Wandering in the Atacama Desert losing ourselves 5,000 meters high

The next step in our Chilean trip was the Atacama Desert. While we knew it’d be beautiful, we didn’t expect it to be this beautiful. It was colorful, full of surprises (good and bad) and gave us an endless feeling of freedom (which we didn’t get doing the W trek in Patagonia).

The Atacama desert is set on an arid high plateau in the Andes mountains of northeastern Chile. Its dramatic surrounding landscape incorporates desert, salt flats, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs.

Get ready for a color overload: the sky there is blue, like real blue, and it was fall which made for even more incredible landscapes.

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro is a little (touristy) town in the Atacama desert. It’s usually where you stay before leaving for day trips in the area.

Eating ceviches

El Tatio geysers, the highest-elevation geyser fields in the world

El Tatio is a geyser field located within the Andes Mountains of northern Chile at 4,320 meters above mean sea level. Various etymologies have been proposed for the system, including “oven” but also “grandfather”.

We got there early in the morning and it was a cold -6 degrees contrasting with over 100 geysers at 86 degrees, huffing and puffing around us.

Lagunas Altiplanicas

Breathe in, we’re 4,200m high.


Endless roads

A bit of an adventure…

Exploring caves, destroying our SUV, and going always higher.

Here’s a recommendation: do not drive a city SUV on these dirty roads. Here’s what it was like.

Full disclosure: we never made it.

El Llano de la Paciencia kind of finished our car off — it wasn’t the awesome boat I thought it was in the end. But who doesn’t enjoy changing a tyre right in a middle of a 43km long straight road?

Las Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache, a salty place

Some beautiful saltwater lagoons and transparent blue waters.

Martian views


Life 5,000 meters high


The Monks of the Desert

Some say that this formed naturally. I struggle to believe it :).

The rest of the area was also incredible beautiful.

The Valleys

Sunset and sunrise overlooking some majestic landscapes.

Valle de la Muerte

Valle de la Luna
Valle del Arcoiris
Valle del Arcoiris
Valle del Arcoiris


Here’s the incredible way back from Valle Del Arcoiris.

And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed this quick tour of the Atacama Desert. We only had 5 days but there’s a lot more to do if you’re got more time and are willing to drive faaaaar!

Emmanuel Nataf

I'm a founder at Reedsy (www.reedsy.com) and a street photographer in my spare time.

One comment

Leave a Reply