As we continued to travel and meet so many interesting people, almost everyone raved about their visit to San Pedro de Atacama. Atacama is a small, desolate village in the desert and located about 2,500m above sea level. It’s surrounded by national parks, which makes it a very popular backpacker destination. We didn’t have this on our itinerary and over the last few weeks we briefly looked into figuring out how to go, but then got distracted and dismissed the idea. But, the day before our flight scheduled from Santiago to La Paz, we decided to sit down, focus, and figure out how to squeeze in Atacama!! Although we had to cancel and change many flight and hostel reservations, we kept telling ourselves it would be worth it, and it 100% was!!
Sept 28 consisted of a lot of traveling to get us to Atacama: a bus from Valparaiso to Santiago, another bus from Santiago center to the airport, a flight from Santiago to Calama, and a van from Calama to Atacama. We arrived as the sun was setting, checked into our hostel, walked into town to book activities to squeeze into our one, full day, and went to bed early.
Sept 29 was a day filled with manyyy activities since we only had one full day in San Pedro de Atacama. We woke up at 5am to get picked up for a tour of Piedras Rojas. We drove about 2 hours to our first destination, Laguna Tuyajto. It was freezing cold since Atacama is the desert and the sun had not fully risen yet. Our guides cooked us breakfast as we took pictures of the beautiful landscapes.
Our second stop was Aguas Calientes to see the famous “red rocks.” These views were even more beautiful than the first stop!!
The last stop on the tour was Reserva Nacional Los Flamingos. We learned about the three types of flamingos in the area (Flamenco James, Flamenco Chileno, and Flamenco Andino).
We went back into town, had a late lunch with our tour group, and then headed to our hostel to take a quick nap before getting picked up for our second tour of the day to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley).
The tour started with a visit to a cave that has been carved by rain for thousands of years. The guide asked who was claustrophobic before we entered and he was definitely not joking around. The first few yards were simple and enjoyable, but the second half of the cave required phone lights and a good deal of ducking under overhanging rocks and scaling arounds corners.
Next, we took the van a few kilometers down the park to see a rock formation called Tres Marias. We must have missed the joke/background story because it was just a couple of rocks sticking out of the ground.
Lastly, right before sunset, we were driven to the top of a cliff overlooking the national park. Melanie asked the semi-bilingual guide, Guillermo, when we would be seeing the moon (given that the tour was called ‘Moon Valley’). While Cody held in his laughter, Guillermo had to explain that we were on the top of the cliff to watch sunset, and the park is called Moon Valley given its physical similarities to the moon…All in all, the sunset was beautiful and we went back to the hostel to get ready for our last activity of the day!
At 10:30pm we got picked up for a van to go stargazing. We were excited about it when we booked it the night before, but by the time the tour came around we were exhausted and knew we had to wake up early the next morning. Long story short, the tour was ok and we got to get a great picture of the moon. Next time, we will just stargaze on our own 😌.