The world's highest geothermal field, the Geysers del Tatio is a breathtaking natural phenomenon. The sight of dozens of fumaroles, or geysers, throwing columns of steam into the air is unforgettable. A trip to El Tatio usually begins at 4 am, on a guided tour, when San Pedro is still cold and dark (any of the tour agencies in San Pedro can arrange this trip). After a two-hour bus trip on a relentlessly bumpy road, you reach the high plateau about daybreak. (The
entrance fee is covered if you are on a tour, otherwise it is 5000 pesos.) The jets of steam are already shooting into the air as the sun slowly peeks over the adjacent cordillera. The rays of light illuminate the steam in a kaleidoscope of chartreuses, violets, reds, oranges, and blues. The vapor then silently falls onto the sulfur-stained crust of the geyser field. As the sun heats the cold, barren land, the force of the geysers gradually diminishes, allowing you to explore the mud pots and craters formed by the escaping steam. Be careful, though—the crust is thin in places and people have been badly burned falling into the boiling-hot water.
Termas de Puritama. On your way back to San Pedro, you may want to stop at the Termas de Puritama hot springs. A hot soak may be just the thing to shake off that early morning chill. A relaxing daytrip in itself, the termas are a series of 8 pools each one connected by wooden platforms and surrounded by foliage in the middle of this natural valley. If you don't have your own transport, you can book a transfer or group tour from many agencies in San Pedro. If you are staying at Hotel Explora, you'll have exclusive access to the first (and warmest) spring. Termas de Puritama, 1410000. 15,000 pesos.
Geysers El Tatio, San Pedro de Atacama, 1410000, Chile