El Tatio Geysers
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The geysers of El Tatio, just starting to spurt their steamy stuff at 6am.
The Tatio geysers are a pain to get to. You have to be there for 7am (by 8 o'clock it's winding down and by 9 o'clock geyser activity is over for the day) and it's a 100km of tough, winding gravel road that takes about two hours of pitch dark driving. Most tours leave at 4am.
Furthermore, on arrival the air temperature is probably
going to be below zero, perhaps -5C or even -10C, an unpleasant shock
after San Pedro's heat and thick clothing will be required.
The altitude of 4,500m is also enough to make most unacclimatised visitors feel most peculiar, if not downright sick.
El Tatio geysers, way up in the mountains above the heat of Chile's Atacama Desert, fire up at the crack of dawn where the temperature is a decidedly chilly -5 Celsius.
However, the area is fantastically unique, with gouts of water and clouds of vapour puffing out at 85C from 40 geysers and 70 fumaroles over 3 sq kms, with strange crystalline shapes, bizarre coloured mineral deposits, volcanoes looming over and vicuña lurking about.
In addition the drive back to San Pedro, in daylight now, is a fantastically barren dreamscape of rocks, volcanoes, lakes and vicuña, morphing into more grassy terrain with guanacos (almost llamas), cacti and the wonderful hot springs of Puritama, then on to the salt fields of Atacama.
El Tatio, it's not all about geysers! But just don't fall in unless you fancy being boiled alive. It does happen.
El Tatio polychromatic mineral deposits. With altitude wobbles it becomes positively psychedelic!
A swimmable thermal pool at El Tatio, 9am. Notice geyser activity has disappeared from the background. Not a bad pool and free to boot, but if you have $10 to spare the Puritama pools en route to San Pedro are more sssensational.