itinerary: Departure by van (35 min.) to Guatín, where the trek begins climbing along a 820 ft slope towards Puritama (11,574 feet). The trail passes through ancient settlements and hundred year old cacti; the terrain is rocky at times.
Level: Moderate.
 
9. MACHUCA - RÍO GRANDE
Duration: 7 to 8 hours (full-day), 4.5 to 5.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 14 km (8.7 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van (1.5 hrs.) towards picturesque village of Machuca (3,930 mts / 13,100 ft). Downhill trekking on a slope of approx. 787 mts (2,625 ft). along the river bed. Picnic lunch at Peñaliri. A trail follows along the edges of the crop terraces of the Río Grande village. Return by van.
Level: Moderate. Daypack required.
 
10. CASPANA - CHIU-CHIU
Duration: 8 hours by van (full-day).
Distance: 200 km (125 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van (2.5 hours) crossing the altiplano towards the picturesque village of Caspana (3,270 mts/ 10,900 ft), passing by the Geysers del Tatio. Trek across the Caspana farmlands. Lunch at the village. The trip continues with the visit of the ancient Lasana Pukará (pre-colombian fortress), the Chiu-Chiu church, and finally towards the airport in Calama.
Level: Very Easy. trekking (4,000 - 5,000 mts / 13,120 - 16,400 ft) These explorations can be done starting from the 3th day.
 
11. COPA COYA
Duration: 10 to 11 hours (full-day), 4.5 to 5.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 10.5 km (6.5 miles).
Itinerary: Early departure from Hotel de Larache by van (2 hrs) towards geothermal field (4,320 mts / 14,176 ft). Descending hike following an ancient “llaretero” road, with views of the volcanoes. Uphill to our picnic lunch spot. After lunch, we begin an ascending trek (328 mts / 1,094 ft. slope) on the edge of Copa Coya hill. Return to explora by van with an optional bath at the Puritama hot springs.
Level: Demanding. Daypack required.
 
12. SALAR DE TARA
Duration: Full day. 1 to 2 hours walking.
Itinerary: Departure from explora, traveling by van (2 hrs) towardsthe Salar de Tara (Tara Salt Flat), located approx. 3,936mts (13,120 ft). above sea level. The road flanks theBolivian borderline, passing through the aguada deQuipiaco (Quipiaco Lagoon), the monjes de la apacanaand the cathedral-like rock formations before reachingthe salt flat, habitat to altiplanic fauna. Lunch at thesite, a short trek and back to Hotel de Larache.
Level: Easy.
 
13. SALARES DEL ALTIPLANO
Duration: Full day. One hour walk.
Itinerary: Departure by van (2 hrs.) towards the salar de AguasCalientes and Laguna Tuyayito, located over 3,960 km(13,200 ft) above sea level, where we will take a shorttrek. Buffet lunch at the salar de Aguas Calientes.Along the road we will pass directly through thealtiplano observing its flora and fauna. Return toexplora.
Level: Easy.
 
14. TATIO - PURITAMA
Duration: 5 hours (half-day), 1 hour walk through the geothermic field of the Geisers del Tatio (4,320mts / 14,176 ft).
Itinerary: Departure by van towards the Geysers del Tatio (2 hours approx) passing through the town of Machuca. After an hour of exploration through the geothermic fields, we go to the Termas de Puritama for a swim and then back to explora.
Level: Medium high mountain climbing (5,000 - 6,000 mts / 16,400 - 19,680 ft) Climbing high-altitude mountains and volcanoes are demanding excursions which are suitable for people who are in good physical shape. These are not permitted for people who have trouble with heights or a heart condition. In some areas there are trails, although they are generally ascended by rope or rocks, and there is a chance of ice or snow. Climbing these mountains allows guests to observe the beauty of the surrounding landscape and interesting land formations in the area. Competition is not the goal (neither competing against oneself nor against others). It is necessary to acclimatize for two or more days beforehand by trekking in high altitudes. The recommended season for these climbs is September to April, keeping in mind complications that may arise from the altiplanic rainy season (January and February). The coldest season at high altitude level is from May to August.
 
15. CERRO TOCO (5,604 mts / 18,381 ft)
Duration: 6 to 7 hours (morning), 1.5 to 2.5 hours walking, depending on the amount snow. Slope: Approximately 540 mts (1,800 ft).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van, reaching an old sulfur plant (1.5 hrs); from this point begins an ascent, climbing along a well marked step path. Summit offers panoramic views of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
Level: Moderate.
 
16. CERRO CORONA (5,291 mts / 17,359 ft)
Duration: Full day. Slope: 738 mts (2,460 ft.)
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van towards Talabre (2hrs.). The ascent begins across volcanic rock and ash, lasting between 2.5 to 4 hrs. depending on snow conditions. Lunch is served at the summit, on the crown. Descent through volcanic rock fields for 2 to 2.5 hrs. Level: Moderate to Demanding.
 
17. VOLCÁN SAIRECABUR (6,010 mts / 19,712 ft)
Duration: 8 to 9 hours (full-day).
Slope: approx. 639 mts (2,130 ft).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van towards Azufrera Sasiel. 2.5 to 3 hour ascent across large rock and loose stones. Arrival at the highest summit of the region. Climbing down is difficult and takes 2.5 hours. Lunch and optional bath at Puritama hot springs.
Level: Demanding.
 
18. VOLCÁN COLORADO (5,748 mts / 18,853 ft)
Duration: 11 to 12 hours (full-day).
Slope: Approx. 1,230 mts (4,100 ft).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van to El Tatio. 6 to 7 hour ascent across large rock and loose stones. Arrival at summit. Picnic lunch with views. Climbing down is difficult and takes 3 to 4 hours.
Level: Demanding.
 
19. VOLCÁN LICANCABUR (5,916 mts / 19,404 ft)
Duration: 2 full days.
Slope: 1,329 mts (4,430 ft) approximately, depending on the amount of snow.
Itinerary: Departure by van, crossing the Bolivian border. Base campsite at 4,560 mts (15,200 ft). Afternoon trek towards Laguna Verde. Early morning ascent with flashlights along Incas ruins. We reach the summit after 7 or 8 hours and get a view to the crater and the world’s highest lagoon. Climbing down is difficult and takes 3 to 4 hours.
Level: Demanding.
Other: this exploration requires confirmation 60 days prior to arrival at explora. Visa to enter Bolivia is requested.
 
Horseback Riding
Horseback riding explorations that are described in the following pages have been devised for people with riding experience and who feel comfortable riding for several hours in the desert. Guests must know how to trot and/or gallop. explora has the finest Chilean and English saddles, leather gaiters, and helmets. Those who do not know how to ride a horse and would like to learn to do so, or those who have some experience but would like to improve their riding skills, can take 1-hour lessons in the morning (for no more than six people) before the walking or biking explorations they choose for each day. After at least two lessons, the instructor will determine whether the person is qualified to go horseback riding on these explorations. Half-day horseback riding explorations will be combined with trekking and bicycle explorations.
 
20. LAS CORNISAS
Duration: 3 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 20 km (12.5) miles.
Itinerary: Departure from exploraon horseback towards Valle de Catarpe, trotting andcountering before climbing to cornices of Cordillerade la Sal. Panoramic view. Return descent across dunestowards Valle de la Muerte.
Level: Moderate.
 
21. QUEBRADA DEL DIABLO
Duration: 3 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 16 km (10 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel deLarache to Quebrada del Diablo. This is a narrow anduneven road, with ascents and descents, leaps andcurves which requires trotting and countering. Overviewof Cordillera de los Andes, the Salar (salt flat) and theoasis during the return to the village of San Pedro.
Level: Moderate.
 
22. CATARPE / VILAMA
Duration: 3 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 17 km (10.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explorainto the Cordillera de la Sal. Visit of the Catarpe church.Spectacular view of the Cordillera de los Andes. Returnalong the village of San Pedro.
Level: Moderate.
 
23. RÍO SALADO
Duration: 5 to 6 hours on horseback (full-day).
Distance: 30 km (18.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora to the cornices of Cordillera de la Sal, and then to Río Salado. Picnic lunch. Return is made following the river’s course and along abandoned villages of Cuchabrache and Catarpe.
Level: Demanding.
 
24. VALLE DE QUITOR
Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 9 km (5.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure covering the northern part of the oasis and from there on up to the viewing of the Pukará and the farmlands of the Valle de Quitor. Upon returning we pass nearby Cordillera de la Sal.
Level: Easy.
 
25. DUNAS DE LA CHULA
Duration: 2 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 9 km (5.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from exploraon horseback to Cordillera de la Sal. Panoramic viewsof the ayllus, the salt lake and the Cordillera de losAndes, before entering Cordillera de la Sal. The trailfollows along dunes and rock formations.
Level: Moderate.
 
31. BETER / TULOR
Duration: 3.5 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 17.8 km (11.1 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache to the southern ayllus. Walk around the oasis and the desert. Galloping in the dunes and nearby Beter’s ruins.
Level: Moderate.
 
26. AYLLUS
Duration: 2 hours (half-day).
Distance: 8 km (5 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache towards the Ayllus de Larache, Yaye and Séquitor. Through the way, we pass by the Rio San Pedro, were you can see a variety of vegetation and local agrarian fields.
Level: Easy
 
By Bicycle
explora offers the opportunity to travel along desert trails and ridges on a mountain bike. Using the equipment we provide to assure comfort and safety, biking allows our guests to fully enjoy the geography of Atacama. The use of helmets, gloves, sunglasses and adequate footwear are an important element for each of these outings. Half-day bicycle explorations will be combined with trekking and horseback riding explorations.
 
27. LAGUNA CEJAR
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours. On bicycle 1.5 to 2.5 hours (half-day).
Distance: 19 km (12 miles).
Itinerary: Departure explora by bicycle towards the south, crossing the ayllus until reaching the entrance to the Salar de Atacama area, with its interesting vegetation. The trail is flat, going over some sandy areas. Bathing in the Sejas and Agua Piedra lagoons, floating in their salty waters. Return by van (45 min).
Level: Easy.
Other: Flip-flops are necessary to bath in the lagoons.
 
28. CIRCUITO DE LOS VALLES
Duration: 3.5 to 4.5 hours on bicycle (half-day).
Distance: 45 km (28 miles).
Itinerary: Departure by bicycle. Crossing the Cordillera de la Sal with a descent allowing views of the Cordillera de Domeyko and Llano de la Paciencia, where a winding road leads to another crossing of Cordillera de la Sal, this time along Valle de la Luna. Return to the hotel.
Level: Demanding.
 
29. PUTANA TO GUATÍN DESCENT
Duration: 10 to 12 hours (full-day). On bicycle 6.5 to 8.5 hours.
Distance: 33 km (20.5 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van (1.5 hrs) to Altos de Putana. Descent by bicycle along an unpaved road with descents and ascents along the gorge, until reaching picturesque town of Machuca. Picnic lunch along the road. The trip continues with a view of the Salar de Atacama and over-looking the settlement of Guatín. Return to Hotel de Larache by van (30 min.).
Level: Demanding.
Other: It is optional to go down by bicycle to San Pedro (70 km / 112 miles), or to the Puritama hot springs.
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