Day 1, Sunday: Coach journey to the seaside oasis of Arica. Today the bus will take you over the Andes down to the Chilean city of Arica passing the Lauca National Park and it's snow peaked volcanoes. The Inca fortresses along the road are testimony that this area was always fought about. Most impressive are the huge Candelaria cacti and the wildlife 140 kinds of birds, llamas, vizcachas and pumas.
The river oasis of Arica, only 20 km south of the Peruvian border, is your introduction to Chile. This land, formerly part of Peru, is a holiday area for the Bolivians, with its fine beaches and backdrop of Andes mountains. The port serves as trade route for landlocked Bolivia, and a railroad has been built over the Andes to connect La Paz with Arica. You'll overnight in the 4-star Hotel Arica on the beach. Enjoy your dinner, it's on us!
Day 2, Monday: Free day for city or beach. What a contrast: the sea, the desert, the Oasis of Arica and the Andes in the background. You can easily explore Arica on your own or hang out on the beach like so many visitors from Bolivia. On your visit to the city, don't miss the Cathedral of San Marcos and and the Customs House, both designed by Eiffel (the designer of the Statue of Liberty's infrastructure, as well as the Eiffel Tower) after a 19th century tidal wave destroyed Arica's churches. Tonight, a special sleeper bus drives you through the night to Calama, the gateway to the Atacama Desert. Valley of the Moon.
Day 3, Tuesday: Atacama desert orientation. Transfer this morning into the Atacama. You will be introduced to the many options this Oasis has to offer: there are many excursion possibilities, but you can pack your day with other more active trips, horse back riding, hikes, trekking, biking, hill climbing. But first, after you have refreshed, journey to see the spectacular sunset of the Moon Valley. No weather risks!
It almost never rains here in the Atacama desert. The Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) is a bizarre, almost lunar landscape formed by the erosion of salt mountains. Strange sculpted rock formations in the middle of the desert with the Lincancabur Volcano in the background make for a particularly rare experience. After sunset we return to San Pedro. Overnight and dinner at La Casa de Don Tomás.
Day 4, Wednesday: Miscanti y Meñiques: Lagoons and Flamengoes on the Altiplano. During this excursion we drive deep into the Altiplano. On lonesome unpaved roads we shall pass Socaire - the oasis of a mountain river. The few inhabitants of Socaire depend on terraced agriculture (maize, wheat, potatoes). After another rise to an altitude of 4500 meters (13800 feet) you'll be rewarded by a spectacular view: the very scenic blue-black twin lagoons Meñiques and Miscanti, edged by a white crust of salt, they form a majestic picture of silence. Wildlife is especially abundant in this area. You are sure to see many different species of ducks and other bird-life around the lagoons, as well as Llamas and Vicuñas in herds along the hillsides. Towering in the background Cerro Meñiques overlooks this vast section of the Altiplano.
Continue to visit the one of world's largest salt lake: the Salar de Atacama. Rich in minerals, including borax and lithium, it is home to various species of flamingos as well as many other birds. The Laguna Chaxa, part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamingoes, offers a terrific opportunity to get closer to these birds in their natural habitat. In the evening we return to the hotel in San Pedro.
Day 5, Thursday: Full-day excursion to the Geyser El Tatio. In the morning we set out for a full day excursion to witness the power of Mother Nature. At an altitude of 4500 meters (14800 feet) the Geyser El Tatio is best seen in the early morning. Bring swimwear and a towel to bathe in the warm pool! There are about 40 geysers, thermal wells and fumaroles. The early morning light striking the water and steam hurling up from the geysers, makes for an unforgettable experience.
Tatio Geysers. On our way back to San Pedro we shall see green bushes of Yareta shining in the sparse desert. In the early afternoon we reach San Pedro and the rest of the day will be at your leisure to explore the environs. Maybe you would like to visit the 800 year old pre-Inca fortress Pucará de Quitor nearby?
Day 6, Friday: Journey home or continue on. After breakfast transfer back to Calama and flight to Santiago in order to connect with your flight or in order to continue with another tour. See Santiago, Patagonia, the Southern Andes and Buenos Aires on our Patagonia and Tango tour or continue on the very popular Chile, Andes and Buenos Aires tour and see the spectacular Lake Region. Wine lovers can continue on Chile and Argentina: the Wine Tour or Chile: Wine Tour. More adventure is available on our Chile and Easter Island tour.
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South America Bolivia Chile Nature & Wildlife National Parks Desert Expeditions