Itinerant hike in the Atacama Desert

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Trekking domeyko

Itinerant hike in the Atacama Desert

  • 10 Days
  • Ideal for: family, couple, group of friends
  • Guided itinerant hike
  • Rhythm: moderate to intense
  • Style: hiking, adventure, off the beaten track
  • Mininimum: 2 people

There are very few itineraries that allow you to discover the Atacama Desert by way of itinerant hike! Specially designed at the request of our customers and reviewed with our best guides, we present the option of visiting Atacama in an unusual and sustainable way: by trekking. This experience off the beaten path will have you feeling “alone in the world” in the best sense possible.

Accompanied by your English-speaking guide and logistical support (tents and meals taken care of), you will traverse the paths of the Atacama Desert and enjoy varied landscapes such as volcanoes, multicolored lagoons hosting huge colonies of pink flamingos, infinite salt flats, and numerous valleys. You will get the chance to swim near the famous Geysers del Tatio, camp along the salt mountain range, enjoy cocktail hour facing the sunset, and barbecue in the heart of the desert. Since supplies are transported by vehicle, trekking remains attainable even for novices (a minimal level of experience is required, however). On average, 5 hours of walking are planned per day, and of course the increase in altitude is gradual to promote your acclimatization. The journey will culminate with the ascent of a volcano at nearly 20,000 feet.

This itinerary offers you an experience full of adventures, isolated from mass tourism, and is sure to fuel long-lasting memories. A change of scenery and challenge are guaranteed!

Highlights and experiences

This itinerary allows you to visit the must-see sites of the Atacama Desert in a unique, active, and guided way. Double rooms are provided in basic accommodation or in camp during the itinerant hike.

A journey filled with experiences awaits you:

  • The Valley of the Moon and Rainbow Hiking
  • Ascent of the unusual Cerro Soquete at 20,000 feet
  • Excursion to the heart of the Altiplano, the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons
  • The impressive Geysers el Tatio at sunset
  • Camp along the Domeyk Mountain Range
  • Refreshing hike along the Rio Salado
  • Cocktails in the salt mountain range
Daily itinerary

Day 1Guided tour of Santiago

Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at the Santiago airport, your chauffeur will pick you up and take you to your hotel.

You can then discover Santiago, the Chilean capital, with a local English-speaking guide. You will discover the unmissable sights of the city: Cerro San Cristobal, the trendy district of Bellavista, or the historic center and the famous Plaza de Armas.

Day 2On the way to San Pedro de Atacama

Today, your driver will take you back to Santiago’s airport for your domestic flight to Calama, gateway to the Atacama Desert. Your private English-speaking guide will pick you up from the airport and take you to San Pedro de Atacama, where your adventure begins!

On the program for this afternoon: a leisurely hike in the Valle del Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley) to explore, visit caves, and learn about the curious colors and unexpected shapes that the rocks surrounding you adopt.

It’s a 3-hour hike in the middle of colorful, spectacular mountains, an ideal place to take unforgettable photos and observe the passage of time in the rocks. The experience ends with a picnic with a breathtaking view. Meals included.

Camp in the canyon along the Domeyko mountain range, about 10,500 feet above sea level.

Day 3Wild hike along the Rio Salado

Today, you will have breakfast in the Valle del Arcoiris before descending on foot to the Rio Salado, walking along ancient trade routes. You will then reach the petroglyphs of the Salado River (altitude 8,500 feet). As this place receives few visitors, you will have the chance to enjoy the area in peace. The trekking descends at a slight yet constant pace (count on a 1,300-foot decrease in elevation).

Expect to cover 8 miles walking, for a duration of approimately 7-8 hours.

Camp at Rio Salado.

Day 4Ancestral route, rock art, and cocktails at sunset

Your hike continues from Rio Salado to San Pedro de Atacama by way of the ancestral path. You will reach the mouth of 3 rivers before heading up the Rio San Pedro. Thus, you will take the ancestral road that connected San Pedro de Atacama with Calama, and reach the cordillera by the “Corniches.” From here you will be rewarded with an impressive view of the Catarpe Valley and the San Pedro River, which lends its name to the village. On the way, you will visit a hidden cave and observe the native culture and rock art left by the Lickan Antai people.

It’s close to a 7-mile day, or about 5 hours of walking.

Camp with cocktails and a barbecue, facing the sun as it sinks below the mountain range.

Day 5 Hiking in the incredible Valley of the Moon

Today’s trek will begin at the Quebrada de Kari, walking through the canyon formed by an ancient riverbed that crosses the Cordillera de Sal. Its landscape is unique, composed of rock formations that look like folds of salt and clay across the mountain range.

Then, you will continue to the Valley of the Moon, an essential site of the Atacama! You will visit its main points of interest before returning to San Pedro. You will descend by the dune, where the view is unparalleled, witnessing the river cross the salt mountain range.

Today’s journey adds up to less than 4 miles of walking, lasting 1.5-2 hours.

After reaching the village of Socaire by car (located around 60 miles from San Pedro), you will walk to the Quebrada del Nacimiento. The site is suitable for spotting birds and vizcachas (South American rodents that look like rabbits) and snapping photos of the Milky Way.

Camp inside a canyon, the Quebrada de Nacimiento. Altitude: 11,800 feet.

Day 6Excursion into the heart of the Altiplano

Today, discover the unmissable altiplanic lagoons with their Red Stones viewpoint! Plan on a relaxing day where you will not walk much; most of the traveling is done by car. Your guide will take you to see the altiplanic lagoons.

In the heart of the Andes Cordillera, you will start the day by visiting the Salar de Atacama and the Chaxa lagoon to observe the pink flamingos, as well as the village of Toconao.

After your lunch in the village of Socaire, you will discover “las lagunas altiplanicas,” located at the foot of the Andes mountain range and a volcano. The stunning shades of blue and the local fauna will transport you to a magical landscape.

Finally, you will head to Jerez Ravine and continue to the Salar de Talar (also known as the salt desert of the Aguas Calientes) and get the chance to observe the viewpoint of the Red Stones. From here, you will see the volcanic, impressively-shaped red stones in an extraordinary environment.

Overnight stay in a charming hotel in San Pedro.

Day 7Swimming at sunset at the incredible Geysers del Tatio

Enjoy a free morning to rest, visit the village of San Pedro, or explore the surroundings.

The excursion will start at the end of the day, when a 4×4 vehicle will transport you to the Geysers del Tatio. The spectacle of the Geysers del Tatio is jaw-dropping: these large fumaroles, set against an other-worldly backdrop, are sure to impress. You will visit two geothermal fields and can observe the striking Tatio volcano.

Unlike what most tourist agencies offer, you will visit the white geiser, which will afford you the opportunity to swim amidst river water and thermal water. Next, you will discover the mud geisers, a destination only accessible in a suitable vehicle. You will descend to the Andean wetland of Putana, where the symbiotic relationships between local fauna and flora are present, creating this subtle balance of the local biotope.

You will camp at the Geysers del Tatio to take advantage of the site during the sunset, the moment when the geysers are most active. You will be immersed in an atmosphere of fire and ice: the ground rumbling beneath you, the fumaroles shooting into the air, and the water constantly bubbling.

You will have the chance to sleep in a camp at the foot of the geysers (15,000 feet above sea level).

Day 8En route to scale the ancient Soquete volcano (+20,000 feet)!

After a hearty breakfast, you will set off for the Soquete volcano, off the beaten path.

The beauty of the Soquete volcano enchants anyone who decides to tackle it. The summit will offer you a view of the Geysers del Tatio geothermal field and the Paniri volcanoes at 19,500 feet above sea level, San Pedro at more than 20,150 feet, or San Pablo and its 20,000-foot altitude.

Our guide will offer you a refreshing swim in the geysers on the way back. On the return trip to San Pedro de Atacama, you will observe many species of Andean birds (Andean geese, ducks, tagua cornuda). Upon arrival, enjoy a much-deserved relaxing night in a hotel in San Pedro.

Elevation: about 3,000 feet.

Average technical and physical difficulty.

The hike lasts about 7 hours: 5 hours of ascent and 2 hours of descent.

Day 9Back to the capital, Santiago

A transfer will pick you up from your hotel to take you to the small airport of Calama, from where you will reach Santiago via a short domestic flight.

You can take advantage of this day to visit the metropolis and its museums. The city has several interesting museums such as the Pre-Columbian Museum or the Museum of Memory, which aims to retrace the history of the coup d’état of 1973.

Overnight stay in a hotel in Santiago.

Day 10Adios, Chile!

Your chauffeur will accompany you to the Santiago airport, where you will say your goodbyes and catch your international flight.

Have a safe trip home, filled with new memories!

Recommended airport and departure point

Santiago International Airport (Arturo Merino Benitez) (Google Maps)

The price includes

  • 2 domestic flights per person
  • The activities mentioned above: hikes, guided tour and excursions with a private English-speaking guide
  • Accommodation
  • Entries to national sites
  • Airport transfers
  • Full board during trekking

The price does NOT include

  • International flights