I recently travelled to Santiago, Chile for work. It’s such a vibrant and hip city. I ate the best churros of my life from a stand on the street while exploring downtown near Plaza de Armas and caught an amazing view from the fernicular that takes you to the top of San Cristoball Hill.
After my work conference finished, one of my colleagues and I travelled together to the Atacama Desert – the No. 2 on New York Times 52 places to go in 2017 list! It was an amazing experience that is definitely off the beaten path.
This is me in awe looking out over the Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley, which is a salt corridor in the Atacama Desert. The white on the ground is all salt. The craters and valleys really look like you’re on the surface of the moon.
The sunset in the Moon Valley was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life.
Another favorite spot we visited was Salar de Talar, which is a salt flat up in the mountains. The rocks around the area are red so the tour is called Piedra Rojas.
But my most favorite thing we did was float in the Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache or the Hidden Lagoons. It’s the deepest salt flats in the world, and you can float in it like you would the Dead Sea.What appears as coral in the water is in fact salt. These are photos of a few of the ponds we couldn’t swim in because the chemical balance was not right. However, I don’t have photos of the two lagoons we did swim in … I was too busy floating. There are about five lagoons in total in this area and you can walk between them.
While Valle de la Luna, Salar de Talar, and Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache were my top three favorite things we did. There is lot’s to do if you have the time. We also went to the tallest geyser field in the world, flamingos in the desert, and high-altitude lagoons in the mountains.
All these are standard tours that are best to arrange once you’ve arrived in San Pedro de Atacama because it will be much cheaper than doing online in advance. You can also shop around in town. There are hundreds of these tiny little travel agencies so you can shop for the best price, but be sure to ask smart questions ie how many people in a tour, what type of vehicle do they use, is there a driver and a tour guide? There are some places that will have very old and uncomfortable vehicles or only one person that acts as a driver and a tour guide for large groups. Avoid these, but it’s easy to sort out and book when you arrive in the little town. The only thing we booked in advance was our hotel and the bus ticket to get from the airport to the town.