San Pedro de Atacama
This past weekend we went to San Pedro de Atacama with IFSA-Butler Santiago. San Pedro de Atacama is one of the three top tourist destinations in Chile and is located in the most arid desert in the world. It’s overlooked by a gorgeous mountain range, something that can be counted on in Chile, as well as a volcano. The volcano’s name comes from the Atacameña name for their god, as they believed that the mountains were a god as they provided water. The town is honestly sustained by tourism, but after visiting it wasn’t hard to see why. The region is filled with spectacular and unique sites. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for people who don’t want to read a long post, I got sick at the beginning of this trip and am still recovering. I saw about half of what the whole group got to see. Regardless, it was an absolutely stunning time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the activities I was able to participate in.
Here is the itinerary:
Thursday May 9:
Trip to San Pedro de Atacama
Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte and Asado (Cook-out)
Friday May 10:
Lagunas Altiplanicas, Pueblos de Toconao y Socaire, Salar de Atacama, Laguna Chaxa
Saturday May 11:
Titio Geysers and Machuca Pueblos and Pre-Colombian Museum
Sunday May 12:
Cejar Laguna, Ojos del Salar, Salar de Tebinquiche
Return to Santiago
I was able to make it to Thursday’s activities, the museum, and Sunday’s activities. I was told that the rest of the places were not only beautiful, but also incredibly unique experiences.
Thursday, after our arrival, we headed to Valle de la Muerte. The majority of the group hiked to the top of the dunes, in order to get a view of the valley from above, while I stayed in the valley with our director and a few other students. As I learned later, Valle de la Muerte was actually supposed to be called Valle de Marte (Mars Valley instead of Death Valley), but gained its name due to a bad translation from French. (Mort vs. Mars) After walking through the Valley (and watching the majority of the group slide down a sand dune), we headed to Valle de la Luna to watch the sunset.
Valle de la Luna was named rather aptly, due to its moon-like shape. The Valley also somewhat resembles the surface of a planet and is supposedly sometimes used as a Nasa test site for rovers and other machinery. We climbed to the top of a peak and then sat to watch the sunset. As the sun set, the colors of the rocks changed, due to the minerals they contained. Upon sunset, the temperature immediately dropped. We took our last pictures and headed back to the hostel for our asado.
The next day I spent in the hostel and then at the doctor’s, but it was supposedly really gorgeous.
Saturday, I wasn’t allowed to go to the geysers, due to the altitude, but that was also supposedly a fantastic experience. That afternoon, I was able to get out of the hostel to see the Pre-Colombian Museum and then some of the town. The museum was small, but interesting, and I learned a lot about the culture in the area. We also saw a church, which was gorgeous. Its ceiling was created using cactus wood, which was very interesting to see.
Sunday, we headed to the Cejar Laguna. This Laguna is pure salt water, created by melted snow. It was really cold and really salty. After touching the water with my hand, I decided not to swim, but the majority of our group hopped in. The water was salty enough that they all floated without any problem. The best part of this excursion was probably watching their faces as they got into the freezing water and then began floating.
After the Cejar Laguna, we went to the Ojos de Salar. This was another Laguna, but was much less salty, although colder. The best way to handle this Laguna is to jump straight in, and then swim to the edge and hop out as soon as possible. I got up the nerves and jumped into this one. It was an absolute blast.
Our last stop was the Salar de Tebinquiche. This is so salty that you can walk for awhile in just the salt water and look like you’re walking on water. The mountains reflect in the salar, which is almost white, and are absolutely spectacular. We spent our time appreciating the beauty and taking hundreds of pictures before taking off.
Next, we headed back to our hostel, packed up, had some free time, and then started our long journey back to Santiago. Despite my sickness, it was still a wonderful long weekend.
That’s all for now!