We will start our trip in Salta city early in the morning. On this day, we will get to Chile on a paved road. When we get to Purmamarca in Jujuy province, we will take a road up known as Paso de Jama to cross The Andes; after a few hours we will cross Salinas Grandes, our famous salt flat in Jujuy, and then the little village of Susques where we can have lunch. After that, we will keep driving to the west straight to the Chilean Border where we can find a Custom building of Argentina and we will stop there, be patient and fill in migration forms in order to cross the border in JAMA. If we are lucky, we will be ready in 1 hour to continue 150 kms more to get to San Pedro de Atacama where we will stop again at a Chilean custom building to do the same, and that maybe will take longer time because they will check all our luggage in search for only God knows, maybe fruits or vegetables because they are forbidden to be carried. Anyway, the road to cross The Andes is beautiful, awesome. We will see salt flats, high lakes and huge snow caped volcanoes.
When we get to San Pedro de Atacama, we will go straightaway to our hotel to get some rest and then you can go on your own and have a dinner in one of the many restaurants on the main street named Caracoles.
The day before was long, so we are not going to wake up early this day, do not worry. You can easily walk around the village on your own and visit the fantastic archaeological museum of San Pedro de Atacama and a beautiful old church made by adobe bricks and topped with cactus wooden roof. At midday, you can have lunch on your own and then, at 2 PM we will go in a vehicle to visit interesting places: Cejar and Chaxa lakes on the Atacama salt flat. In the first one, we can see deep lakes with clear water and salt crystals as well as some people swimming. Then we will keep going to the next one, which is on the way crossing a small village Socair. Here, there is an oasis by the river trough Jerez gorge, another strong contrast of green and desert. Once we get to Chaxa Lake, we will enjoy the avifauna of this fragile environment where the flamingos star a spectacular flying show.
We will return to San Pedro de Atacama just before the sunset time, so we can watch the sun setting and the volcanoes in Mars Valley. Then, we will be back at the hotel.
It is time to wake up early if you want to see one of the highlights of this trip: the Geysers del Tatio. Yes, I will pick you up at 4:30 in the morning. Why? Because we must be there at sunrise time, 100 kms away from San Pedro and, you will see how busy the road up to the Geysers is because hundreds of regular excursions do the same every day and every year. After watching this fantastic and spectacular natural show, we will return to San Pedro but first, we will stop at Machuca village where there is a traditional food to try called “anticucho de llama”, which means ‘small lama meat brochettes’, delicious! Then, we will move on; and if you want, there is a nearby place with thermal springs that are very nice! If you happen to bring towels and a swimsuit, you can get into one of the pools in the creek to have a hot bath. The ticket entrance is managed by the local community and they charge u$ 20 per person.
Estimated time of arrival in San Pedro: 1:00 pm. You can take a rest until 5:00 PM when I will pick you up again to go to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), only 10 minutes’ drive from San Pedro, and see our last sunset in the desert.
It is time to return to Salta, Argentina and here we go, another long journey like the first one, but in this case, we will be driving over Paso de SICO, and we will see different landscapes on this way, it is perfect! We cannot start the journey until 8:00 AM because that is the time the Migration office opens. In this case, it will be faster because we are leaving and we will have nothing to check. After 2 hours’ driving, we will get to two lakes to visit: Miscanti and Meñiques; they are awesome! They are located in a nice valley surrounded by volcanoes and it is one of my favorite places in this trip. We will see flamingos, ducks and taguas in a very peaceful and protected area located in a natural reserve. The road continues up to the border but the nice landscape never ends. Aguas Calientes Salar and Tuyaito Lake are other spectacular things to see. Once in the Argentine border, we will go through the migration process and customs again, but do not worry, this is one of less busy crossings in Argentina and there is generally nobody waiting there. Then, we will have at least 5 hours’ driving to get to Salta city, stopping only at San Antonio de Los Cobres to have a coffee and then we will continue over Quebrada del Toro (Train to The Clouds way) to get to Salta. Estimated arrival time: 8:00 PM (I hope so.)
IMPORTANT: if one of the border crossings, Jama or Sico, is closed due to the snow, we will use the available one to cross and then to cross back. If both crossings are closed, we will lose all the services on the other side, and in this case, the guide can offer you an alternative program to replace it but all the accommodation and meals expenses will not be included. The seasons in which there is a high risk of the crossings being closed due to the snow vary between June and September. There are years when the crossings are always open but there was one year when the Sico crossing was closed more than a month and I remember another snowstorm blocking it on October.
Light and warm clothes! During the day we have temperatures going up to 30C° but it is very cold at night. At sunrise time in Tatio Geysers excursion, we do not have less than -10C°. So…jacket, fleece, wool hat, gloves, sun glasses and skin cream protection for high level of sun radiation.