Atacama Desert tours
Tierra Atacama

Active Adventure in the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile is one of the most surreal places on earth, and a great place to start your adventure in Chile.
In this sample 6-day itinerary, adventure-seekers can test their abilities through hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding over a variety of terrains that the desert offers. At Tierra Atacama, our expert guides and friendly staff are on hand to ensure you get the most out of your trip.
View of Licancabur volcano

Snaking through the desert are the Andes and Domeyko mountain ranges, the Licancabur Volcano stands over the desert at an imposing 19,420ft and can be admired from all areas of Tierra Atacama.

Full moon hike in the Atacama Desert Chile

In the shadow of these immense formations lie rocky, wind-hewn gorges in shades of burning red, giving you the feeling that you’ve just landed on the moon. You’ll also discover the incredible flora and fauna which thrives here, alive and well in the world’s driest desert plains.

Atacama Desert Chile

The desert of Atacama sprawls across almost 50,000sq m with little or no sign of man-made life and at times, zero cloud cover. The light pollution here is incredibly low, making stargazing in the Atacama Desert an unparalleled experience.

Combining Tierra’s luxury adventure with the indulgence of an exclusive private vineyard, has to be one of the ultimate travel experiences. With the booking of any 6-night stay at one or more of our Tierra Hotels we will include the following, completely FREE:*

*This offer is only available during certain times of the year and may not be used in conjunction with any other promotion, offer or discounted rate.

Active Adventure in the Atacama Desert - 6 Nights at Tierra Atacama

Sample Itinerary – Activities are subject to availability and weather conditions

Day 1 – Arrival and Atacama Salt Flats Tour

Having arrived at Tierra Atacama in the late morning, our guides will sit down with you to find out what sort of activities and Atacama Desert adventures you might be interested in, creating an excursion plan for the upcoming days as you chat. Activities penciled in, you’ll then be shown around the hotel for an introduction to your new home and enjoy a delicious lunch, before perhaps setting out on an afternoon half-day tour – to the Atacama Salt Flats, for example – to get your Atacama Desert adventure started in style.

After visiting the village of Toconao, this scenic vehicle tour heads to Los Flamencos National Reserve at Chaxa Lagoon, home not only to various Flamingo species but also to Andean Gulls, Highland Chorlos and more birdlife. While taking a gentle walk along the trails that wind their way around this watery haven, there’s no doubt you’ll be reaching for the camera to capture this landscape of vast open skies, imposing peaks looming on the horizon and the colors of the sunset mirrored in Chaxa Lagoon, as the Flamingos go about their own daily business.

  • Flamingoes in the salar de atacama
  • Salar de Atacama

Day 2 – Explore Cejar Lagoon and Quebrada del Diablo in the Atacama Desert

After a comfortable first night at Tierra Atacama, wake up with the sight of beautiful desert views and head to our dining room for breakfast before meeting with your guide, who will then lead the way on a half-day tour to Cejar Lagoon. This is a morning excursion to make the most of the temperature at this time of day. Depart the hotel heading south by bike towards the edge of the Atacama Salt Flat. The terrain is mainly flat and slightly uneven in places. On arrival at the Cejar lagoon, the view of the thick salt crust which has formed around the water hole is amazing. The salt concentration is incredibly high here and one floats in the spectacularly clear waters. Following a swim and a rest, we return to the hotel by vehicle.

After having lunch at Tierra Atacama, we will discover the beguiling land formations of the Quebrada del Diablo and enjoy a dose of local heritage, here in the Cordillera de la Sal. Having driven to the cusp of the ‘Devil’s Canyon’, we’ll begin our hike through this dried-up river bed, meandering along flat terrain which is flanked on each side by ethereal, craggy rock walls.

This trail will then lead up a steady ascent to a lookout point, rewarding all effort with far-reaching views out towards the rippling mountains and volcanoes that surround us. From here, we’ll come across historic petroglyphs etched into the rock walls – a sign of travelers and traders having used this very same route for hundreds of years. From this altitude, we can appreciate the green spots that make up the San Pedro Oasis. To return to the vehicle we will descend a steep hill.

  • San Pedro de Atacama

Day 3 – Guatin-Gatchi Valley Hike

Expect a confection of distinctive desert plant life and trickling rivers, on this tour to the Valle de Guatin.  A short drive takes you to this flourishing valley, where you’ll start by hiking through a Cardon forest, encountering the giant cacti that are known to thrive in the area before hiking to the confluence of two rivers: the Puritama and Purifica.  What’s notable about these colliding rivers is that the former is made up of warm, thermal waters while the latter is cool, mountain meltwater, and together they merge to give birth to the Vilama River, which in turn brings life to Guatin Valley’s delicate ecosystem.  You’ll continue through the valley, over a rocky pathway dotted with small waterfalls and across the gushing river, passing interesting vegetation endemic to the region along the way. Then, a captivating panorama of the sweeping valley below makes for a worthy finale to this refreshing walk in Guatin Gatchi.

Day 4 – High-Plains Lagoons and Piedras Rojas

On this tour we will visit 3 beautiful lagoons. We will head south and arrive first at the Miscanti Lagoon, located 1 hour and 30 minutes from the hotel and 4,100 meters above sea level. We will take an approximately 15-minute walk around a path along the beautiful lagoon and surrounded by different animals. Then we will continue to Meñiques, where there is only one lookout point from which to appreciate the lagoon.

Once Miscanti and Miñiques have been enjoyed, we will continue towards Piedras Rojas. This lagoon has a new, flat path; it is in very good condition and takes about 45 minutes to walk, because activity at this altitude is demanding. After the hike, we will have a delicious lunch and then return to the hotel.

Following your Atacama Desert adventure, why not head to the Uma Spa at Tierra Atacama for a chance to rest weary bones and treat yourself to a calming therapy? The heated pool, outdoor hot tub and relaxation space are sure to leave you feeling pampered after a busy day.

  • The pool at Tierra Atacama

Day 5 – Tatio Geysers at Sunrise

An early start this morning is more than made up for at the Tatio Geysers, which you’ll reach just as the sun begins to emerge above the horizon, casting an ethereal glow on the vapor columns which tower at a height of 12 meters. Spend some time appreciating this geothermal field, home to over 80 active geysers which protrude from bubbling pools of boiling water, before hopping back in the vehicle to make your way home. In the light of day, you’ll be able to spot Vicuñas, Foxes, Vizcachas and Andean Ostriches roaming outside your window, making a stop at the picturesque, adobe village of Machuca and arriving back at the hotel.

  • Atacama Desert Chile

Day 6 – Toco Volcano

Conquering the elements, altitude and weary legs to reach the summit of the Toco Volcano is a mission that promises all the thrills of a strenuous mountain climb.

Located just 6km from the border between Chile and Bolivia, Cerro Toco is as awe-inspiring to look at from the ground, as the expansive panoramas are to be enjoyed from its summit. This depleted volcano is far less-visited than its better-known nearby cousins of Licancabur and Lascar, though offers equally astounding views, a solid level of hiking and just as much sense of achievement in reaching its peak as with any mountain in the surrounding Andes. Departing the hotel, you will travel by van across the plains to the trailhead, gradually ascending to a starting altitude of 5,000m (16,400ft), where the dusty roads lead into rows of dramatic hills, some of which may be dusted with snow, though all will look even more magnificent from atop Cerro Toco!

The ascent can be taken at a steady pace, as this high-altitude trek is very much about the enjoyment of the climb, ensuring enough energy is left to indulge in its aerial rewards. Having traversed the trails to 5,600m (18,700ft), take a moment to revel in the surrounding mountainscape, with views out to Laguna Blanca and the Salar de Atacama being of particularly spectacular note, before gradually making the descent back to the awaiting support vehicle and home.

*Please note:  Climbing hills and volcanoes in the Atacama is considered to be highly challenging.  Based on the physical conditions of each guest, and for their own security, we reserve the right to prohibit high-altitude excursions.

  • Volcano climbing tour
  • Sand dunes in the desert
  • Kaleidoscopic desert colours

Day 7 – Biking through San Pedro and Departure

On your final day in the Atacama Desert, head into the town of San Pedro.  As you explore the dusty streets you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time.

Be sure to pick up some locally hand-crafted souvenirs while you are here – keep an eye out for genuine alpaca wool sweaters and copper jewelry, before you bid farewell and are transferred to the airport, ready for your journey home or onward adventure in Chile – to Chiloé or Patagonia, for example!

  • Atacama Desert Chile

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