Chile: San Pedro de Atacama
Beneath the wide skies and surrounded by The Andes mountain range is the iconic Chilean landscape encompassing the high Altiplano of the Atacama Desert.
Arrive in Santiago today where you will be met at the airport and transferred by private car to The Aubrey, your boutique hotel in the city center. A beautiful retreat in the Bellavista neighborhood, located at the foot of the Cerro San Cristóbal Hill. The property is within the Parque Metropolitano, one of the largest urban parks in the world, a short stroll from Pablo Neruda’s beloved house La Chascona.
Settle in and relax on the mission-style patio terraces, providing an outdoor oasis overlooking landscaped gardens with the peaceful sounds of cascading water in the background.
If your arrival is early in the day, an optional tour of the city or the Maipo Valley winery can be scheduled this afternoon.
This evening we suggest dining at your hotel. The Aubrey’s restaurant is managed by Pasta e Vino of Valparaiso, offering their celebrated blend of Italian flavors and Chilean ingredients based around handcrafted pasta (reservation prior to departure recommended).
Following breakfast at your hotel this morning, you will be privately transferred to the airport for your 2-hour flight to Calama. Upon arrival, you will be met by a local guide and transferred by private car to the peaceful environs beyond the city of San Pedro de Atacama (1.5 hours drive). Check into your charming boutique hotel, Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa, which boasts true Chilean design and striking views of the high Altiplano of the Atacama Desert. From the hotel it is a 20-minute walk into San Pedro de Atacama town, 7-minutes by bicycle (which can be borrowed from the hotel), or 3-minutes by car.
This unique region is home to rivers, green canyons, lakes, geysers and salt flats as well as sand dunes and natural hot springs. The Andes Mountains and the Domeyko Range define the horizon. More than eight volcanoes are visible from the hotel, two still active, their peaks reaching a height of nearly 6,000 meters. The desert air is clear and the light is magical. The stars and the Milky Way seem endless, so much so that the world’s largest observatory and telescope, Project, ALMA, is now under construction with financing from the US, the EU and Japan.
This afternoon meet your guide at 4:00 pm for a visit to the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), located 8 miles west of San Pedro de Atacama. This sparse landscape is comprised of sand and rock formations in colors and textures that call to mind the surface of the moon. Together the Valle de la Luna and the Valle de Marte (Mars Valley) comprise the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains). Although the literal translation of cordillera is “mountain range,” the Cordillera de la Sal are not mountains but asymmetrical formations with small caves and undefined forms on a base of salt. With its dry salt-encrusted lake beds, naturally formed rock sculptures and caverns this is one of the most starkly beautiful places on earth, as well as one of the driest, with some areas where no rain has been recorded for a span of 100 years.
This evening you will watch the sunset among the saline and clay shapes, products of mineralogical folds that occurred hundreds of millions years ago. Take in this amazing natural spectacle while enjoying a cocktail and wine tasting.
Return to your hotel where we suggest dinner onsite this evening. At Tierra Atacama the chef creates wonderful meals using fresh local ingredients such as quinoa, Andean potatoes and fresh herbs. They source the best beef and Chilean lamb, the freshest fish and seafood, the best of the seasonal fruits and vegetables, including from their own garden. Chile is a wonderful country for food with its long Pacific Ocean coast and its many excellent climatic zones for agriculture.
Menus feature traditional Chilean and Andean dishes, which tend to be light and healthy. Vegetarian dishes, as well as international cuisine are also offered. The wine list is carefully selected to allow guests to taste the best wines of Chile, both little known vintages and the well-known Chilean labels.
Depart at 5:00 am this morning, meeting your guide to explore the highest geothermal area in The Andes range, El Tatio Geysers, located at 4,300 meters above sea level (drive time 2 hours). You will enjoy breakfast outdoors in this incredible landscape.
The geothermal fields at Le Tatio have their origins in magma. As water from The Andes thaws it is filtered between cracks in the earth’s crust going down to deep hot zones, finally water reaches the magma rising as steam and boiling water and forming over 80 active geysers along with a series of hot springs.
Make your return trip through a spectacular landscape filled with mountains and volcanoes rising to 5,500 meters above sea level. You’ll have a chance to see some of the regions rich flora and fauna. Several species of birds have adapted to the extreme conditions here, including flamingos, some with populations in the thousands, Suri, Guayata, Tagua and a variety of ducks. Mammals include llamas, vicuñas and vizcachas.
Trees and plants are varied, including algarrobos (often called the white carob tree), the lovely flowering chañar and Schinus molle (Peruvian pepper tree). The giant cactus can be found at higher elevations, while common bushes and shrubs include cachiyuyo (Atriplex) and rica rica, meaning “tasty-tasty,” which is used to create a delightful herbal tea infusion.
Return to your hotel by lunchtime today. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Enjoy the hotel’s beautiful property, schedule optional spa services, or venture into San Pedro de Atacama town on your own.
We will provide you with a list of suggested restaurants for dinner this evening.
Breakfast at your hotel this morning will be followed by a privately-guided visit to Salar de Atacama (salt flats) and the Altiplanic Lagoons. Depart with your guide at 8:00am.
Your day begins with a private transfer to Salar de Atacama, Chile’s largest salt flat, encompassing more than 1,150 square miles. Salar de Atacama is the world’s largest source of pure lithium, a spare, gorgeous landscape surrounded by the Andes Mountains with a series of large volcanoes lining the eastern skyline.
Continue on to the Altiplanic Lagoons of Miscanti, Miñique and Tuyajto, located 4,500 meters above sea level. The perfect blue waters reflect the surrounding mountains and offer a picturesque habitat for Chilean flamingos. In addition to these, you’re likely to encounter a range of bird and animal life that includes: vicuñas, alpacas, foxes, rheas, viscachas, crested ducks, and upland geese.
Visit the villages of Toconao and Socaire, where you will enjoy lunch prepared according to local tradition.
Return to your hotel by 4:00 pm with time to freshen up before dinner on your own this evening. Dine at Tierra Atacama or in San Pedro de Atacama.
This morning, enjoy your final peaceful breakfast at the desert’s edge. You will be met and privately transferred to Calama Airport in time to meet your departure flight or the connection to your next Willing Foot destination.
This is just the beginning.
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