The El Tatio Geysers

The El Tatio Geysers: A High-Altitude Spectacle

The craters of El Tatio awake very early in the morning. This geothermic field attracts hundreds of visitors a year, despite the fact that it sits at an altitude of 4,200 meters. If you’re visiting San Pedro de Atacama, there’s no better way to spend a morning than in El Tatio, as the rays of sunshine pierce the columns of white steam. It’s one of the true marvels of the Andes, and is well worth the early wake-up call.

The best time to see the geysers is between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. Whether you’re visiting on your own or as part of a guided tour, the rule is to leave San Pedro de Atacama at around 5:00 am. But the wonders of this setting don’t end with the geysers. You’ll come across vicunas, viscachas, ñandúes and a variety of birds that live among the llaretas (a Chilean plant), giant cacti and paja brava grass.

The area is also home to a number of hot springs. In El Tatio, you’ll find pools with waters at comfortable temperatures (if you’re wiling to brave undressing in the cold high-altitude air). The ground takes a while to reach 16ºC after the chill of the night has passed, but the experience is worth the wait.

On the way back, a reward awaits you in the form of the Puritama Hot Springs. Lush with vegetation, it features comfortable wooden walkways that link the different pools.

 

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Tips

“La Puna” Watch Your Step Proper Clothing 
In order to avoid “la puna” (altitude sickness), you should drink about two liters of water before heading to the geysers. Another option is to buy coca leaves at one of the artisan fairs in San Pedro, and make an infusion to drink along the way. Not all of the ground in El Tatio in stable. Be especially careful near the salty crusts of the “ojos del agua” (bodies of water). They’re very brittle and if they give way you could get a bad burn, as the waters reaches temperatures of 85ºC. Bring very warm clothing. Remember that the temperature can reach lows of several degrees below zero (especially in winter), and that snow is quite common. Bring gloves and trekking footwear (or boots). Don’t forget to bring a bathing suit if you want to enjoy the hot springs, which reach temperatures of about 60ºC. There are no dressing rooms at El Tatio, but there are at Puritama.
Animal Watching Live the Experience to its Fullest
If you’re looking to take photos of the local fauna, remember to be patient and wait without moving. The viscachas might allow you to take a picture from up close, but you should resist the temptation to give them food given their status as a protected species. Generally speaking, the llamas are more accustomed to human visitors, but try to avoid irritating them, because some do spit. If you’re traveling independently, ask for recommendations for other nearby attractions, such as the towns of Caspana, Toconce and Machuca.

 

 

They tell us about your experience in San Pedro de Atacama

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