10 Awesome Awasi Outings in the Atacama Desert

By ~ Eric-Sheets 

Awasi is a classy, cozy and colorful lodge from which to explore the highlights of the enchanting Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Beyond its luxurious features and exquisite cuisine, Awasi’s private and personalized excursions make it stand out among the rest; each group of guests gets its own 4×4 jeep and private expert guide at its disposal throughout its stay in order to visit the particular places it wants to see and participate in the activities it would like to experience, all free from schedules, time limitations or other restrictions. Awasi has a long list of half-day and full-day excursions to choose from, reachable by 4×4, bike, horse or foot; they bring guests to the desert’s salt flats, unique rock formations, sand dunes, mountain ranges, geysers, lagoons, cultural towns, historical fortresses, and more.

Here are 10 possible outings that can be arranged from Awasi to get a taste of its extensive menu of experiences:

1. Half-Day Atacama History Tour by 4×4 Jeep:

This three-hour tour begins with a drive to the Quitor Pukara, an Atacama fortress dating back to 1,000 AD. After ascending the ruins, you will be treated to a privileged view of the Andes Mountains and surroundings. The drive continues to the town of Tulor, one of the first and most important settlements in the Atacama Desert, where you will visit the ruins, excavation site and the reconstruction of original homes. The tour ends with an optional visit to an archaeological museum.

2. Half-Day Excursion to Toconao and Atacama Salt Flats by 4×4 Jeep:

First, you will stop at Toconao town, which is famed for its buildings made of volcanic stone. Here, you can visit the town’s church and crafts market in the main square, before heading to the nearby Jere creek. Afterwards, visit Chaxa Pond, which is a National Reserve at the Atacama Salt Flat, where you can observe flamingos and other native bird species while enjoying views of the surrounding mountain ranging.

3. Full-Day Excursion to Tatio Geyser by 4×4 Jeep:

Departing at dawn, you will arrive at the Geothermic Camp of Tatio, underground springs that spray out steam and hot water in intermittent spurts. You will enjoy breakfast while watching the sun rise, observing the landscape and its fumaroles. Afterwards, visit the town of Machuca or stop at the Puritama hot springs for a relaxing dip in naturally heated volcanic pools.

4. Full-Day Excursion to Tara Salt Flat by 4×4 Jeep:

Heading towards Bolivia and Argentina, you will first reach two impressive volcanoes: Licancabur Volcano and Juriques Volcano. Continuing on, you will drive through the altiplano where you will sight vicuas and flamencos before reaching the extraordinary rock formations of Pakana Monk. Following a trail off the paved road, you will arrive at enormous rock cliffs that surround the Tara Salt Flat, where you will have lunch while enjoying a striking view of Lake Tara and its surroundings.

5. Half-Day Hike to Kari Canyon:

You will be driven to a lookout point near the lodge, from where you will view the Salt Range before starting on your hike on a narrow trail with a ravine on one side. You will descend the dunes and walk through Kari Canyon to explore caves, caverns and more. The hike can continue on to Moon Valley if desired.

6. Half-Day Hike to Guatin and Gatchi:

You will be taken in 4×4 to Guatin Valley, or “Valley of the Cacti”, starting the hike inside a creek along the Vilcama River. This attraction has an abundance of cacti, various geological formations, small waterfalls, and brooks, keeping the entire hike interesting. After the first hour along the river bed, you will begin walking toward the archaeological site of Gatchi, an old pastoral range.

7. Full-Day Hike to Patos Creek:

This five-hour hike begins from the town of Talabre, from where you will follow an old road used by shepherds in the past. On the way, you will cross several ravines and will see ancient cave paintings that depict the lives of shepherds from thousands of years ago. After lunch along a creek, you will reach Patos, which has its own unique history and is home to well-preserved stone constructions.

8. Half-Day Hike to Moon Valley:

Especially recommended in the afternoon, so that you can watch the sun set at this place of incredible beauty and solitude, this excursion includes a 3.1-mile hike through abandoned salt mines. You will hike over salt layers, sand dunes and clay before arriving to an impressive dune in the middle of the Salt Range.

9. Half-Day Bike Ride to Cejar: 

This 11.25-bike ride is entirely flat, though most of the route is on dirt road. The final destination is Cejar, which consists of three turquoise lakes, one of which you can swim in; the salt concentration is so high in the lakes that you can easily float. Along the way, you will be treated to beautiful views of three surrounding mountain ranged: the Andes, the Domeyko and the Salt Range.

10. Half-Day Horseback Ride to Death Valley: 

On this excursion, you will horseback ride for approximately three hours, starting towards the Quitor Oasis on narrow dirt roads and continuing on to Death Valley. Huge clay formations, large dunes and the Salt Range will serve as the backdrop.