Day to day description

Day by day description

This journey through the north of Chile and Argentine, will take you to a special and pristine area. You will visit the Atacama desert, the driest place earth. Here, you will drive through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Majestic mountain peaks, salt lakes, desolate plains and lunar landscapes. You will be amazed by the variation. Afterwards, you will cross the border and will be introduced to the picturesque Argentinian Andes. During your trip, you will drive through the salt flats of Arizaron towards the oasis of Antofalla in Catamarca province, which is a paradise for desert-lovers, with its white sand dunes and enormous pumice fields. Throughout this journey, you will pass green oases and golden grasslands, where you will spot an immense variety of wildlife, even at 4,000 metres above sea level.

Day 1 | Wednesday 3 November: Amsterdam – Santiago

Your unique journey through Chile and Argentina starts today. You will board an intercontinental flight in Amsterdam that flies directly to Santiago in the evening. You will arrive the next day.

Day 2 | Thursday 4 November: Santiago

Upon arrival at the airport of Santiago this morning, you will be welcomed by our local staff and taken to your hotel. An early check-in has been arranged for you, so you will immediately have access to your room upon arrival at the hotel. Get some rest after this long trip. You will have the rest of the day at your leisure. You can find many interesting attractions and attractive parks in the city centre. Wherever you are in this city, you will always be surrounded by the mountain peaks of the Andes.
Accommodation: Hotel Magnolia | bed & breakfast

Day 3 | Friday 5 November: Santiago – Calama – San Pedro de Atacama

Distance: 100 kilometres paved road
Estimated driving time: 1 hour

After breakfast, you will be picked up and transferred to the airport for a domestic flight to Calama, in the north of Chile. Upon arrival, a rental car will be ready for you, and now, your adventure can start! You will drive to your accommodation in San Pedro de Atacama. The rest of the day is cleared for your own activities.
Accommodation: Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama | bed & breakfast

Day 4 | Saturday 6 November: San Pedro de Atacama and surroundings

Distance: 50 kilometres paved road. 220 kilometres gravel road
Estimated driving time: 6 hours

Today, we will be making a trip to the biggest salt lake in the region. Our first stop is at the historic town Toconao. From there, we will take an unpaved road across the salt lake. The Atacama salt flat is 3000 square kilometer big, which makes it the biggest salt lake in Chile. Before returning to San Pedro we visit the Valle de la Luna in the afternoon where we will see the sunset on the mountains of the Andes. Valle de la Luna is an area with geological formations from stone and sand. It was declared a Natural Sanctuary and is also part of Los Flamencos Reserve, a protected zone. It is an impressive place of desolation where the wind has sculpted mounts and ravines of salt, clay and gypsum. There is no life in this valley and no humidity; it is the most inhospitable place on the planet.

We will have time to visit the Tres Marias (Three Marias), rocky mounds formed by erosion. The salt mine, la Mina de Sal Victoria, where you can take a short walk of 15 to 20 minutes. You can walk around the Valle de la Luna, and you can climb the Duna Mayor (dune of 2,600metres), from where you can see the sunset. For those who aren’t keen on walking, instead of climbing the dune, there is another option of leaving the Valle de la Luna and travelling in a vehicle to the Mirador del Coyote, also part of the reserve from which you can also see the sunset.
Accommodation: Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama | full board

Day 5 | Sunday 7 November: San Pedro de Atacama and surroundings

Distance: 30 kilometres paved road. 190 kilometres gravel road.
Estimated driving time: 5 hours
Altitude: Highest point 4,200 metres/13,780 feet.  San Pedro de Atacama 2,475 metres/8,120 feet.

A very early departure will take us to the Geyser del Tatio. El Tatio Geyser Field (locally known as Los Geysers del Tatio) is located within the Andes Mountains of northern Chile at 4,200 meters. With over 80 active geysers, El Tatio is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest field in the world. There, you will be participating in one of the most astonishing phenomena produced by nature and see contrasting colours produced by the steam columns in the highest geothermal field in the world. You will walk across the tracks over the geothermal field.

On our way back to san Pedro we make a stop at the little village of Machuca where the ancient Llama caravans used to rest from their travels along the “Inca-highway”. Also we make a stop at the hot springs of Puritama, where we can relax a bit and take a warm natural bath before returning to San Pedro.
Accommodation: Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama| full board

Day 6 | Monday 8 November: San Pedro de Atacama – Salta

Distance: 570 kilometres paved road
Estimated driving time: 10 hours
Altitude: Highest point 4,700 metres/15,420 feet.  San Pedro de Atacama 2,475 metres/8,120 feet.

Today, a fantastic drive on a perfectly paved road will guide us across the Andes, through dry salted lakes, volcanoes, groups of wild vicunas, and the infinity of the Puna Plateau. We will see the perfect cone-shaped Licancabur volcano when we drive to the Jama Pass where we will cross the border with Argentina. When we are in Argentina the road will go down and we will visit the Salinas Grandes, a salt mirror covering more than 30,000 hectares and the old capital of the Puna, Susques and its 1598-built Church. We will continue to Purmamarca, situated at the foot of the Hill with the Seven Colours, where we will reach the Humahuaca gorge. The last part of the route takes us through a beautiful cloud forest until we reach Salta.
Accommodation: Finca Valentina | full board

Note: Since we operate many of our tours in remote high altitude areas itineraries may be subject to change due to weather and road conditions or any other conditions of an operational nature throughout the year (such as: snow fall, heavy rain, strong winds, etc.), especially in places higher than 4000 meters. As such we reserve the right to alter, and/or cancel any section and/or parts of the itinerary which may result from conditions beyond our control.
Accommodation: Finca Valentina | full board

Day 7 | Tuesday 9 November: Salta – Cafayate

Distance: 180 kilometres paved road
Estimated driving time: 3 hours
Altitude: Highest point 1,683 metres/5,522 feet.  Salta 1,200 metres/3,937 feet.

Today you will drive from Salta through the Quebrada de las Conchas gorge to Cafayate. You will drive 55 kilometres through the gorge and you will be surrounded by picturesque rock formations that are 40 to 100 million years old. It is an easy and beautiful ride. Early in the afternoon you will arrive in Cafayate where you can enjoy the surroundings. Moreover, Cafayate is a perfect place to visit a winery, since it is the capital of Northern wines. This region is most famous for its "Torrontés" variety of white wine.
Accommodation: Patios de Cafayate | full board

Day 8 | Wednesday 10 November: Cafayate – El Peñón

Distance: 250 kilometres paved road. 50 kilometres gravel road
Estimated driving time: 5 hours
Altitude: Highest point 4,000 metres/13,123 feet.  Cafayate 1,683 metres /5,522 feet.

We will drive south on the mythical Ruta 40, to explore one of the most deserted regions of Argentina. After the small village of Hualfín, the road will start to climb, reaching the Andean Desert Plateau known as Puna. Which is surrounded by groups of Vicuñas, giant white sand dunes, volcanoes and lagoons. At the end of the day, we will reach the Oasis of El Peñon, our base for tomorrow’s excursions. El Peñon is a small village located at 3,400 metres where 200 people, mostly shepherds, live and work. It is one of the last authentic Puna villages, with water and green grass (Vega) that allow grazing of llamas, goats and sheep.
Accommodation: Hosteria El Peñón | full board

Day 9 | Thursday 11 November: El Peñón and surroundings

Distance: 150 kilometres
Estimated driving time: 5 hours

Our adventure today starts at the edge of Campo de Piedra Pómez, as we reach the Carachi Pampa basin, in its margins there is a Volcano of the same name, surrounded by black lava fields and a lagoon, where the Andean flamingo, and the James' (or puna) flamingo can be found. During the dry season a small salt lake forms around the lagoon. From here, we continue to the Campo de Piedra Pómez Nature Reserve, a strange and stunning landscape carved into the rock that gives rise to its name: The Pumice. Of purely igneous origin, it was produced from a massive explosion of the volcanic stratum. This explosion was so powerful that if one had been able to see it, it would have looked like the mushroom cloud produced by a nuclear bomb. The cloud spread the ashes and debris in large areas and in different directions, which crystallized by the effects of the temperature giving shape to these wonderful rocks with special features and with plenty of holes produced by the escape of gases during the chilling stage. This degassing phenomenon made the rock very easy to carve by the winds of the Puna; arid and harsh winds that move freely through the region, becoming the best and most prominent Andean rock sculptors. This strange landscape of white labyrinths and climbing sand dunes is located a few miles to the west. The path you follow here can be described as a dream of every explorer.
Accommodation: Hosteria El Peñón | full board

Day 10 | Friday 12 November: El Peñón and surroundings

Distance: 160 kilometres
Estimated driving time: ± 6,5 hours

The trip starts early in the morning, heading north towards the world's largest volcanic caldera, 34 kilometres from north to south and 24 kilometres from east to west, the result of an eruption that occurred 2.2 million years ago. Its identification as a volcanic caldera was performed using satellite photographs, but we have the opportunity to get into the crater. Its walls reach 5,000 metres of altitude and the central peak 5,912 metres, while its floor is at 4,000 metres of altitude. There is the Laguna Diamante, which is home to flamingos and ducks, protected from the wind by the walls. The Laguna Grande reserve is a place of unique beauty that keeps fragile treasures of the environment. It is a saline lake that sits at an altitude of 4,150 metres and a path to the crater of the volcano Galan, the largest in the world. During winter, the water freezes completely, but when spring arrives, it becomes the largest gathering center of the Puna flamingo birds, also called Small Parina (Phoenicpterus jamesi), with more than 19,000 birds (25% of the known total population). It is also a place for summer congregation for the Andean flamingo (Phoenicpterus andinus) and it is a common nesting site of Southern flamenco (Phoenicopterus chilensis). We will Visit Laguna Grande, respecting it as an Andean sanctuary and appreciating species of exotic birds in their natural habitat, taking into account that we will be privileged spectators of such majesty. We will drive back to El Peñón with the perfect light of the sunset.
Accommodation: Hosteria El Peñón | full board

Day 11 | Saturday 13 November: El Peñón – Tolar Grande

Distance: 350 kilometres
Estimated driving time: 7 hours

Antofagasta de la Sierra was the biggest Oasis on the path connecting this side of the Andes with the Oasis of San Pedro de Atacama (Chile). It is a big village with more than 2,000 people who maintain their ancient traditions and culture. The name Antofagasta means “place where the sun shines” and it is surrounded by uncountable Volcanic Peaks. The valley of Calalaste, just a few kilometres away from Vega Colorada is the best spot to find wild camelids. Above 4,200 metres with wide views over the Antofalla Volcano (6,400 metres) lays a green field (Vega Colorada) home to llamas, suris (Andean ostrich), wild donkeys and vicuñas. Antofalla, together with Antofagasta and Santa Rosa, were important stations for Llama caravans connecting this part of the Andes with the Oasis of Atacama. The Oasis is located just at the border of the longest salt flat in the world, among red mountains and lava strips. Antofalla is still inhabited by a tiny community of 60 people who are all shepherds. The crossing of the Arizaro Salted dry lake resembles the ancient journey of the Arrieros (shepherds guiding caravans of animals to Chile). Arizaro meaning Vultures Cemetery comes from a period when many animals (cows and horses) perished during the crossing of the salt flat. At the end of the day, where you will drive in a different landscape every hour, you will arrive in Tolar Grande: a town which lies on the border of a giant depression, the Salar de Arizaro, one of the biggest salt flats in the world. Its tiny and old railway, which was built in 1940, provides a unique view of the western ridge of the Cordillera, an infinite skyline of volcanoes higher than 6,000 metres.
Accommodation: Casa Andina | full board

Day 12 | Sunday 14 November: Tolar Grande – San Pedro de Atacama

Distance: 110 kilometres paved road, 250 kilometres gravel road
Estimated driving time: 7 hours
Altitude: Highest point 4,600 metres/15,092 feet.  Tolar Grande 3,500 metres/11,483 feet.

Early in the morning, we will visit the Ojos del Mar in the Salar de Arizaro. These are blue water plains in the middle of the white salt plain. In February 2009, researchers discovered an enormous colony of living stromatolites (a form of sedimentary rock that is often highly stratified and contains a lot of lime).  We continue our journey through the Labyrinth Desert, a fossil dune desert made of clay and gypsum crystals. Then we will drive to the Sico Pass where we cross the border between Argentina and Chile. At the end of the afternoon we are back in San Pedro de Atacama.
Accommodation: Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama | full board

Day 13 | Monday 15 November: San Pedro de Atacama – Calama – Santiago

Distance: 100 kilometres paved road
Estimated driving time: 1 hour

After breakfast you will drive to Calama airport in about one hour. You will drop off your rental car and take a domestic flight to Santiago. Here you will be brought to your hotel by a local employee. The rest of the day is for leisure. Enjoy the centre of Santiago for a while or take the time to rest after this impressive journey.
Accomodation: Hotel Magnolia | bed & breakfast

Day 14 | Tuesday 16 November: Santiago – Amsterdam

After breakfast, you will be taken to Santiago airport, where you will board a flight back to Amsterdam, which arrives the following morning.

Day 15 | Wednesday 17 November: Amsterdam

Unfortunately, this trip has come to an end. You will arrive in Amsterdam today.

Price: from € 8,490 per person

*Based on 2 persons travelling together
**Depending on the time of booking, availability of local flights and accommodation, and the period of travel

Included:

  • Local flights, economy class
  • 12 overnight stays, meals as mentioned
  • All transfers and excursions as mentioned
  • 11 days rental car (cat: Mitsubishi L200 4x4 Katana) including basic insurance and supervision team with a separate four-wheel drive vehicle and satellite communication.
  • 24/7 our backup; locally and in the Netherlands
  • Comprehensive travel document package with small attention

Not included:

  • International flights, if desired we can reserve these for you
  • Public tax Calamity fund travel; €2.50 per booking
  • Travel and cancellation insurance

Register for Atacama & Puna experience

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Would you like to receive more information about the Atacama & Puna experience 2021 or sign up for this trip? Fill in the form below and we will contact you a.s.a.p. You can also call us at: +31 73 610 62 04 or send an e-mail to info@sapapanatravel.nl.

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