Chile: Atacama Desert

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Trip Highlights

Description

A dramatic journey across the Andes to the driest desert in the world, the Atacama in northern Chile.

This trip combines with the colourful canyon of the Quebrada de Humahuaca and (if you're doing a round trip from Salta) with the Quebrada del Toro.

There's spectacular scenery around every corner: mountains and volcanoes, flamingoes and vicuña: and the Atacama is ideal for desert night stargazing.

Click here to view map route.

Tour info

Duration
3 to 7 days
Group Size
1 to 4
Price starts at
$375
Languages
English, Spanish
Meeting Point

We can start or finish the trip in Salta or San Pedro: or do a round trip from either location.

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Dropoff location

Salta or San Pedro de Atacama.

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Why take this tour?

If starting from Salta, we head north along the old mountain road to San Salvador de Jujuy, and up into the stunning multi-coloured Quebrada de Humahuaca. We recommend a couple of nights here to see all the highlights, including a pre-Inca fort at Tilcara, numerous old colonial churches, and a Spanish fort now converted into a museum dedicated to the War of Independence. And of course, there’s the famous Seven Coloured Hill in Purmamarca which we’ll see in its best (morning) light, climbing up to a superb viewpoint which takes us away from the crowds.

From Purmamarca, the road winds up to a peak of 4,200m: a spectacular ascent of the outer Eastern range of the Andes, before descending to the Salinas Grandes salt flats. After a stop for the obligatory reality-defying photos, we press on to the high altitude town of Susques (3,615m), home to the second oldest church in Argentina, a simple adobe structure dating from 1598.

The following day, we head west through the panoramic landscape of the Olaroz and Cauchari salt flats to the Paso de Jama on the Chilean frontier. After crossing the border, we reach the Salar de Tala with its blue-black lagoon, and the giant volcanic ignimbrite blocks in the Reserva Natural de los Flamencos, known as the Monjes de Pacana or Moai of Tara because of their similarity to the famous standing stones of Easter Island. Finally, a breath-taking descent into San Pedro de Atacama, jealously guarded by the majestic volcano of Licancabur.

Heading back to Salta again after your Atacama desert tours, we take the slow road south past Lascar volcano and explore the high-altitude Altiplano lagoons of Miscanti and Miniques, enjoying some fantastic views of the Salar de Atacama as we climb the Andes mountain range.

This lesser trod route via the Paso de Sico also takes in the stunning Salar of Talar and Laguna Tuyajto. Back on the Argentine side, we will spend the night in the Puna town of San Antonio de los Cobres (3,770m) and visit the famous viaduct of La Polvorilla, where the Train to the Clouds finishes its journey.

We return to Salta through the colourful and panoramic landscape of the Quebrada del Toro, taking in the pre-Inca ruins of Tastil along the way. If you’ve still got the energy, we can also hike a little-explored section of Argentina's Inca trail.

Our seven day itinerary allows for two full days enjoying the best of San Pedro de Atacama tours, but you can add on as many days there as you like and we'll be ready to bring you back to Salta or organise your onward journey.

Read our guide to San Pedro de Atacama here.

Included

  • Bilingual tour guide

  • Private tailor-made tour

  • Vehicle and guide costs

Excluded

  • Food

  • Accommodation

  • Excursions in Atacama

Things to know

Accommodation & Food

Double rooms at the privately owned B&Bs and small hotels we work with start from US$50 per night. You can eat well in some of the simple rustic places we use where you will be rubbing shoulders with the locals for less than US$15 per person. And splashing out on a three-course meal with wine in ...

Double rooms at the privately owned B&Bs and small hotels we work with start from US$50 per night. You can eat well in some of the simple rustic places we use where you will be rubbing shoulders with the locals for less than US$15 per person. And splashing out on a three-course meal with wine in a smart restaurant is unlikely to set you back more than US$40 per person.

Pricing

Headline price based on four people travelling together over three days ONE WAY to or from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama in one of our 4x4s with an English-speaking driver/guide.

Below are our DAILY rates PER PERSON excluding food and accommodation: valid to end 2024.

One person -...

Headline price based on four people travelling together over three days ONE WAY to or from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama in one of our 4x4s with an English-speaking driver/guide.

Below are our DAILY rates PER PERSON excluding food and accommodation: valid to end 2024.

One person - US$350
Two people - US$200
Three people- US$150
Four people (one vehicle) - US$125
Four people (two vehicles) - US$200

Group Size

We operate with comfortable 4x4s which can accommodate up to four people, but if you’re travelling with a larger group, please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate.

We operate with comfortable 4x4s which can accommodate up to four people, but if you’re travelling with a larger group, please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate.

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