Atacama Desert Diary – Chile, South America

After spending two days in beautiful Valle del Elqui, it was time to pack our bags again for what would be an unforgettable experience and one of the South America highlights, the Atacama desert.

 Exploring the Atacama desert in Chile.
Exploring the Atacama desert in Chile.Exploring the Atacama desert in Chile.

 Day 1: Valle de la Luna

The tour started at 4 pm and lasted until 8 pm just after sunset. We went through the Duna Grande, Las Tres Marias, Cuevas de Sal, a walk through the Valle de la luna, and finished off with the Coyote peak view for the sunset. Epic!
Although it was packed with tourists, the atmosphere was great. Everybody was waiting for the sunset, completely in awe at the incredible view.
We were lucky to have, besides the good guide and driver, a nice group during the tour, which made the experience more enjoyable.
At the end of the tour, we were tired but happy. We had a first glimpse of what the Atacama Desert had to offer and we were blown away. Until day two that is, when we thought “after seeing this, we can go back home”.
 
Discovering the Atacama desert in Chile.
Discovering the Atacama desert in Chile.
Discovering the Atacama desert in Chile.

Day 2: Piedras Rojas

Bertrand had read about this tour and really wanted to do it, and although I preferred to see the geysers, I agreed. That’s how nice of a girlfriend I am :).
The tour started at 7:30 am finished at 19 pm and was full on. Manuela, our guide, a former journalist in Santiago turned guide, was a joy to talk to, extremely knowledgeable and professional. I confess I have a thing for guides, male or female :). They can make or break your tour, so when I meet someone amazing I can’t stop gushing about them. After one hour drive, we arrived at the Laguna Miscanti. The high altitude made my head spin, and I had trouble breathing, but oh my, those views!
After one hour drive, we arrived at the Laguna Miscanti. The high altitude made my head spin, and I had trouble breathing, but oh my, those views!
We saw around three Lagunas, after which we made our way to Piedras Rojas. The wind was strong and made it hard to keep balance, but, again, what a landscape.
 
Discovering the Atacama desert in Chile.
Discovering the Atacama desert in Chile.
Discovering the Atacama desert in Chile.
Discovering the Atacama desert in Chile.

How and where to:

How we got thereWe drove for 1h from Valle del Elqui to La Serena, took a 7h bus to Santiago, a 30min taxi ride to Santiago airport, a 2h flight from Santiago to Calama (also called, by the locales, the ugliest town in Chile), and a 2h mini bus ride to San Pedro de Atacama (20000 pesos Calama-San Pedro with Transvip).
Agency/tours/prices: We took both tours with Flamingo agency and were quite happy with the choice. For Piedras Rojas, we paid 35000 pesos cash when it was 45000 by card + 3000 for the park entrance. For the Valle de la Luna, we paid 8000 Pesos cash per person + 10100 per person for the park entrance as well as the entrance to the flamingoes laguna.
Where we stayed: Hotel Tocopilla 19A for 20000 pesos a night.
What we eat: North of the village there are baracs, where locals eat and the prices are lower than anywhere else: breakfast menu (eggs with bread and tea), 1500 pp; lunch menu 3500 (starter and main).
Other: There are only 2x ATMs in the village so you might be better off getting cash before arriving.
Disclaimer: We were in the Atacama Desert in January 2016 so all the prices mentioned date from that time.

Bye bye Chile

With the Atacama desert, we wrapped up our Chilean adventure feeling happy and grateful. From colorful Valparaiso to charming Valle del Elqui and the amazing Atacama desert, we thoroughly enjoyed our time and created wonderful memories. Before heading to our next destination, Bolivia, we returned to Argentina for one last stop: The Hill of 14 colors. Coming next!

 

 

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