Feb 2019 – Last stop in Chile … – one of the driest deserts in the world – Atacama. This arid land hides a small oasis called San Pedro located approx. 60 miles from Calama. We stayed here and it was like going back several years in time. A village of dirt streets, adobe mud houses, stores selling local artisanal products, cafes, vendors selling souvenirs, tourists and livestock wandering the dirt roads. Seemed more like a scene from the 70s movie. The oldest church here is located in the main square.
Main Attractions which we got a chance to experience during our stay (marked on map)
Valle De La Luna (Moon Valley) -We got to see the canyons formed by water millions of years ago. Rock salt, selenite, clay and other minerals made the rocks and ground sparkle white at this time of the year after the rains. Was called Las Salinas earlier because of its salt mining past. We walked in the Central Crater and saw some of the natural formations like the Amphitheater, the priest, rocks in shape of human heads, salt mining sites and remains of Andean houses
Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) -Dunes for some fun sand boarding and lookouts with views of salt, sand and red rocks form the landscapes of the Death Valley. Has many interesting tales connected to it – one of them being that a French astronomer working in the area compared it to Mars Surface (Due to its red rocks and sand). Locals thought he was saying ‘Muerte’ instead of Mars, so they named the valley ‘Valle de la Muerte’.
Salt Flats, Altiplanic Lagoons & Piedras Rojas -Salt flats next to the Red Rocks is an incredible sight to behold. Some areas were white, rich with salt crystals, while others had a brown, clay-like appearance. The entire journey of the winding roads carving their way through salt flats, blue lagoons, glowing red rocks, lunar landscapes, bright yellow patches of grass against the snow capped steep mountains is wonderfully photogenic.
The landscape of Salar de Aguas Calientes and Salar de Talar was such a combination of colors of the green lake, red volcanic stones, blue sky, fields of perennials, and sparkling blue water.
In the High Andean plains, we visited the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons at 13,779 feet above sea level, located on the foothills of the volcanoes of the Andes Mountain Range.
We made a stop in town of Socaire, known for its crop terraces and irrigation canals, growing corn, quinoa, fava beans, carrots, and potatoes.
On the way back we visited Toconao town, saw its bell tower and Saint Luke Church, both national monuments since 1951. This place is famous for local handicrafts made of pumice stone, cactus wood, alpaca and llama wool.
Tatio Geysers -Early in morning we visited the geothermal field (located at 14,173 ft.) & saw diff. manifestations surrounded by spurts of hot springs, mud pools, water vapor & steam.
On the way back to San Pedro we made a a stop at the Machuca village known for its llama herders and houses built with adobe, straw and cactus wood. We also saw the beautiful landscape, as well as native plants and wildlife.
All the incredible landscapes in Atacama offered us an unparalleled view of the country’s beauty and diversity. Our guide Francisca (whose beauty and style so well coordinated in her nails, outfit, jewelry and hairstyle), showed us around some surprise lookout spots, arranged early morning breakfast and sunset snacks/ wine for us and made us explore the mysteries of the desert.
Two of the recommended restaurants which we had liked for some local and amazing specialties – Roots and Tierra Todo Natural Restaurant. Highly recommend our hotel – Terrantai. (Detailed reviews and pictures for them are on my yelp page).
It was a wonderful last stop of our trip before heading back home.