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Tatio Geysers: A High-Altitude Geothermal Adventure

The Tatio Geysers before sunrise

The Tatio Geysers before sunrise

[F]eaturing over 80 geysers, El Tatio Geyser field in northern Chile is the third largest in the world after Yellowstone and Dolina Giezerov in Russia.

At an altitude of 4,300 meters (14,100 feet), it is also one of the highest geyser fields in the world.

Getting there from San Pedro de Atacama is easy, if you're willing to accept a 4 AM departure.

The Tatio geysers are most active around sunrise, therefore tour vans leave San Pedro super early in order to arrive at Parque Geotermico Geyser del Tatio, near the Bolivian border, by 7 AM.

It's only 90km away, but the roads are bad, and the vans are driving in the pitch black.

Despite being in the desert, the lack of sunlight, combined with the high altitude ensure freezing cold temperatures.

Seriously, when you first arrive, you'll be standing around in the frigid cold, barely able to see anything until the sun begins to rise.

Dress warmly, but in layers, as you'll want to peel a few off by midday, as your tour makes its way back to San Pedro.

I paid $29 for the tour, which included guide, transportation, and a light breakfast. In addition, there was a $10 park entrance fee.

The rising sun slowly illuminates the landscapes around us

The rising sun slowly illuminates the landscapes around us

One of the over 80 geysers blowing off steam

One of the over 80 geysers blowing off steam

Proving once again that it's not easy to smile with a face full of hot steam blowing out of the ground at you

Proving once again that it's not easy to smile with a face full of hot steam blowing out of the ground at you

Tourists are advised to keep their distance from the geysers, as the crust around them can be thin. Our guide warned us that more than one person had been injured and killed over the years, as a result of falling into the boiling water.

Tourists are advised to keep their distance from the geysers, as the crust around them can be thin. Our guide warned us that more than one person had been injured and killed over the years, as a result of falling into the boiling water.

Once the sun was up, the sky turned a brilliant blue, offering a sharp contrast against the steam of the geysers

Once the sun was up, the sky turned a brilliant blue, offering a sharp contrast against the steam of the geysers

Tourists walk towards one of the field's largest geysers

Tourists walk towards one of the field's largest geysers

The geysers are natural vents for magma that heats up an underground water source

The geysers are natural vents for magma that heats up an underground water source. The steam is released at 85 degrees Celsius, or 185 degrees Fahrenheit.

A dreadlocked visitor takes a break next to one of the largest geysers

A dreadlocked visitor takes a break next to one of the largest geysers

Tatio Geysers

The Tatio Geysers can reach up to 30 feet

While not the largest geyser field in the world, the surrounding scenery makes it one of the most spectacular to visit

While not the largest geyser field in the world, the surrounding scenery makes it one of the most spectacular to visit

An optional dip in a natural hot spring is a popular activity. There are no changing rooms, so plan ahead, or prepare to bare your bottom.

An optional dip in a natural hot spring is a popular activity. There are no changing rooms, so plan ahead, or prepare to bare your bottom.

One last look at El Tatio Geysers in Chile's Atacama Desert

One last look at El Tatio Geysers in Chile's Atacama Desert

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking uses and recommends:

Si Salter

Saturday 8th of March 2014

Hi, love this post. I hope you don’t mind I’ve added the link and a few lines to my post: STEP 294 – See the El Tatio Geysers and Atacama Desert, Chile. Hope to send some more page views your way.

We’d love you to share your story from your visit by joining our STEPS challenge. You might even make our Top 100 travellers list.

Thanks again and happy travels.

Si

Dave

Sunday 9th of March 2014

Hi Si, thanks for the link.

Rox

Thursday 6th of March 2014

Thanks!

Rox

Wednesday 5th of March 2014

So, a 4x4 is a must...

Dave

Wednesday 5th of March 2014

To be honest, I can't remember if the road was paved the whole way. You can ask around once you're in San Pedro to get better advice.

Rox

Tuesday 4th of March 2014

Why was the departure at 4 am? Just to catch the sunrise? Can't you go by yourself?

Dave

Tuesday 4th of March 2014

The 4am departure was to catch the sunrise. We drove most of the way in the pitch dark, with just the headlights to light the way. If you have your own 4x4, maybe you could do it alone, but I would plan to go with a group.

Ben

Wednesday 27th of November 2013

hi, how would I get to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile from Rio Gallegos, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

please let me know your suggestions by plain vs bus?

thanks

Dave

Wednesday 27th of November 2013

Hi Ben, I traveled to San Pedro by plane from Santiago. I'm not familiar with Rio Gallegos in Argentina.

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