Without a doubt, the tour to El Tatio Geysers was the one I was most looking forward to. Located at about 98km from San Pedro de Atacama and 4,300 meters altitude, it’s an astonishing tour, but it requires some special attention.
Because it’s located in such high altitude, everyone recommends to go on this tour on the last day of your trip, when your body is already used to the altitude. The temperature is another point that deserves our attention – don’t underestimate the cold you’ll face there. It’s strong, very strong!
One of the most beautiful moments on this tour is watching the sunrise at the geothermal field. Not only it’s the time when the geysers are the most active, but the sun rays create a unique scenario. To see that, it’s necessary to leave San Pedro in the middle of the night, when the cold dominates the desert.
The most common starting time for this tour is 4 in the morning, so you have enough time to reach the geothermal field before the sun rises. However, this varies with the time of the year – in some seasons the sun rises earlier, and in others, later. Remember that the earlier you leave, the colder it will be.
I got lucky, as the starting time was changed exactly on the day I went on the tour. Instead of leaving at 4, we left at 6, which made a big difference in the temperature. Some people we know, who took this tour on other days, faced temperatures between -10ºC and -14ºC. When our car arrived at El Tatio, the temperature was only -4ºC, which was much more comfortable (I can’t say it was warm, though haha).
It’s worth mentioning that all that cold is softened when the sun starts rising. The temperature goes up quickly, so nothing’s better than wearing layers of clothes. Thus, you can take off the pieces as the temperature increases.
The entrance to El Tatio is charged separately from the tour. After we paid for the ticket, our guide left us in the middle of the geothermal field and pointed where our breakfast would be served. From that moment, we had time to walk among the geysers, take pictures and wait for the spectacle of the sunrise.
I admit that my jaw dropped when I saw the sun transforming the landscape. There are really no words to describe the beauty in all of that. It’s different, beautiful and magical at the same time. Believe me when I say that, no matter how beautiful you think the pictures look, they can’t portray the magic in that place.
As soon as the sun started to shine, I felt my body warming up. I walked all around, looking for good angles to shoot that moment. At the end, I didn’t feel any effects caused by the altitude, but some people do feel sick – Rafael felt really dizzy there. Our guide told us to walk slowly, not crouch or get up too quickly, or make any sudden movements, as these things would affect us because of the altitude.
We went back to the car and stopped for breakfast. Just like the other days, Ayllu Expediciones rocked it! They served coffee, milk, yogurt, toast, scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, milk jam, pie… hmmm… everything was really good! And, of course, it’s not every day that you get the chance to have breakfast in a field full of active geysers.
After eating, we still had some more time to enjoy the geysers. There was one right next to us spilling water in full force. It was amazing to see this natural phenomenon so closely.
But hey, hold on there, do you think this was the only adventure of the day? After visiting the Geysers El Tatio we went for a swim in a thermal water pool, visited the Machuca Village and passed by some even more beautiful places, believe me!
To be continued…
General information about the tour:
- The tour was made with Ayllu Expediciones Agency, I highly recommend it! Read more about agencies here.
- Price (updated in 2015): 45,000 Chilean pesos + 5,000 to get into El Tatio.
- Cold: cover up for the cold. If you don’t have special clothes for low temperatures, don’t forget to wear many pieces in layers. More than one pair of socks, gloves, a bonnet and a windbreaker are highly recommended.
- Take water, sunglasses, a cap/hat, swimwear and a towel (for the thermal pool)
Read this post in Portuguese: Geysers El Tatio, o Campo Geotérmico do Atacama