Atacama desert is a magical place.  To get to Atacama desert, we flew for about three hours from Santiago to Calama airport then drove one hour to the town of San Pedro Atacama.  San Pedro Atacama is the base of our 3 days adventure in the desert. 

  • Weather: Well, it’s the desert so it’s got to be a hot place. Wrong! We experienced literally four-season weather in one day, everyday while we were there.  The temperature drops below 32’F over night and temperature can be in the single digital in the early morning.  The morning of our geyser tour, the temperature was below 10’F.  That said, make sure to bring enough cloths when traveling to the Atacama in the spring.
  • Landscape: Landscape is the highlight of this area.  From geyser to volcano, to salt flat to flamingos reserve, the altitude ranges  from 8,000 ft to 14,000 ft.  This is another reason why the temperature ranges from 10’F to 75’F in one day depending on the area. 
  • Tours: We are used to exploring on our own but the circumstance in the Atacama is a little challenge.  Road signs are not well marked for most of the destinations.  There is hardly a gas station other than the one in  San Pedro Atacama. To save all the potential troubles, we decided to go ahead with the local group Cosmo Andino Expeditions.  We are extremely satisfied with our three-day excursion.  There are many tour companies in San Pedro Atacama, Cosmo Andino Expeditions sets themselves apart on planning the route which avoids being at the same place with other companies and provides a true desert travel experience. 

  • Valle de la luna: aka luna valley. This is hands down our favorite place in Atacama.  Cosmo Andino Expeditions surprisingly planned a run-down the sand dune experience during this trip. It was so much fun!  The sunset in valle de la luna is a must do!  Cosmo Andino Expeditions took us to “the spot”, which we were the only group there.  
  • Star watching: Atacama desert is among the best places in the world to watch night stars.  Just walk out at night and look up the sky, you will find the milky way!
 The geysers, Tatio,Valle de Marte, and Valle de la Luna
We started at 4:30 am to see the Geyser!  Geyser is a few hours up at the geothermal field (4.300m). We  explored the area on foot and watched the sunrise.  The temperature was around 12’F by the sunrise and many brave people decided to soak in the hot springs. We took our time to enjoy the Andean flora, fauna and scenery on the way back.   We even had a nice extra walk through the cactus within the canyon of Guatin.   We got back to San Pedro around 1pm. 
For Valle de la Luna, we left at  2:30pm. Our guide took us hiking in the Cordillera de la Sal.  The area is surrounded with lots of colorful salt canyons.  We had an epic run down the huge volcanic sand dunes which was the highlight of the trip.  As the memorable closure, we watched the sunset high above the central crater of the actual Moon Valley.  Our guided trip ended around 8pm.
 Salar, Laguna Chaxa, and Lagunas
We had a full day activity around the Flamingos National Reserve.  We visited the Salar de Atacama (Laguna Chaxa: bird, flamingo habitat), blue-turquoise lakes Miscanti and Miñiques (4.200m) and as an extra surprise, our tour guide took us to Piedras Rojas, the hidden wetlands high in the Andes that look like they were hand-painted. 
Salar de Tara
We had a full day exploring  one of the most amazing high plateau scenery areas.  This involved a drive straight into the ancient volcanic Pacana caldera, which is near the border with Argentina and Bolivia, mostly off-road. We visited Los Monjes de la Pacana (4.400m) and spend most of our time at the Salar and Tara wetlands. The trip truly took our breath away! 
Exploring the milky way on our own
San Pedro De Atacama  provides a spacious accommodation.  The hotel sits in a quiet area of the town, a little tucked away from the main street.  We enjoyed coming back to our base after our full day exploration in the desert.