San Pedro de Atacama: El Tatio Geysers and Valle de la Luna

San Pedro de Atacama: El Tatio Geysers and Valle de la Luna

San Pedro de Atacama is a town of around 4,000 people built around an oasis on a high desert plateau in northern Chile. While it is technically in the Atacama Desert it is further south than the more arid areas of the Atacama best known for not supporting life in any way, shape or form even on the microscopic level. The area around San Pedro has plenty of plants and wildlife that can survive on the area’s inch and a half of rain a year.

We were only there for a couple of days and most of the sites were well outside town so we went on two tours. Fortunately they were rather affordable. The first was to El Tatio, one of the highest altitude geyser fields in the world at over 4,300 meters (14,100 feet) above sea level. The tour bus picked us up at our hostel at 4am. The tour guide took one look at our zip up sweatshirts and said, “Are you sure you don’t want more clothes, it is going to be really cold up there.” We were at 3,800 meters in Peru and it wasn’t that bad. Not wanting to go and change we jumped on the bus. Everyone had big puffy coats and hats…”This can’t be good.” It wasn’t so much the altitude as the time of day: Predawn before the sun has had any chance to heat anything up. The first hour and a half was spent shivering, but the view of the stars at that altitude coupled with the heat from the geysers made it somewhat bearable.

That same afternoon after returning from El Tatio we went on a second tour to Valle de la Luna. I would like to return some day to hike the trails that cut through the area. Julie doesn’t quite share my fascination for large amounts of sand that don’t border a large body of water so we’ll see. It is a bit hard to describe the vastness of the area and even harder for us to capture in photographs though that didn’t stop us from trying.

Image of San Pedro de Atacama at Sunset
At sunset the mountains east of San Pedro made it look as if you were on Mars…except for the grass…and the tree…and the telephone poles.
Image of Mark at El Tatio
Warming myself in the sun and steam. I’ve never been so happy for sunrise.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble; Fire Burn and Geyser Bubble – Instagram video of one of the bubbling geysers:

http://instagram.com/p/n5X2FtAwDw/

Image of Steam rolling of the geysers at El Tatio
Steam rolling off the geysers at El Tatio
Image of Mineral deposits left from the geyser water.
Mineral deposits left from the geyser water.
Image of Water trickling downhill from distant geysers.
Panorama Mode: Also good for vertical shots. Water trickling downhill from distant geysers.
Image of Amphitheater at Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Luna: The rock formation to the left is known as the amphitheater. You can see silhouettes of people and vehicles on the road below for some idea of the scale.
Image of Panorama from Valle de la Luna.
Panorama from Valle de la Luna.
Image of Look, sir. Droids.
Look, sir. Droids.
Image of us Waiting for the sun to set.
Waiting for the sun to set.
Image of Julie sitting on an edge overlooking the valley.
Julie sitting on an edge overlooking the valley.
Image of Quite a crowd gathers on the cliffs at Valle de la Luna for sunset.
Quite a crowd gathers on the cliffs at Valle de la Luna for sunset.
Image The mountains east of San Pedro again, this time from Valle de la Luna.
The Licancabur volcano east of San Pedro again, this time from Valle de la Luna.

Instagram video of sunset at Valle de la Luna. I even got a little JJ Abrams lens flare in there:

http://instagram.com/p/n5lQkxAwDS/

Panorama of sunset at Valle de la Luna
Panorama of sunset at Valle de la Luna

On our first day there and upon seeing the Martian like colors at sunset David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” immediately came to mind and was stuck in my head for the duration of our time in San Pedro. Since I haven’t posted a music video in a while, here is a very made-up David Bowie from 1971. Come to think of it, his hair color very much resembles the color of the mountains….a bit shinier though.

4 Responses to San Pedro de Atacama: El Tatio Geysers and Valle de la Luna

    • Yes it is. There are volcanoes all over the area. I updated the name in the second photo.

      You can hike on certain areas of it but parts of it still have landmines from one of Chile’s altercations with Argentina.

Leave a reply

CommentLuv badge

We're Mark & Julie

We quit our jobs at the end of 2013 to backpack around the world. We're sharing our stories, travel advice and hopefully some inspiration. Read more...

We're currently in:

Thailand