The huge geyser field is located at the foot of active volcano El Tatio in the high valleys on the Andes. This natural phenomenon of the hot water eruptions is rare on earth and a special sight.
Getting there: Because the geysers lie at 4200m above sea level it is advisable to first stay in San Pedro for a few days and acclimate, in order to avoid altitude sickness.
As the hot air and water eruptions of the many hot springs can be seen best in cold temperatures, it’s nice to come in the early morning, when temperatures are still below zero. So wear warm clothes, a hat and gloves.
From San Pedro you need about an hour and a half by car for the 80km distance. However, because most people want to go early when it’s still dark and are unfamiliar to such heights, they go with a guided tour. Most tour operators in San Pedro offer tours with driver and guide.
Nevertheless, we felt confident and went alone with our rental car, the early drive at five o’clock in the dark was exhausting but totally doable. The roads are good to drive and because there are so many buses going up, you can’t miss the way. Once you arrive, pay the entrance fee, park and wander around the large geyser field. Soon the sun will peek out behind the mountains and light up the spectacle. Bring something to eat and have a small breakfast and drink enough to avoid headache.
There is also a hot spring where many people refresh after visiting the geyser field, but the pool is rather small.
On your way back to San Pedro you can fully enjoy the beautiful Andes scenery in daylight. You drive through colors of green, yellow, orange, desert parts, mountains, huge plains and can see lots of wildlife. Guanacos, lamas, foxes, condors, flamingos and the rabbit-like twany tuco tuco might all cross your path.
About half an hour from El Tatio there is an unexpected, beautiful wetland area at Vado Rio Putana with an abundant birdlife and the fantastic volcanos in the distance. Shortly after, you can stop in Machuca village, there is a traditional old church and a bbq stall for the tourist groups.
There is another great area, the Guatin valley with its many cactuses. The large plants have the funniest shapes and look great in the canyon and volcano landscape. There are lookout areas where you can take pictures of the cactuses and the creek.
Not far from here you can turn left and drive to the Puritama Hot Springs. These thermal springs are a lovely, paradise-like place in this dry desert region. The entrance costs about 20€, so it’s not cheap but once you walked down into the canyon and float in the small, warm natural pools it’s so relaxing and joyful. It is advised to buy tickets online in advance because there is only a limited number of people allowed, but we went twice and had no problems buying tickets on site.
There are nice picknick areas but no shop or cafe around, so you should bring your own food and drink apart from towels, swimsuit and sunscreen.
There are more interesting travel guides and ideas for destinations in Chile. See the travel itinerary for San Pedro de Atacama or for the lake region with its volcanos and the idyllic island of Chiloé here.
Also don’t miss tips for adventures in Patagonia! Wether its hiking the W-Trek, visiting Torres del Paine National Park, or Puerto Natales and the Magellan Region! There is also a city guide for Santiago de Chile.