Venture on foot as you discover the spectacular desert and mountain landscaped regions of the Atacama not accessible by vehicle.
Following the footsteps of areas only trodden by local natives and their goat and llama herds, you will encounter Indian shepherd communities, unique wildlife and archaeological remains with a backdrop of dormant volcanoes. After acclimatising it is time to set off into the lunar landscape. Pass salt lakes and lagoons dotted with flamingos. Geysers will explode around you, river gorges will amaze you. Hot springs will relax you as you prepare to summit the incredible Licancabur volcano. The Atacama will be at your feet beneath you before you return down to the desert floor in this fragile environment. Spend a night dining under the night sky with a local astrologer as you reflect on your time exploring this spectacular land of proud cultures and unimaginable scenery.
Welcome to the Atacama Desert! You will be met on arrival at Calama airport and will be transferred to your hotel. This evening at around 5pm, take a 15 min transfer into the famous Valle de la Luna or Valley of the Moon. Spend a few hours exploring its stunning sand dunes, ancient salt mines and extraordinary rock formations, before walking up to a perfect vantage point to witness what must be one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. Watch as the colours of the valley and the Andean peaks beyond change from deep red, to purple and then pink as the sun slowly sinks in the sky; a truly unforgettable experience. Returning to your hotel, there is a choice of restaurants just a short walk away. (B)
Overnight Alto Atacama or similar
Depart from your hotel this morning and begin to walk from the Cuchabrache sector, at the end of the town of Catarpe. The path takes us through canyons and gorges to a point where you have to walk through the water. When the canyon opens, you end up in an abandoned town called San Bartolo, where the ancient vestiges still remain reminding us of the old copper mining in the area, where you camp for your first night. This evening, you camp under the starry Atacama sky. (B,L,D)
Trekking duration 4-5 hours (9km)
Start the day with a demanding trek, climbing up to a higher altitude as you leave the riverbed and move towards the plateau. You will have a great view of the abandoned mines, home to many legends. The trail continues through the river canyon and giant cacti emerge, in the midst of the arid barren desert. There are some areas of the valley that are so dry that scientists have not found life, or even bacteria. After crossing a section of the canyon, you finally arrive at Río Grande Village, one of the few remaining indigenous communities of the Atacameño people, where you set up camp on the river banks. (B,L,D)
Trekking duration 8-10 hours (24km)
Today is the most physically challenging day of the trek, as you walk towards Machuca Village. The trail continues alongside small streams in narrow, beautiful valleys inhabited by indigenous locals and their llama herds. Continue climbing up steep desert canyons, gaining altitude, until you reach the wetlands of Machuca, full of local wildlife. From here, you have an amazing view of Licancabur Volcano, the sacred mountain of the Atacameño people. At this point you are at 4,000 m (13,000 ft) above sea level, and you spend the evening relaxing and acclimatising in your campsite next to a big ‘bofedal’ – wetlands where llamas graze. (B,L,D)
Trekking duration 6-8 hours (15km)
After a hearty breakfast, leave Machuca for the Tatio Geysers, arriving just after the vast sunrise crowds have dispersed and the Geysers can be appreciated in sunlight at a more relaxed pace and pleasant temperature (4,500m above sea level before sunrise is a very chilly experience!) The geothermic field is truly incredible, from almost 900 metres below the earth, boiling steam bursts up to 40 metres over the surface of the earth. From the geysers you begin your walk, lasting approximately 3 hours, towards a high Andean plateau with the same name as the trail – Copa Coya. The puna played an important historical role centred around the llareta plant which was used traditionally for combustion, although nowadays its slow growth means it’s not a feasible fuel option. While you walk you see Andean vegetation and maybe viscachas (similar to chinchillas) and stop to enjoy lunch with a view. At the end of the walk there’s a steep uphill climb leading to a wonderful view of the Alto Loa villages, showing a different view of Atacama than normally experienced. After we descend from the Copa Coya you can enjoy the Tatio Thermal Pool for a relaxing bath. End the day back at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Overnight Hotel Poblado Kimal or similar
Trekking duration 6-8 hours (4km)
Today is a day of relaxation as you transfer for five hours to the base of the Zapaleri Volcano at 4500m above sea level where you set up camp for the night. The scenery as you drive is spectacular lunar like vistas. Keep your eyes peeled for rare wildlife and remote communities. (B,L,D)
The Zapaleri is an extinct volcano with its summit peaking at 5653m above sea level. The volcano is a tripartite landmark shared between Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. This volcano is inserted in the Vilama Nature Reserve in Argentina, in Bolivia in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Wildlife Reserve and in Chile, it borders the Los Flamencos National Reserve. Climb an ascent of 6 hours before reaching its secondary summit where there is an emerald lagoon. Pause and take in the serenity. Continue on to the main summit, this is truly a milestone reminding you that you are in three countries. The climb is via a rock tower with a steep inclination of 45 degrees. The view at the top on a clear day, sensational. Soak in the calm and raw beauty before your descent back down of 2-3 hours before you are then transferred to your hotel. (B,L,D)
2 nights Alto Atacama or similar
This morning is yours at leisure to relax after your time hiking. Enjoy the activities on offer by the hotel or simply take some time out.
Tonight you will enjoy an astronomical dinner. For this enchanting evening under the stars, you will be whisked away from your hotel to a special location in the desert – “Bosque de Tamarugos” (forest of Taramugos) – where you will be fed and wined under the stars of the Atacama. You will be welcomed into this beautiful place with a Chilean aperitivo – the atmosphere made all the more special by the rustic Atacamanian furniture and decorations. This is a special meal where a local astronomer will guide you through the night sky, teaching you about the constellations and other mysterious objects above the desert. You will also get the chance to gaze up through a telescope after the meal. (B,L,D)
Today is at leisure until it is time for you to be transferred to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.