Posted on November 30, 2018
By Camila Larrea, Sales Team Pure! Chile
Every person that I hear talking about San Pedro de Atacama says that this place has a magnet, a mystique that makes you want to come back… A little while ago, it was my turn to experience the feeling for myself.
San Pedro de Atacama is a town built at the beginning of the driest nonpolar desert in the world: the Atacama Desert. It has a very particular architecture; every construction is mostly made with adobe, a material made by mixing mud and straw and forming them in the shape of bricks, and the roofs are made from straw. The streets are made of gravel, so you can feel that you are in an exotic place.
The town itself is surrounded by mountains, volcanoes, and breathtaking scenery and is the starting point of various routes through the Atacameño Highlands. It is a place brimmed with history, as the first people who lived here were those of the great Inca civilization, where they formed part of the Inca route. Here, archaeological ruins can be found among other historical monuments like the Pucará de Quitor, shocking phenomenas of nature like the Tatio Geysers (the largest group of geysers in the southern hemisphere), and beautiful landscapes like Valle de Luna (Moon Valley) or the Chaxa Lagoon. All is accompanied by amazing flora and fauna.
A lot of communities live in the area of San Pedro de Atacama. In fact, every touristic place is handled by them, with special attention to the environment in which their ancestors used to live. You can easily spot typical flora and fauna of the desert that is intact, like huge cacti and a lot of different animals, such as guanacos, vizcachas, foxes, flamingoes, condors, and hummingbirds. Every one of them is free in their own habitat – something very special to see, taking into account the current times.
As said before, this was my first visit to the Atacama Desert. The first tour that I took was to Valle de Luna, located 12km from San Pedro de Atacama. This valley was declared a Nature Sanctuary in 1982.
This place was breathtaking, it has various stone and sand formations which have been carved by wind and water over millions of years. Here, it is possible to explore a variety of caverns and dry lakes covered in salt and different textures from all the minerals that form naturally in this type of environment. It also has an impressive range of color which changes depending of the position of the sun, varying between pink tones, light blues and dark purples, to a sky filled with stars. It is a quiet place where you can gain introspective and be completely at peace. It almost feels like being on the surface of the moon, thus living up to its name.
Another special place that cannot be missed is the Geysers of Tatio. Geysers are a special type of thermal sources that periodically emit a column of hot water and steam into the air. Tatio means ‘the grandfather who never stopped crying’ in the Atacama language, a fitting name for the ever-active geysers.
The Geysers of Tatio is the largest geyser group in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world. It is located at 4.200 meters above sea level and it is freezing cold. It is an amazing show, and in the middle of the mountains the fumaroles reach up to 10 meters in altitude and are surrounded by steam. If you observe them closely, you can see how the bubbling water gushes from the depths of the earth, which is more than 85 degrees Celsius. This must be one of the most shocking phenomena of nature that I have ever witnessed. At the end of the tour there was the opportunity to dip into a relaxing natural thermal pool. I did this and it was great!
I definitely recommend a visit to San Pedro de Atacama. There are a lot of different things to do and places to discover in and around the desert town. It is possible to make this trip an introspective one, or even do extreme sports, like sandboarding. It is an interesting and magical place that, if you have the chance to visit, you are not going to regret at all.