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.

Day 1 - San Pedro and Moon Valley

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 Hotel Poblado Kimal or similar

Day 2 - Yerbas Buenas & Valle de Arcoiris

After breakfast, you drive to the Fortress of Quitor and set off on a walk to the mouth of the San Pedro river, exploring its small canyons along the way. The path crosses the river at various points and there are strange geological formations. This evening, you camp under the starry Atacama sky. (B,L,D)

Overnight camping

Day 3 - Trek to Rio Grande

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)

Overnight camping

Day 4 - Rio Grande to Machuca

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)

Overnight camping

Day 5 - Taito Geysers and Copa Coya

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

Day 6 - Atacama Salt Flats and Lagoons

You get up feeling refreshed and with the satisfaction of having crossed the heart of Atacama with the same explorer spirit of its first inhabitants. Today you drive to the amazing Salar de Atacama, home to astonishing birds like the Chilean Pink Flamingos. Then you continue driving towards the marvellous Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons, full of turquoise waters that beautifully contrast with the autumn colours of the Altiplanic lands. A truly incredible landscape! (B,L,D)

Overnight Hotel Poblado Kimal or similar

Day 7 - Laguna Blanca to Boliviano

Today, you will transfer to Laguna Blanca (Bolivia) and do a short acclimatisation trek. After a relaxing morning in San Pedro we set of on your drive towards the Andes and the perfect volcanic peak of Licancabur. You pass the Chilean customs post on the outskirts of San Pedro and 40 minutes later, you reach the Bolivian border post at Hito Cajon (4500m). After 1 hour 40 minutes you will arrive at Laguna Blanca (4350m) and the lakeside mountain refuge that will be your base for the next 2 nights. The rest of the day is for a short acclimatisation hike and relaxing in this area. There are superb photo opportunities, with the volcanoes Licancabur and Juriques rising majestically above the lagoon. During most seasons there are flamingos to be seen and there are also hot springs nearby. (B,D)

Overnight Laguna Blanca Refuge Camp

Day 8 - Volcan Licancabur Summit

Today is summit day. You will be woken around 2.00am for an early breakfast before departing your refuge and driving up to Camp Inca at approximately 4600m, where you will begin your walk. The ascent is in no way technical and there is usually very little snow on the mountain, but at this altitude it does provide a very challenging ascent. Most of the climb is on a path, which steeply follows a succession of switchbacks up through a rocky ridge. Arriving at the summit after 7 hours or so, you will enjoy spectacular views of nearby peaks and a panorama that extends over Chilean and Bolivian territory to the salt flats of the Atacama. Nestling in the summit crater is a small lake, one of the highest on earth and in several places on the crater rim there are ancient Inca ceremonial ruins. Descent is via a steep scree slope and also retraces part of the ascent to Camp Inca.  You then drive back to San Pedro, arriving late in the afternoon.

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)

Overnight Hotel Poblado Kimal or similar

Day 9 - Departure

Today is at leisure until it is time for you to be transferred to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

What's Included

  • Return private airport transfers throughout
  • Accommodation with breakfast daily
  • Meals as specified in the programme
  • Dinner under the stars (date to be determined by lunar cycle)
  • Entrance fees and national park fees
  • Private Transfers, sightseeing and tours with English speaking local guides
  • Tents, refuges, mats
  • Trekking guide
  • Water, oxygen, satellite phone, Radio VHF and UHF


  • International and domestic flights
  • Visas
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • All services, meals other than those indicated above
  • Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
  • All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc

**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.


Check Availability


Start Date End Date Duration Availability Price
14th Oct 2020 22nd Oct 2020 9 Days Available $9,554 AUD Book Now
14th Oct 2021 22nd Oct 2021 9 Days Available $9,554 AUD Book Now