The desolation that brings the Atacama desert into view could hardly be compared, if anything, to what was described by Ray Bradubury in "Martian Chronicles", because that unusual place on Earth seems from every angle another planet, one where it would be more it is logical to see the descent of a pair of spaceships that the arrival of a group of tourists by car.
However, the Atacama Desert exists in northern Chile as one of the most original tourist destinations that anyone can visit in his life, and the gateway is a town of less than 6,000 inhabitants whose extraordinary possibilities we will relate in this text.
This is San Pedro de Atacama, one of the most arid places on earth but not the most arid desert of the same name, a place that appears in the news when it rains, but is always the subject of reports, chronicles and reviews for its tremendous attractions.
Decades ago only backpackers knew San Pedro, but today there are millions of tourists who arrive to see firsthand what they are told.
And if the days can make us doubt that we are on the same planet as always, the nights are able to confuse us completely because it is assumed that in this world there is no sky with so many stars. But you know first hand what we have to tell you about this town of charm that seems to be in the middle of nowhere, but that is close to everything.
The Moon Valley
Going to San Pedro and not visiting the Moon Valley is like staying at home. The name already advances the type of landscape: rocks modified by erosion, amazing layers of salt and a feeling of being seriously on the Earth's natural satellite.
The most emblematic rock formations of the Moon Valley are the Tres Marías, the Canyon, the Amphitheater and the Coyote Stone. But the best part of the walk is the sunset: an unprecedented color waste for any view. That's why the tours are at 3:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon.
Cejar Lagoon and Piedra Lagoon
The salar of the Atacama desert is, of course, the largest in Chile. The walk consists of a visit to a series of lagoons crowned by Laguna Cejar and Laguna Piedra, where bathers can experience the same flotation effect offered by the Dead Sea given the enormous amount of salt that the waters have.
Generally, the same walk includes a walk along the shore of Laguna Tebinquinche, where the horizon is lost because the union between the sky, salt and water is beyond the possibilities of the human eye.
Salar de Atacama
It is also key to visit the Atacama salt flat separately, as a tour through it allows you to know the trails of the Chaxa lagoon, where three species of flamingos live. But also the same walk of the salar leads to the Quebrada de Jerez, a place full of ancient petroglyphs from previous civilizations where the current inhabitants of the town of San Pedro can develop their agricultural production of fruit trees.
Those who have been amazed by the petroglyphs in the Quebrada de Jeréz should know the Rainbow Valley, a place that receives that name for the enormous amount of minerals that color its soils in a very diverse way. There the amount of petroglyphs is unique. Ancient Indians left evidence on rock of their coexistence with monkeys, camelids and dogs.
The astronomical tour from the Atacama desert
From San Pedro itself there is a tour so that visitors do not miss the opportunity to see the sky like never before from the Atacama desert itself. The night experience always offers a previous 20-minute class for tourists to familiarize themselves with astronomical concepts and to identify the constellations.
Puritana hot springs
30 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama are the Termas de Puritana, a hot spring resort that comes more than 30 degrees from the Andes Mountains, given its contact with volcanic material. These waters fill up to eight pools of the Puritana River and every second that remains submerged is unforgettable pleasant.
Archaeological tour to Tulor and Quitor
Understanding the reality of the civilizations that populated the Atacama desert hundreds and even thousands of years ago is possible thanks to the archaeological tour of the Tulor and Quitor sites, pre-Inca villages whose remains show unimaginable splendors for a place as inhospitable as that desert.
In addition to amazing remains of pre-Columbian structures, tourists will be able to run into evidence of the struggles between native Americans and the first Spaniards who arrived at the place.
El Tatio geysers
In El Tatio is the largest group of geysers in the south of the planet and the third largest after the one in Yellowstone (United States) and in Kronotski (Russia). There tourists can see how steam emerges from the earth's crust imitating the breathing of a dragon that sleeps in its bowels.
The place also has fantastic thermal pools that add to the tourist attraction of an area so rich in natural resources that only the continuous visit of tourists has remained as an area of ??recreational and natural interest.
The connoisseurs say that the salar de Tara is the best kept secret of Atacama. Here the desert also comes alive thanks to the Quepiaco River, where an abundant fauna shows another face of the possibilities of the place. It is a walk through the perfect idyllic place, an intimate experience only interrupted if perhaps by a family of shepherds in the distance on the horizon.
The same route leads to the salt of Aguascalientes, where the lagoons have the quality of gathering more colors on their waters than one is supposed to see.
In the end, the conclusion of a trip to San Pedro de Atacama will not be extra-planetary in real terms, but it will be above the limits of what we thought possible on our beloved planet Earth.