Backpacking across the Andes Chile San Pedro de Atacama

Backpacking across the Andes – #6: El Tatio geysers (Chile)

After exploring the Moon Valley, the second place that we visited during our stay in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile was the El Tatio geyser field.

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WAKING UP AT DAWN TO SEE THE GEYSERS

With this excursion, we started experiencing a new combo that we would later face several times in Bolivia: awakening at dawn / high altitude / minus zero temperatures. What we learnt during this trip was that visiting out-of-the-extraordinary places does not come easy! You sometimes need to face rough travel conditions but it is always worth it! We woke up at 4 am that day to reach the geothermic fields as early as possible, as the geyser eruptions are the most spectacular before the sun rises.

We dozed off during the one-and-a-half-hour bus ride taking us to the geysers, at 4 320 meters above sea level! If it was cold when we left San Pedro, it was even colder when we reached the geyser fields.

But with our different layers of thermic clothes, coats, gloves, hats… we were ready to face the minus 8 degrees to explore this amazing site!

The onion technic

That day, you will be very cold at dawn and then, as the sun will rise, you will feel warmer and warmer. Try the onion technic: wear several layers of clothes that you will take off like an onion. 

BEING AMAZED IN FRONT OF THE FIRST GEYSER ERUPTIONS

When we got there, we forgot that we were cold and sleepy: we were just amazed by this natural show being played in front of our eyes! These giant columns of steam were rising up several meters high in a strange noise of splashing water. It was still dark. We felt like we had reached another planet again. We were captivated.

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The sun was gradually rising and we started exploring the fields. Of course we were told not to touch the water – as cold as we might be – and to be careful about where we were stepping as the water was boiling!

We learnt that the Tatio is the third larger geyser field in the world, after the Yellow Stone National Park in the USA and the Valley of Geysers in Russia.

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WHY NOT TAKE A SWIM IN THE THERMIC POOL?

Our guide then took us to the thermic pool. There, the water had a nice and warm temperature and it was possible to swim. Several people did and really enjoyed it. But I did not feel brave enough to face the below zero temperature wearing nothing but a bathing suit before jumping into the pool… What’s more, we only had a limited amount of time there and I was so captivated by the beauty of this place that I could not stop taking pictures. As the sun rose, it was even more gorgeous.

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I looked like a frozen Bibendum… Don’t be fooled by the blue sky. We were still at -4 degrees at that point.

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ADMIRING THE PUTANA RIVER

We then went back to our van and stopped by the rio Putana to contemplate this gorgeous ecosystem. We even had the chance to see vicuñas, these lovely South American camelids.

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EXPERIMENTING STRANGE PHENOMENONS…

Our guide then showed us a very strange phenomenon on that road. As we were going up a hill, he asked the driver to stop the van and we could not believe what happened next! The van kept going! We were explained that this was due to some magnetic fields… It was the strangest thing!

THE DANGERS OF ALTITUDE

Our guide also warned us about the dangers of altitude. When you have reached a high altitude and when you start going back down, you start feeling very sleepy and it can be very dangerous if you are driving. We saw indeed several cars parked on the side of the road with a sleeping driver! Many people in the van were sleeping as well at that point.

SEEING LAMAS FOR THE FIRST TIME

Our next stop was a little town called Machuca where we could buy some empanadas to eat and some artisanal souvenirs. I did not see any of this as I ran towards the lamas that I saw on the other side of the road the minute I got out of the van! I had never seen a lama before and somehow it made me very happy to see them in their natural habitat. The lamas peacefully grazing, the mountains, the vegetation, the little river, the blue sky… Nothing was missing to this beautiful picture.

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FEELING VERY SMALL BY A CANYON

Our amazing adventure ended with this stunning landscape…. a beautiful canyon.

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What an amazing day full of gorgeous surprises! The Tatio geyser fields were totally worth waking up at dawn and being cold!

Continue reading

  • Next stop: the lagoons of the Atacama Salt Flat. Click here to read the article.
  • All articles about this country: click here to see all articles about Chile.
  • All articles about this trip: click here to read see all articles about this backpacking trip across the Andes (Chile – Bolivia – Peru).
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  • Reply Backpacking across the Andes - #5: the Moon Valley (Chile) - La petite valise d'Aurélie 20 February 2016 at 18 h 08 min

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