What excursions does Tierra Atacama offer?

Illustrated Guide

1. Tatio Geysers at sunrise

Today's excursion takes you to one of the iconic sights of the Atacama. You'll set off early to reach the Tatio geysers just as the sun rises above the horizon.

You'll spend some time at the geyser field, home to over 80 geysers, where you'll also have breakfast.

On the journey back to the hotel we could spot vicuñas, foxes, vizcahcas and Andean ostriches, before stopping at the village of Machuca. This tiny settlement has a wooden church and handicraft stalls.

Duration: Full-day | Difficulty: Easy

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Tatio Geyser at dawn, Atacama, Chile

Tatio Geyser at dawn

2. Purilactis hike

On this fascinating hike, you can expect to see crystalline rivers, dramatic rock formations and some of the oldest petroglyphs in the region.

You'll take a transfer towards the Domeyko Mountain Range before starting the hike near the Salado River, at an altitude of 3000m. From here you'll head into the arid terrain of the surrounding gorge, passing 10,000-year-old petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenas - the former crossroads of several important trading routes in the region.

Undulating pathways lead you between rocky outcrops and caves to the remarkable Rainbow Valley - one of the truly iconic destinations in the Atacama. The multi-coloured cliff sides here have been formed by millennia of shifting wind patterns.

You'll walk through this valley and on the other side you'll have lunch before being driven back to the hotel.

Duration: Full-day | Difficulty: Medium

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Rainbow Valley, Atacama, Chile

Rainbow Valley

3. Rainbow Valley petroglyphs hike

This half-day excursion into the Atacama Desert is a real geological and archaeological treat.

You'll be driven towards the Domekyo Mountains and Rainbow Valley where you'll take a 30-minute walk to take in the stunning colours of the valley walls, created by millennia of erosion.

You'll then head to the town of Hierbas Buenas to see pre-Columbian petroglyphs on the walls of a natural rock shelter. These depict animals and ancient messages which are still not completely understood.

Duration: Half-day | Difficulty: Easy

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Rainbow Valley, Atacama Desert, Chile

Rainbow Valley

4. Guatin Gatchi Valley hike

This excursion starts with a short drive to the flourishing Guatin Gatchi Valley. You'll start the hike following a trail through a cardon forest, passing by giant cacti, to the confluence of two rivers - the Puritama and Purifica. The former river is has warm, thermal waters, and the latter cool, mountain meltwater.

On your way through the valley you'll encounter small waterfalls and interesting vegetation before reaching a beautiful panorama of the sweeping valley below.

Duration: Half-day | Difficulty: Medium-difficult

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In Guatin canyon in Chile's Atacama Desert, a guide shows a group of hikers a Cardon cactus, growing on a slope of rocky scree

Ancient Cardon cactus in Guatin Canyon

5. Devil's Canyon hike

This excursion starts with a drive to edge of the Quebrada del Diablo (Devil's Canyon). From here you'll hike along the dried-up river bed, flanked on each side by tall, craggy walls.

The trail will begin to ascend steadily to a viewpoint which offers far-reaching views to the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. Up here you'll also find petroglyphs etched into the rock walls - a reminder of the traders and travellers who have passed along this route for hundreds of years. It's possible to spot the green oasis of San Pedro de Atacama too.

The return route descends a steep hill to your waiting vehicle.

Duration: Half-day | Difficulty: Easy

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Devil's Canyon, Atacama, Chile

Devil's Canyon

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Peter says

This place has the best views, by far, of any hotel in San Pedro. From the bedrooms, restaurant, terrace and swimming pool, you look across the oasis garden to a skyline of volcano peaks, including Licancabor, the highest at around 5,900m.

Peter StanleyJones Patagonia Specialist

6. Cerro Toco Volcano ascent

Located just 6km from the Chile-Bolivia border, the Cerro Toco volcano is awe-inspiring to look at from a distance and the panoramic views from its summit are unbeatable.

You'll leave the hotel by van and drive across the plains to the trailhead, gradually ascending to 5000m where the dirt road heads into rows of dramatic hills, some of which might have a dusting of snow.

The ascent is taken at a steady pace due to the altitude. The summit is reached at 5600m from where you can soak up the surrounding mountainscape with particularly spectacular views of Laguna Blanca and the Atacama salt flats.

After making the descent, you'll will be driven back to the hotel.

Note: This is a highly challenging hike and ascents cannot always be guaranteed. It is imperative that guests spend a mimimum of five nights in order to acclimatise properly to both the altitude and extreme desert conditions before making an ascent. Climbers must be of legal age. The hotel reserves the right to prohibit high-altitude excursions based on the physical condition of each guest.

Duration: Full-day | Difficulty: Difficult

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Cerro Toco Volcano ascent, Atacama Desert, Chile

Cerro Toco Volcano ascent

7. Cejar Lagoon bike ride

This morning excursion takes advantage of the cooler temperatures. You'll leave the hotel by bike, heading south towards the Atacama salt flat.

The terrain is mainly flat and only slightly uneven in places. When you arrive at the Cejar Lagoon you'll see the amazing, thick salt crust formed around its edges. Due to the high salt concentration in the water here you'll be able to float in the crystal-clear waters.

After a swim and a rest, you'll be driven back to the hotel.

Duration: Half-day | Difficulty: Medium

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Biking excursion, Tierra Atacama, Chile

Biking excursion

8. Vallecito hike

You'll take a transfer to the salt mountain range, west of San Pedro, where the hike will begin. This is a wonderful landscape, especially when the selenite (plaster glass) shines in the morning sunlight.

We'll then make a second stop at a huge salt crystal which produces beautiful sounds as it expands and contracts in the heat.

The final stop takes you to a giant sand dune in a lunar landscape.

Duration: Half-day | Difficulty: Easy

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Tiny figures of hikers explore the vast red sandy rocks of Vallecito in Chile's Atacama Desert

Exploring the rocky alien landscapes of Vallecito

9. Atacama Salt Flats tour

This excursion begins with a visit to Toconao, an isolated desert oasis village. You'll explore the main plaza, 18th-century church and artisan workshops before continuing on to Chaxa Lagoon in the Los Flamencos National Reserve.

This salt flat is home to the famous flamingoes, along with Andean gulls and highland chorlos. You'll take a gentle walk along the trails that meander through this haven with some great opportunities for photography.

Duration: Half-day | Difficulty: Easy

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Atacama Salt Flats, Chile

Atacama Salt Flats

10. High Plains Lagoons & Piedras Rojas hike

On this excursion you'll visit three beautiful lagoons. The first, Miscanti Lagoon, is located a 1½-hr drive from the hotel. You'll take a 15-minute walk around this lagoon, at 4100m above sea level.

The next lagoon to be visited on the trip is Meñiques - there is just one viewpoint from where this lagoon can be appreciated.

The final lagoon on this excursion is Piedras Rojas, the path to which is in good condition and take around 45 minutes complete, due to the altitude.

After visiting this lagoon, you'll have lunch and then return to the hotel.

Duration: Full-day | Level: Easy

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Excursion to three lagoons, Tierra Atacama, Chile

Excursion to three lagoons