Geysers El Tatio and bathing in its hot springs
During my stay in San Pedro de Atacama, my second day I took a tour to Geysers El Tatio. It was my first tour in Atacama and I was really looking forward to it as I had seen some photos of people bathing in the hot springs there and could not wait to do so, too. And you know me and water! I just can’t resist not to go in!
The tour started at 4 am (yeah, shocking!) when my travel agency Terra Extreme picked me up at where I was staying and once we were all in the van, we headed off to almost 100 km North of San Pedro to 4,320 m above sea level in the Andes where the highest geysers in the world are situated.
Once there, we paid the entrance of 5,000 pesos (students just 2,500 pesos), used toilets as there are no more there inside the geysers, put on the clothes on, gloves on, hats on and started walking around the geysers.
It was very foggy, we could hardly see anything the first couple of minutes. My fingers were frozen and both camera lenses, my Nikon D5100 and waterproof Coolpix AW100 got misty so it was very difficult to take some photos. I was scared it was going to stay that way with only being able to take these horrible photos.
But fortunately, after a few minutes when we slowly walked from a fumarola (just hot steam) to some big geysers, the fog started to disappear and the photos became more clear. And me more happy 🙂
Walking around, we learned from our cute Inca guide that the Tatio Geysers reach the temperature of 85°C and that this geothermic field of volcanic origin is a proper mysterious place with 40 geysers, 60 hot springs and 70 fumarolas extended over 3 square kilometres.
We also heard that in 1960 CORFO started a project here to use the geothermic energy to generate electricity but unfortunately it never made a financial profit.
After freezing our asses off walking around the geysers, the sun started to come up and we could get ri off the gloves and the hats and the jackets. It was not below zero any more and it was exactly the time when we reached the hot spring. Surrounded with the colourful mountains, the brave ones of us stripped off to bathing suits and soaked in the hot spring.
Some parts were not that hot like I thought they would be, some were too hot to stay there for longer. It is actually not healthy to bath in there for longer than 20 minutes.
We took some photos and had to get out very quickly, dry up and put the clothes on again as outside the water it was till a bit cold. But what an experience! Bathing in hot springs in the driest desert of the world? One of my dreams came true!
Then, we walked back to the van where the breakfast was waiting for us at the table next to the van. Hot coca tea, hot chocolate, coffee, bread, marmalade, ham and cheese, some cookies and cakes … yummy!
Definitely one of the nicest and the most unusual places I have ever had breakfast at. And my fingers finally had a chance to defrost with my hot cup of tea.
We hopped on the van again and started our way back to San Pedro de Atacama. On the way, first we saw green yareta plant, sometimes also spelled as llareta – a tiny flowering plant in Apiaceae family.
Then we stopped a couple of times to take photos of vicuñas.
We also pulled over at Putana river to watch the ducks there and Putana volcano on the horizon.
Afterwards, we stopped at Machuca to take a short visit of the village. Machuca is an Atacameña village located at more than 4,000 m above sea level. Because of a huge emigration of its inhabitants to the nearby villages, Machuca was left empty. But some projects of the Municipality of San Pedro de Atacama helped to reactivate the agricultural activities in the village so some families returned back. Nowadays there are some 15 people living in the village with some llamas.
Close by the Laguna Salada is home to flamingos, seagulls and ducks. Tourism is what helps the families survive in Machuca, too. You can try here cheese empanadas, anticuchos de llama (roasted llama meat on a stick) or agüita de chachacoma (similar to coca tea).
In Machuca, we walked around the few houses that look similar to those in San Pedro, made of brownish clay and straw roof. All the houses have a small colourful cross on top of the roof.
We also visited the white picturesque church with its blue doors and blue cross located on the hill of Machuca.
Then we saw some llamas on the way to San Pedro so I took a photo with them 🙂
We continued to our last stop to take a photo of the cactus at Cañon de Guatin. The trip finished with our guide singing us in Quechua and telling us the story of the coca plant. Around 12.30 we came back to San Pedro de Atacama when our tour finished.
- it is very hot and dry during the day so high sun protection, sunglasses, a hat/cap, bathing suit, T-shirt, shorts and a towel. But very cold at night and early morning, it gets below zero Celsius degrees so bring gloves, a jacket, thick pants and comfortable sporty shoes.
- a camera is a must, it is better if you bring a waterproof camera so you can take it with you to the geysers to swim and take photos.
- because of the dry air, you need to drink a lot of water without gas and use hydrating body lotions.
- you can get altitude sickness so it is better if you chew coca leaves or drink coca tea before
- the trip is done so early because early morning hours are the best to watch the highest activity of the geysers – just before and during the sunrise
- it is recommended not to run around the geysers, not just because you can fall down and they are hot but also because you are not used to altitude and all the problems come with physical exercise when the heart beats faster
- do not inhale the steam of the fumarolas as it can be dangerous
My trip to Geysers The Tatio was organized by the travel agency Terra Extreme. Once again many thanks to them!