In a week, we have covered 1550km (33 bus hours!!), going from Valparaiso to San Pedro de Atacama through Caldera and from San pedro de Atacama to Salta, back in the north of Argentina. The best way to travel to cover such distances is by night coach. Coaches are really comfortable and at this time of the year there are not so many travellers (still a few) and we can spread out over four seats. We also save a hostel night.
Caldera is a beach resort with pristine beaches. During low season, the place is deserted… Only other attraction: the church designed by Gustave Eiffel (see photo album).
On the way to San Pedro, we stopped to visit national park ”Pan de Azucar”. We did not see any animal (penguins, foxes) but we had a very nice walk through sandy hills and cactus, our first walk (20 km) in the atacama desert!
Around San Pedro de Atacama, the land was beautiful and impressive. By far the best sceneries we have seen up till now! The village is surrounded by snowy volcanos and there are geysers, salars, lagunas and valleys to visit. The four main attractions are Valle de la luna, Geysers del Tatio, Salar de Atacama with Laguna Chaxa (flamingos reserve) and the altiplano.
We could visit Valle de la Luna by bike but for all the other sites we had to take a tour through an agency as there was no other way to visit (half a day tour). A mini van picked us up early in the morning; as early as 4 am for the geysers to see them before the sunrise (their activity is less visible when the temperature increases).
The salar (salt desert) is formed from volcano sediment dissolved with water precipitation and trapped in a depression. Water evaporates leaving layers of salt forming the salar.
The geysers are hot water sources (110-120 degrees C) projecting water and steam out of the surface. As the water precipitation goes into the pores of volcanic rocks, it gets heated by the magma under the earth surface. The water boils and with the pressure, water and steam are ejected through the cavity, reaching several meters height.
After visiting the geysers, we had a bath at 8.30 am in an outside and natural thermal pool! Outside temperature was -7 degrees C, freezing cold to undress! But water temperature was 30 degrees C!
We will soon create a ”Bons plans” page to give you some tips about hostels and restaurants we liked the most.