San Pedro de Atacama
Hi friends, so we meet again!
This time, I’ve just returned from my trip to San Pedro de Atacama. Where is that you ask? It’s a desert located in the north of Chile.
The trip was incredible, San Pedro de Atacama is actually listed in the top 5 best places to visit in world on Lonely Planet because it’s so geographically diverse. They have over 70 volcanoes, however only 4 are active. They have salt flats, geysers, miles and miles or desert, mountains, lakes, lagoons and the best star gazing in the world. Actually, the ALMA is the best observatory in the world, and is home to the most powerful telescope in the world. As luck may have it, we couldn’t book a stargazing tour because the week we were visiting was a full moon, making it too bright to star-gaze. Although, I found the stars to be incredible even with the full moon. Probably the best views and most stars I’ve ever seen, and I was lucky enough to even catch a shooting star!
Like my last post, I’ll just hit you with the highlights of my trip. Who are the people in all my photos you ask? My co-worker Paula happened to be going to San Pedro at the same time I was and she was kind enough to offer me the empty seat in the car they were renting. Her son, daughter and her son’s friend from the U.S. filled the other 3 seats. It was a great time, and I’m so glad I got to share my experience with other people rather than solo. If you do find yourself in San Pedro de Atacama (which I highly recommend for nature lovers), it’s in your best interest to rent a car. Most of the attractions are an hour to two hours away. The cost would quickly add up if you kept hiring cars or taking tours.
Valle de la Luna: This valley is located quite close to the city of San Pedro. We got to catch the sunset overlooking the valley one night and it was breathtaking. It felt a little like The Grand Canyon. On our last day, we entered into the Valle de la Luna park and stopped at each special attraction. My favorite stop was hiking through the salt-caves, I felt like Indiana Jones. We had to use our phones as flashlights since it was so dark inside. We also hiked up part of the valley to catch some breathtaking views. Afterwards, we were exhausted and a little sunburnt.
Salar de Tara: I had been looking forward to this tour most. A friend had insisted we take a tour with this specific company and I’m so glad we did. We rode around the desert in this military type jeep, flying over the rocky terrain. For those with motion-sickness, this is not the tour for you. It took us about 2 hours driving through the barren desert with no roads to reach the salar. The salar is a giant salt flat lagoon. The colors were so beautiful there. We even spotted one flamingo. There were other strange animals I’d never seen before like vicuñas- a cousin to the lama, viscachas –a rabbit-like animal with squirrel type tail, and a prairie dog type animal.
We also got to see a cool rock formation that looked like a Moai. On the left side you can see the profile of a face. If you ask me, it looks like George Washington. They call this formation “The Moai of Tara”. It also takes on a phallic shape as well…
On the way back we stopped at a lake that was completely frozen over. It was extremely hard to walk on, but so beautiful. It was called Diamond lake. The sun reflected onto the ice making it sparkle.
Las Termas Puritama: One of the best things we did on the trip! The Termas Puritamas are natural hot springs. They have a total of 8 baths you can choose to soak in. It was the middle of the winter, but inside the baths, we were so warm and relaxed. The water was crystal clear and the waterfalls in each pool were amazing. I’ve always wanted to go in a natural hot spring, and this one did not disappoint. We had our own private spring and a dock for eating.
Lake Chaxa: This lake was created millions of years ago after the eruption of a nearby volcano. It sits on salt flats, making it extremely salty. Lake Chaxa is part of the National Flamingo Reserve, which is the largest flamingo reserve in the world. It was really cool to see the flamingos here, they weren’t as pink as the other flamingos I’ve seen but it was cool to see them in the wild.
The Geysers of Tatio: To see the geysers, you have to wake up at 4am to arrive there at about 6am. The sunrise effects the geysers and once the sun has risen, they are way less active. The altitude was pretty drastic, so we drank some coca tea which is a natural remedy for altitude sickness. I couldn’t believe it but we were up even higher than when I was in Cusco, Peru! Altitude sickness is no joke, so you want to avoid it at all costs. The geysers and fumaroles were pretty cool. It looked like we were in a dinosaur world or something. It was hard to enjoy them fully because it was so damn cold. We’re talking 0 degrees F. The tallest geyser went about 3 meters high. I will say after visiting Yellowstone, they were kind of a letdown. Still cool to see though! On the way back we stopped at a little 10-family village which was so cool. I even got to try lama meat and a goat-cheese empanada.
^^We were inside a giant volcanic crater
^^Lama meat, pretty good.
^^ Another natural remedy for altitude sickness -you can smell it or eat it.
^^ Lama meat
The Vicuñas –we saw these lama-like animals throughout the trip. I found them to be so interesting. For starters, they have the rarest fur in the whole lama family. It’s so rare that they are protected here in Chile –you can’t kill them. To get the fur, you must trap them with fruit. If you trap them inhumanely, they have a heart attack and die. Their fur can withstand such cold weather that they can easily survive in 0 degree weather. Just a scarf made of vicuña fur costs about $5,000 USD. They stay in packs consisting of one male and several females. The female stays with the male until she is about to die, then she goes off on her own. The male goes on to find younger females. Nice huh?
The small town of San Pedro: I loved the town of San Pedro. It was so rural and different from urban life. The buildings were all one story, and most had straw roofs. I was sad to see all of the stray dogs, and I probably pet each one. But they were quite happy pups, and they seemed to all stick together. One day I will return and rescue them all. During the day it was quite warm, about 60 or 70F but at night it got extremely cold. I enjoyed stargazing at night. Our hotel was so nice; they had lounge chairs and left out blankets.
^^This friend had one blue eye and one brown eye. He reminded me of my old dog Molly.
Driving through the desert for a long time, there was absolutely nothing. At one point Paula says "Look a cloud!" 30 minutes later "look a bush!"
I went half the trip thinking one of the boy's names was Jake. Turns out his name is Jade!
We had to clarify that the word "fart" in english is not "bart" and that "barf" is also not "bart"
At the thermas purimtas I wasn't looking where I was going and I epically fell off the dock and into a bush. Thankfully the bush caught my fall because otherwise that could have been a disaster. I did not get wet!
^^ Cat tongue chocolates...
^^ I need this for my apartment
I really loved this trip up north, it was a complete 180 from my Buenos Aires trip. It’s so crazy to see such different parts of the world. I’m super tired and a bit broke, but nonetheless very happy. Now it’s time to shift gears back to school for a hectic upcoming month.
P.If you’re wondering where León was, he was staying with a lady my vet recommended. I missed that little booger so much!