Matty’s trip to the Atacama Desert – ‘Arid, beauty, unearthly’

First Name: Matty

Age: 37

Occupation: Academic researcher

Which operator did you go with or did you organise it yourself?

 I organized my trip from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama myself.

If you had a local guide, what was he like?

 I took three tours from San Pedro de Atacama with the same company (of which I do not remember the name). Their prices were reasonable and I was satisfied with their services.

Did the logistics of getting to San Pedro de Atacama run smoothly? (Flights, Buses etc)

 Yes, they did. Sky Airline flies to Calama from Santiago (with a stop-over in Antofagasta), and from the airport in Calama you can take a bus to San Pedro de Atacama for 10,000 pesos.

At what time of year did you travel to San Pedro de Atacama?

 I was there from 8 to 11 September.

How long did you travel around the Atacama desert for?

 I stayed in San Pedro de Atacama for 3 nights.

How many people did you travel with?

 I was alone.

What was your favourite place?

 I was really impressed by the altiplanic lagoons. These are lagoons that are at 4300 meters and are surrounded by volcanic peaks that soar up to 6000 meters. It is really as if you’re on another planet in those places.

What was the weather like?

The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world, so rain was not expected and we did not get any. Temperatures during the day were very pleasant, around 25 degrees. During the nights, it cools down quite a lot, lows in San Pedro were just above the freezing point. The tour to the El Tatio geysers was early in the morning in order to catch the sunrise at the geysers. The geysers are at 4300 meters, so it was cold there, -10.

Did the weather impact negatively on your trip?

 No.

Laguna Miniques

What activities did you do whilst you were there? (trekking, horseriding, kayaking etc)

I took three tours that all started in San Pedro de Atacama. The first one was an afternoon/early-evening visit of Valle de la Luna, not far from the village. Then, on the second day I did a tour that included visits to Toconao, the Laguna de Chaxa in the Salar de Atacama, and the Lagunas Miscanti and Miniques. On the last day of my stay, I took the tour to the El Tatio geysers.

If you were to go back, what would you recommend packing that you couldn’t live without whilst travelling round the Atacama desert?

Sunscreen, hat, camera, different layers of clothing.

What was the most challenging part of the trip?

Some of the places I visited were above 4000 meters (the El Tatio geysers and the altiplanic lagoons). I was able to deal with it, but nevertheless I had to take it easy.

El Tatio Geysers

Is there anything that could have made your trip better?

San Pedro de Atacama is very touristy and all the sights around are heavily visited, especially the El Tatio geysers and the Valle de la Luna. Although they are very nice places to visit, it would have been even better if it had been less crowded.

Sum up Atacama in 3 words:

 Arid, beauty, unearthly.

Would you recommend the Atacama desert as an adventure travel destination to your friends?

 For sure!