El Tatio is a geyser field located in the Andes Mountains of northern Chile at an altitude of 4,320 meters. It is the third-largest geyser field in the world and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Only Yellowstone in the United States and Dolina Geizerov in Russia are larger, and their geysers are taller than these at El Tatio (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Tatio).
The geothermal field covers an area of 30 square kilometers at elevations of 4,200–4,600 meters , and is characterized by fumaroles, hot springs, steam vents known as soffioni and steaming soil
Here you have boiling water fountains, hot springs, geysers, mud pots, mud volcanoes and sinter terraces. What really disappointed us, was that a lot of the more remote trails had been closed down limiting the visit. This meant, that we could not visit the mud pots and the mud volcanoes.
The geysers are small, and usually they don’t reach more than 1 meter into the air
Deposition of sinter from the waters of the geothermal field has given rise to spectacular landforms
The water of geysers is 80–85 °C (176–185 °F) warm, creating a surreal landscape in the early morning, when the air temperature is below freeze
Steam vents or fumaroles are particularly noticeable in the morning hours when the steam columns emanating from them are particularly visible, and temperatures of 48.3–91.6 °C (118.9–196.9 °F) have been found.
The climate is dry with most precipitation falling between December and March (precipitation 250 millimeters per year) and a temperatures average of 3.6 °C (38.5 °F). During the day the temperature usually reaches 20-24 Celsius, and the steam from the geyser field becomes almost invisible (Source: https://www.explore-atacama.com/eng/atacama-guides/weather.htm).
“El Tatio” receives a lot of tourists, but our opinion is, that it lacks development. We were disappointed over the limited area, where tourist were allowed to walk, which made the experience very crowed. It is a spectacular place to visit, but we really hope, that it will be developed in the future with more and longer trails to spread out the tourists. El Tatio contains 85 fumaroles and solfataras, 62 hot springs, 40 geysers, 5 mud volcanoes, and extensive sinter terraces. ONLY one hot spring were open to tourist, making it very crowed, so we didn’t go in. NO access to the mud pots or mud volcanoes. We found it a little expensive, for what you paid to get into the National Park (10,000 pesos per person = 15 USD or 100 DDK). Or our expectations to visit the third largest geyser field was too big.
Our experience is also colored by the drive to the geyser, where we hit 15 km of huge washboards, slowing us down to a crawl in our van (we have tried that before). It took us about 2 hours to drive the 80 km.
On the other hand, the landscape during the drive was nice
Almost back in San Pedro de Atacama there was still no news from our friends in the “campulance”
We found a great spot on www.ioverlander.com, where we could camp for the night
During the evening we got a text from our friends. We decided to meet up the next morning for breakfast, at the French bakery in town
Meet the “campulance” driven by Sebastian and Melanie
During breakfast they convinced us to join them on a mountain bike ride called the “Devils Throat” in the Chulakao Ravine
Loved the landscape and being able to see it from the bicycle
At the entrance the rangers told us, that we could not bicycle all the way, but would have to turn around. BUT… never trust the rangers, or? Well the bicycles tracks continued, and we were able to do a loop ending at the San Isidro Chapel (built in 1913).
Hitting the local traffic on our way back to San Pedro de Atacama
Wild camping and making plans for the next couple of days with our friends
What did we plan? Check out the next post where we are crossing into Argentina…