XXXXXIV – San Pedro de Atacama, my first steps in one of the driest places on earth: a desert…

A desert…. when people talk about deserts, they always talk about an unbroken immensity, a desolate, flatness horizon, or a beautiful landscape of giant sand dunes… but they never talk about having teary eyes because of the winds of sands blowing in your face, about the taste of sands in your mouth all day long, about your clean clothes being dirty in less than 5 minutes after you put them on, or about the piles of sands you’ll find in your booths at the end of the day (every day, no matter what)!

San Pedro de Atacama.

Kind of gross, I know. But here’s the thing about deserts: It’s not gross. At all. Actually, I enjoyed every single minute I was in the desert of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile! And, I still can’t believe I was there. I stepped foot in one of the driest places on earth, as some areas haven’t received a single drop of rain in hundreds of years!!

Along with my travel buddy Camille, we booked several excursions for the next days: Combo tour “Laguna Cejar, Los Ojos del Salar, Laguna Tebinquiche”, Combo tour “Moon and Death Valleys”, Sand boarding in the Death Valley, and excursion to El Tatio. It was a bit pricey, but, in the end, so worth it!

On our first day, we had a busy schedule: swimming in the “Laguna Cejar”, jumping in “Los Ojos del Salar” and watching the sunset at “Laguna Tebinquiche”.

About 20 km south of San Pedro de Atacama, is the Laguna Cejar, a small lake containing a high proportion of salt crystals. The salted water gives this deep emerald-green color to the lake and allows you to literally float on water. Camille and myself had to try it. And, Yes! We had our legs in the air. We floated. Such a great sensation! When we got out of the salted water, the desert air dried almost instantly my skin, only leaving a thin, white film of salt. (pics will soon be posted as Camille took some. My camera is not waterproof).

Camille and myself posing in front of 1 eye!!

Afterwards, we went further south, further into the Salar de Atacama. En route, we passed between the eyes of the desert, Los Ojos del Salar. There were 2 naturally round basins with a diameter of 20 feet each, very deep, containing fresh, cold, freezing water. We were misinformed about the real temperature of the water, and highly encouraged by our tour guide, Edgardo, to jump in! Huh, cold, Cold, COLD!! But now, I can say I swam in the eyes, that are said to be visible from space!!!


Jump! Jump! JUMP!

Laguna Tebinquiche.

We then continued the tour to see the sunset from the beautiful Laguna Tebinquiche, a kind of small lake whose depth doesn’t exceed 5 cm.

The location was perfect to take beautiful pictures of sunset. And, there were quite a few clouds in the sky, so the colours were incredible!

And, as the sun was low on the horizon, the aperitif was served: Pisco Sour. A kind of rum with lemon. A delight!

Barely 5 cm of water!

Edgardo, our guide.

Our group!

Ready for the sunset.

Pink sunset!! Love it!!

No comment. Just beautiful!!

Incredible colors!!

The Moon Valley, white rock formations!!

…………………………………………………………On our second day, we headed to Valle de la Luna (“Valley of the Moon”), a moon-like landscape with ruins of old Chilean salt mines. It was fascinating, and I just imagine walking on the Moon would be the same…

Cam in the Moon Valley!!

Next to the Valle de la Luna is Valle de la Muerte (“Death Valley”), previously known as Valle de Marte (“Mars Valley”) because the gigantic stunning red colored dunes and rock formations that looked like what could be the terrain of Mars. In fact, NASA tested, in the past, some of its equipment here as it so closely resembled the landscape on Mars.

Drinking Pisco Sour in the Death Valley.

The legend says the name changed because of a Belgian guy, Jesuit missionary Father Gustavo Le Paige. Yes. Belgian!?! Father Le Paige apparently did some important archaeological researches in the region. But, unfortunately, his Spanish was not top-notch, and his very strong French accent didn’t help! So Marte was pronounced Mwaorrrrtttte, and locals understood Muerte… ugh… due to an error in pronunciation, the name changed and “Muerte” stuck through the years. All because of 1 Belgian guy!

The Death Valley.

But, either name works just fine for the valley as there is nothing growing in its earth (no plant life). It is said that this place is completely sterile, meaning that nothing will decompose here including bodies and garbage! Small piece of advice: one should not kill in San Pedro de Atacama, and then drop the body in the Death Valley… I am just saying… 😉


Me and my board!

On our third day, we went back to the famous “Death Valley” to have some GOOD OLD FUN! We tried sand boarding!FYI, sand boarding is like snow boarding except the activity takes place on sand dunes rather than snow-covered mountains.

Me and Cam, looking good 😉

Walking on sand dunes is hard!!

Walking up the sand dunes was quite exhausting, and the way down didn’t last enough compared to the way up!! Moreover, I believe I looked cooler next to the board rather than ON the board!! Clearly, I wasn’t a natural at sand boarding, but I tried and I did have fun 🙂

El Tatio

On our fourth day, I went to “El Tatio”, a geyser field with over 80 active geysers! Since it is located at 4,200 meters above sea level, I had followed to the letter, every single recommendation in order to not suffer from altitude sickness. Thus, no meat, no milk, no dairy products, no alcohol the previous days! And, once there, “act as a turtle”, meaning taking it slowly! I did everything I was told. But I got sick AND fainted!! ugh!! Why did I bother going on the diet? Seriously!?!

Looking pale? This shot was taken 3 minutes before I fainted!! Good times!! LOL

Me and a geyser field.

Small eruptions…

Even tough I lost conscience for a couple of minutes, and afterwards, felt like my head was about to explode, I still saw these incredible geysers. Apparently, they can erupt up to 6 meters high!! I didn’t approach them too closely, didn’t want to get burn on top of feeling sick! That would have been BAD!!

Close-up view of one geyser.

To sum up my stay in the famous desert of San Pedro de Atacama, I loved every single minute, and could have stayed there for weeks! I ate the most delicious dishes, went on extraordinary tours and spent nights gazing at the stars!! All good things must come to an end! I need to move on, continue my journey… But I still can’t believe I stepped foot in a desert 🙂 

Ready to hit the road again 🙂

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6 Responses to XXXXXIV – San Pedro de Atacama, my first steps in one of the driest places on earth: a desert…

  1. Ana Rosa marquez says:

    Beautiful sunset!!! Sand boarding seems fantastic!!! Biggggg kisssss Mom

  2. Sunanda says:

    Incredibly beautiful!

  3. Sofie says:

    Hi Cristina!!

    J’aime bien lire tous ce que tu ecris 🙂 It’s just amazing what an adventure and experience you are having there! 🙂
    Continue comme ca 😉

    Bisous! take care 🙂

    • Cris says:

      Hi Sofie!!
      Thanks for your comment, it’s always great to know what one think about my travel experiences and to feel supported 🙂
      Kisses & Hugs!!
      Take care!!

  4. rafael says:

    Cristina c’est fantastique j’adore ton journal de randonnée je me suis déjà beaucoup amusé je ne savais pas que les argentins à part le tango sont aussi les plus grands drageurs sous les cieux.

    Bonne route garde le cap

    • Cris says:

      Merciii Parrain!! J’adore écrire sur mes aventures et surtout les faire partager avec la famille et les amis. Et, je suis sûre que tu adorerais l’Argentine 😉
      Te fais pleins bisous bisous!!
      Cristina (ta filleule préférée 😉 )

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