Self-Drive: Atacama Desert 4d
This short adventure in the northern highlands of Chile gives you just a taste of this enigmatic landscape. The itinerary uses San Pedro de Atacama, which has the best tourist facilities in the region, as a base. Having your own vehicle gives you flexibility and freedom to roam and explore this magnificent region. This itinerary is flexible and can be adapted or extended according to your wishes. Please inquire.
Once having arrived, you will need to pick up your rental vehicle at the airport or at the car rental office in Calama and then start your journey through the spectacular northern ends of Chile. Your destination will be San Pedro de Atacama; once center to the Paleolithic culture. Impressive rock fortresses on steep mountains encircle the green valley, making it truly a unique and stunning sight to visit. It contrasts with the eerily silent desert landscape home to vast plains and salt ponds with octagonal-shaped crystals reflecting the towering volcanoes. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama.
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
You will have a full day at leisure to explore your surroundings. Located only about an hour away from San Pedro is the Los Flamencos National Reserve where some of the most remarkable arrays of wildlife exist. Home to the dark blue lagoons, flamingo flocks and many other bird species it is an ornithologist’s paradise. The Atacama Salt Flat is similarly a must see and highlight of the region. It is the largest salt flat in Chile with large volcanoes and salt crusts dominating its landscape. Also located in the Atacama Desert is the intriguing Moon Valley boasting various stone and sand formations which have been carved over centuries by wind and water. It has an impressive range of color and texture, looking somewhat similar to the surface of the moon. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. (B)
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA – EL TATIO – PURITAMA (143 KM / 89 MI)
Before dawn break you will depart from San Pedro and head north to the famous El Tatio Geysers; a geothermal field flanked by soaring peaks. El Tatio is situated at 4,300 meters above sea level on the Altiplano. It is the highest geothermal field in the world and boasts spectacular scenery. At dawn you will be able to observe powerful spurts of steam that shoot out from various geyser blowholes and steaming ponds. Afterwards, on your way back to San Pedro continue on to the Puritama hot springs where you can enjoy some rest and relaxation as you soak in the natural thermals pools. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. (B)
AN PEDRO DE ATACAMA – CALAMA (101 KM / 63 MI)
After an enjoyable breakfast depart for Calama to drop off your rental vehicle and continue with your travels. (B)
Valid through to April 30, 2019
Self-drive itineraries are highly flexible and can be adjusted to your preferences. The rates below are sample rates for this itinerary with the specific car types and hotels mentioned in the table. However, Hotels are subject to availability as well as your choice. The final rate of this itinerary will reflect the specific options you have chosen in the course of developing your itinerary.
Rate per person, based on double occupancy. For single or triple rates, different hotels or extra nights, please inquire.
|Rental Cars||with Hotel Don Tomas||with Hotel Altiplanico|
|Hertz cat G||$576||$594|
|Hertz cat J||$488||$576|
|Europcar cat I3||$499||$588|
|Europcar cat F2||$535||$650|
The flight between Santiago and Calama takes about 2 hours and there are several flights per day.
The driving time between Calama and San Pedro is 1 hour 30 minutes.
- 3 nights including breakfast
- 4 days car rental including unlimited free mileage, local tax (IVA), and CDW coverage with a deductible (for details see rental contract)
- Roadmap and descriptions.
- Fleece and wind- and weatherproof outdoor coat or jacket
- Short- and long-sleeved cotton shirts.
- Trekking pants (preferably ones that can be unzipped into shorts). Thermal underwear for high ascents or to visit the geysers, especially during winter.
- Comfortable hiking boots with anti-slip rubber soles and sturdy ankle support to avoid possible sprains.
- Sneakers or sports shoe
- Flip-flops for use at the Termas de Puritama hot springs or at lakes
- Sunglasses, sun hat, sunscreen, and lip balm
- Hat or headband to protect your ears from the wind or the cold when at the geysers.
- Small Backpack
- Casual, light, informal clothing for hotel
cat F2: Mazda Cx-5 4×4 (At) or similar (Jeep)
cat I3: Mitsubishi L200 Katana (Mt) or similar (Pickup)
cat G: Toyota RAV4 or similar
cat J: Mitsubishi L200 4×2 Katana or similar (diesel)
Please note that car rental companies only reserve a specific category of cars, not a specific type of car within that category.
Please mention at the time of booking if you need a vehicle with automatic transmission.
Rental cars do not come with a GPS system by default. They can be added on at an additional cost, but the cover is not complete in remote areas.
Foreign nationals must have an international driver’s license in order to be able to drive in Chile.
- Thin mountain air can affect your car’s engine and diminish your acceleration and climbing power
- The potential for overheating is greater
- The potential for vapor locks is greater
Driving in remote areas bears certain risks and should only be attempted by competent drivers, who should be capable of changing a tire if need be.
- Always carry plenty of water.
- Avoid driving at night (very dark and no street lights).
- Be aware that the heat and dry air can play tricks on your visual perception.
The Hotel Altiplánico San Pedro de Atacama is situated outside of San Pedro, at 10 minutes walking distance from the city center. It is an exceptional and impressive accommodation built completely out of adobe which gives the hotel a special local identity. It features 29 rooms, all of them with a unique design aiming to emphasize the highland roots and boast a terrace showcasing the Andes. From the inner garden, you can enjoy a great view of the snow-capped surrounding volcanoes. In this magnificent hotel, you can also find a swimming pool, a bar-restaurant, internet access, a private parking, and laundry service. It is definitely the perfect place for some peace and quiet.
Hotel Casa de Don Tomás
Hotel Casa de Don Tomás is a beautiful oasis nestled in the middle of the San Pedro de Atacama desert. It features 41 spacious rooms, all of them with private bathroom, telephone, safe deposit box, and heating. Amongst its facilities, there is also an outdoor swimming pool, a coffee shop and a snack bar. All these along with the comfort and the relaxation ambiance it offers will surely guarantee a magical stay in northern Chile.