Wednesday, October 17, 2012

San Pedro de Atacama - Attractions, Tours


San Pedro de Atacama: Tours of Atacama area (Trip Advisor)

Around San Pedro are several world-class natural sights, and they are best visited with an organized tour.  Renting a vehicle can be expensive, gas is about 7 US $ a gallon, distances are great, and some roads are not easy to navigate (dirt roads, rough surfaces, etc.) .  The majority of visitors do choose to visit the Valley of the Moon, the huge "Salt plain", the lagoons, the flamingo preserves, the Tatio geysers, and picturesque villages of the area with one of the many tour companies offering services in San Pedro.  Of the many choices, I can fully recommend an outfit called "Cosmo Andino" tours (it has a well deserved good reputation among local people).
Cosmo Andino's office staff are thourough and informative, their tours are never cancelled in the last minute, their guides are competent bi-lingual tourleaders, and their drivers are conservative and timely.  The tours are operated by Mercedes minibuses (I believe 16 seaters) and the group is never too big for personal attention.  Lastly, they do not take shortcuts and every tour covers all described sights and more.  Class operation, no doubt.
Allow about three to four days to cover the major sights.  Do not underestimate the hot climate, the altitude discomfort, and the rather dusty and sandy conditions.  Take your precautions (plenty of liquids, sunscreen, hat, time to acclimate) and do not push yourself too hard in the first day.  The Cosmo Andino office staff will indeed explain to you the conditions and prepare you for full enjoyment of the Atacama area.
Trekking through San Pedro de Atacama Town
Half day
The trip begins in the San Pedro square, in where is possible to visit the church, Padre Le Peige archaeological museum, and the Municipality soon to go into in the commercial street of the town in where are tourists worldwide and villagers of the sector. All this is made in a very relaxed and calm atmosphere.
San Pedro de Atacama is a small town constructed in adobe by the first Spaniards arrived at the region, after 1550 year, keeping its architecture and typical space organization since then.
The checkerboard with its parallel layouts and a central square, in front of the Town hall, is the typical spanish construction from where the civilian authorities is exerted, conserving its typical institutional arcs, those that recently were reconstructed from the drawings of the time. In one side of the square the old centennial church is located with heavy mud walls, wood cactus ceiling covered by mud. It is the heart of the oasis bathed by waters of San Pedro and Vilama rivers, that lower from the foot of the Andes mountain range, at not more than 40 Kilometers of distance, creating deep bunkruptcy.
It is part of the Hispanic history with the passage of Diego de Almagro in 1536 and Pedro de Valdivia in 1540, being baptized like Atacama La Grande. The industrial development in the coast, during XIX century, extended the commercial perspective. From 1830 to 1870 the population handled the commerce (with llamas and mules). From 1870 the population turned upside down to the work of mines in Caracoles, in 1890 and 1925, an intense traffic of cattle occurs.
The town is small and with narrow streets; its construction is of adobe and cactus wood. San Pedro de Atacama, capital of the commune, is located to 2,400 m.s.n.m. and empashize by its architectonic beauty and by the archaeological value that it has. It was declared Typical Zone in 1980.

Atacama Saltlake  Half day
It is a depression of 3,000 kilometers without exit of waters that receives San Pedro river and a lot of bankruptcy by which wateris filtered from the Andes Mountain. It is the greater saline deposit of Chile. Its cover is white and rough, stained by fine dust of the desert.

During our passage we will visit the Toconao town located at 2,475 meters of altitude. It is an oasis, in where people cultivate all type of fruits. In front of its square is located the Church and Bell tower of San Lucas, declared National Monument.

It occupies an extension of 100 kilometers in length by 80 of wide. The salt is product of the underground water outcrop that, saturated of salts, evaporates leaving scabs rich in salt and minerals. The rivers fed by Andean snows, cross the area allowing the configuration of multiple oasis. This it is the scene where the atacameñan culture was developed.

The air is extraordinarily dry here, which gives it a perfect transparency. The salt scab has been opened to leave space to small lagoons that are favorite habitat of aquatic birds, particularly Flamingoes, Taguas and Guallatas. The most important is the Chaxa lagoon.

The Atacama saltlake is located in the center of the most barren desert of the world. Many salt fields of and salt lakes are abundant in this place. It is well - known by its strong winds due to the proximity the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountain.

We will continue our way by the great Atacama salt which account with around 12,000 km2 of surface of immense beauty.

We will have the opportunity to admire the great variety of flamingoes and migratory birds that have found in the enormous salt their natural habitat; these birds give a very peculiar atmosphere to the sector.

Here we will be able to find a great amount of salt noninferior to the ocean salt; this phenomenon creates a great amount of life to diverse animals like reptils, insects and birds which has to us prepared a great surprise in this peculiar place full of fantasies.

To finalize this trip we will admire a spectacular sunset, enjoying the silence and the peace that the salt offers us.

Valle de la Luna Half day
It is located in the Salt mountain range, to the west of San Pedro and the south of the new highway. The Moon Valley is an interesting area of formation of stone and sand. Declared Sanctuary of the Nature it comprises of Los Flamencos National Reserve. Located inside the Salto mountain range Located to 13 kilometers to the west of San Pedro de Atacama. The valley receives this name due to the great similarity of the place to the mole landscapes.
We will begin our excursion visiting the enormous enormous geologic formation, which are located in one of the most barren zones of the planet. It is an area of great beauty that resembles the mole landscape by the stone formation, petrified salt and sand, that during millenia, floods and winds have molded to its way.
Surprise yourself with the enormous figures of salt and clay constructed with the pass of the years and the wind, we will have the opportunity to know "Las tres Marias" figures with unique beauty that can be photographed and contemplated by a long time.
Finally we will visit the wonderful caverns of the salt accompanied by the imposing Licancabur volcano, once again to be surprised by the great magic of the desert, specially of the valley in where we will have the opportunity to enjoy the most beautiful sunset that our eyes never will be able to forget.
Briefly, impressive forms product of the successive transformations of the terrestrial crust, offer the aspect of a true mole landscape.
There is not life in this valley, neither humidity, turning it the most inhospitable place of the planet.
There is not to lose the sunset, due to it is unforgettable.
When the sun sinks, it is painting pie tones the edges of hills and defiles, while the wind blows among the rocks and the sky pass from pink color to purple and finally black.
Without a doubt it is one of main attractive of San Pedro de Atacama, visited by hundreds of tourists year by year, which are really surprised by its singular and unique beauty incomparable to any place.

Altiplanic Lagoons  Full day
Our trip begins with the ascent to 2,400 meters of height, with which we will reach a peak altitude of 4200 meters in the Andes Mountain; due to the enormous summits that the mountain offers in this place we will feel inserted in an enormous valley surrounded by gigantic hills.
During the route we will descry a great amount of animals like vicunas, alpacas, foxes, ñandues, flamingoes, vizcachas and a great variety of ducks.
Once reached our goal we will be in front of altiplanics lagoons Miscanti that in its blue waters reflects the white snow that covers the top of the mountains and Miñiques, located at the foot of beautiful volcanos. Miscanti and Miñique are located between the same hills name to an altitude of 4,100 and 4,350 meters respectively. In addition to the existence of flamingoes, the fauna is made up of tagua cornuda, juarjual ducks, chorlos de la puna, playeros Baird and dunces. This landscape is unique of San Pedro and it is not in other places of the world.
These lagoons are one of the 7 sectors that conform Los Flamencos National Reserve. They are located to 18 kilometer to the south of Socaire town.
The peak altitude of the sector is of 5,910 meters respectively. The landscape is characterizes by volcanos and mountainous relief, standing out Miscanti and Miñiques hills. In the lagoons inhabit species like: Tagua Cornuda, Chilean flamingo, Caití, Playero de baird, Chorlo de la Puna, Juarjual duck and the Guallata. The flora is compound mainly of the Llareta and the Paja Brava.
In the bordering sectors archaeological sites of great cultural and artistic importance exist.
When arriving at the Talar salts we will be surprised again by the wonderful turquoise color of the waters in the Tuyajto lagoon, these colors will call our attention due to its unusual location and great natural beauty.

Archaeological Tour  Half day
You can know the beginning of the valuable atacameñan culture; visiting places of great archaeological importance such as the Tulor town of more than 2800 years of antiquity. The archaeology without a doubt is a source important to know the old dimension of this oasis of Atacama, since when it began to be occupied by the man.
The priest Gustavo Le Paige was who in 1958 identified the first rest of the Village of Tulor, located to 6 kilometers to the south of San Pedro de Atacama, investigation that was extended by the archaeologist Ana Maria Baron in 1980. This singular crossed is guided by the settlers of the place who took to us to revive the beginnings and the first inhabitants of San Pedro de Atacama. Tulor is a village constructed directly on the argillaceous ground in the zone of water-drainage of the San Pedro river, which with the time was buried by the advance of the desert.
On the feet of imposing Licancabur volcano with more than 5.900 meters of height, the greater existing height of the town, history and modernity are joined. With an antiquity of 11mil years approximately, the culture of San Pedro de Atacama, received different influences in its evolution stage of the diverse American cultures, such as Tiwanaku, which was developed to the feet of the Titicaca lake of Bolivia, Inca, which extended his dominions from Peru to the central zone of Chile, the Aymara and finally the Spanish conquerors.
Later we will visit the well-known atacameñan fort Pukará de Quitor, which was constructed in XII century, the rest of Pukará de Quitor show us the great social organization of the atacameñans ancestors front to the Spanish conquerors. To an altitude of 2440 meters of height and to 3 kilometers of San Pedro de Atacama, is this pre-incaica fort which embrace a surface of 2,5 hectares. These ruins are located at the foot of a small hill offered it a strategic position to the sector. The constructions were done with stone and adobe.
Finally we will visit the town of Catarpe, which must its importance to have being the administrative center constructed by the incas dominion, the reason for this center was to give to know the traditions of the sun empire in San Pedro de Atacama and to collect taxes.

Tatio Geysers  Full day
Geysers del Tatio (Tatio Geysers) is a geothermal field located in the Andes mountain range. The fumaroles of these geysers, the highest of the world (4,300 mts), are produced by the high temperatures of their watery craters and offer a unique spectacle of the Chilean desert.
We begin our very early excursion to arrive at the heights of the Andes mountain range surrounded by great mountains with a evening that allows to observe great steam fumaroles and burning mud craters, originating of the entrails of the Earth, product of underground hot water rivers that generate El Tatio volcano.
Later we will participate in one of the greater and more spectacular phenomenos than the nature offers us; a full scene of colors with special beauty that is produced by the great amount of steam which the geysers have. We will have time to obtain one of the most valuable photographies when crossing freely the geothermal fields of the place.
Ending the day we will have the opportunity to take a reconfortante bath from thermal and mineral waters that El Tatio offers. We will undertake our return bordering the spectacular Andes mountain range admiring the great amount of animals and typical plants of the altiplano.

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