red and purple hues as sun sets over mountains on explora atacama land tour in chile
adventurers relax in a swimming hole in the atacama desert in chile
van on otherwise-deserted desert road in chile on explora atacama trip
five horseback riders ride across sand dunes on explora atacama land tour
three bikers ride near a desert lake on explora atacama land tour
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South America Chile Land Tour

Explora Atacama

In harmony with the surroundings and local traditions, Explora Atacama is a lodge-based trip in the Atacama Desert, near the village of San Pedro. Rising from the Pacific Ocean up to the Altiplano—the foothills of the Andes comprising a vast high plateau at the base of the volcanoes, extending into Argentina, Bolivia and Perú—the Atacama Desert is known as the driest place on earth.

Choose your own adventure over the course of a 4-, 5-, 6- or 7- day stay with more than 40 in-depth explorations that range from hikes, bike rides, high mountain ascents and horseback rides, in small groups of eight or fewer guests. This unique style of Atacama Desert travel offers varying degrees of difficulty ranging from easy to expert and different durations, including half day or full day. Your home base is the exquisite Explora Atacama lodge.

Explora Atacama’s 42 acres were once inhabited by an ancient Atacameño community and the site’s original layout has been preserved. Its terraces provide breathtaking views of the surrounding areas, including mountains and volcanoes. After a full day of activities of your choosing, end each evening with views of one of the clearest skies in the world at the observatory, soak in the Puritama Thermal Baths or even enjoy a massage in a 300-year-old adobe building. Explora offers Atacama Desert travel at its finest!

Read on for details about this trip, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Chile tours.



Itinerary

Explora Atacama Itinerary

The Explora Atacama Trip is an in-depth exploration of the Atacama Desert from hikes, bike rides, high mountain ascents and horseback rides, in small groups of eight or fewer guests.

Route map of 4-, 5-, 6- & 7-day Explora Atacama land tour, operating round-trip from Calama, Chile, with time spent in the desert community of Ayllu de Larache, in southern Chile.
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Day 1
Arrive Explora Atacama, Chile

Staff will greet you at the airport for the beginning of your adventure at Explora Atacama. Explora Atacama is located in the Ayllu de Larache (initially a kin-based community of the ancient Atacameño people). Walk the grounds of this amazing lodge that comprise 20 indigenous parcels, and relax with the included drinks while planning your coming days’ adventures with the guide.

Accommodations

Explora Atacama

Meals

lunch, dinner

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Days 2 - 3
Discover the Atacama Desert

Over the course of your days spent at Explora Atacama you will have over 40 explorations to choose from. Immerse yourself in the natural and cultural wealth of the Atacama Desert on foot, bicycle or horseback. The hikes, horseback rides, bicycle rides, high-mountain ascents and stargazing sessions are the quintessential way to explore and discover the landscapes, people and wildlife of this unique territory. Every evening your guides meet with you at the lodge bar or living room area to explain all of the next day’s available explorations and help you choose the best option according to your interests and abilities. The maximum group size is 8 travelers, and a bilingual Explora guide leads every exploration. These explorations are off the beaten path and completely unique – you will not witness other travelers experiencing the region or immersing with nature like Explora Atacama does. Below is a sample of how you might spend your days with some top recommended activities. Hikes range from easy to expert high-mountain ascents with elevations of nearly 18,000 feet.

Featured Atacama Hiking Explorations

Salar del Atacama

This easy, half-day, 1.2-mile hike takes about one hour with a maximum altitude of 8,000 feet. Cruise by van for 35 minutes before entering the town of Toconao to beginu your gentle 45-minute hike through beautiful oasis surrounded by orchards. Then head towards the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos to Laguna Chaxa, where the Salar de Atacama is located, an ideal spot for bird watching (depending on the season). Here, wait until sunset and head back to the lodge.

Cornisas

This is easy, half-day, 2.5-mile hike takes about 2-2.5 hours. Depart by van towards the Catarpe Valley where you will begin trekking along the cornices of the Cordillera de la Sal, with panoramic views of the Oasis, the Salar de Atacama and the Andes. The hike ends with the majestic dunes of Valle de La Muerte.

Quebrada de Nacimiento

This moderate, full-day, 7.2-mile hike takes about 6 hours. Drive towards Socaire for the entrance of the Quebrada de Nacimiento Ravine with panoramic views of the volcanoes. Enjoy a lovely picnic lunch before descending along old shepherds’ trails that follow the river and are surrounded by magnificent rockwalls.

Ruta de Auga

This full-day, 6-mile hike leads to puritama natural reserve, one of the places where the Andean cat has been living in extinction. The hike ends at the Puritama Hotsprings Reserve.

Kulamar

This advanced, full-day, 6-mile hike takes 4.5 hours. Arrive by van to the Altiplano and the Salar of Atacama. Begin walking toward one of the many salt flats of the Altiplano where you might see flamingos or other small birds in and near the lagoon. After descending, walk along the edge of the salt flatt, hen climb towards the Salar de Aguas Calientes for a spectacular view. Finish your trek with a splendid lunch.

Volcán Corona

This expert, full-day, 2.4-mile hike takes 9.5 hours and reaches an elevation of 16,931 feet. You need about four nights of acclimatization to attempt this trek. The van drops you off in Talabre where your ascent begins by trekking across volcanic rocks and boulders. Once you reach the summit, enjoy amazing views of the entire volcanic arc of the Andes, including Lascar Volcano. Descend through numerous volcanic rock fields to a much-welcomed lunch in the altiplano. There are very few places in the world that allow you to access elevations above 16,400 feet. It’s an experience of a lifetime.

Featured Atacama Biking Explorations

Laguna Céjar

This easy, half-day, 11-mile biking excursion takes 2.5 hours. Depart south by bicycle, crossing the ayllus to reach the entrance to the Salar de Atacama area, where you can observe vegetation specially adapted to the salty ground. The trail is flat and easy, full of areas dusted with chusca (powdery soil). Finally, reach a set of lakes where the Céjar Lagoon is located and have the opportunity to float in its salty water (bathing suit and flip-flops required; towels provided). Return to your Atacama lodge by van.

Piedra de la Coca

This advanced, half-day bike over 3 hours covers 11 miles. Bicycle from the lodge towards the Catarpe Valley where you will take a detour on an old dirt road that goes up towards the Cordillera de La Sal. Pedal through a historic tunnel before starting a zigzagging descent through dry river beds, which eventually lead to Piedra de la Coca, an area with petroglyphs. Continue down through the Llano de Paciencia riding along more dried river beds and stony off-road terrain. The exploration ends with the van and drinks awaiting you on the road to San Pedro. This trip can be extended for 12.4 miles to add on the Moon Valley Circuit option.

Andes

This full-day, challenging mountain bike ride follows the highest route in the altiplano, reaching 14,845 feet. You need about two nights of acclimatization to attempt this bike ride. Depart by van toward the Argentinean border where you cycle at over 13,123 feet, passing through plains and multicolored mountains.

Featured Atacama Horseback Riding Explorations

Sequitor

This easy, 4.8-mile, 2-hour ride is excellent for novice riders. Leave the stables and head towards the Ayllus de Larache, Yaye and Séquitor. Along the way, see diverse vegetation and local agrarian fields along the Río San Pedro.

Dunas de la Chula

This moderate, 12-mile ride takes about 2 hours. Leave on horseback to Cordillera de la Sal. On the way take in the panoramic views of the ayllus, the salt lake and the Andes Mountains. The trail follows along dunes and rock formations.

Velle de la Luna

This 15.6-mile, half-day ride takes about 4 hours. Trot and gallop towards Valle de Catarpe to climb the cornices of Cordillera de la Sal for spectacular panoramic views. Descend through the dunes towards Valle de la Muerte.

Ayllus

This easy, half-day ride visits the ayllus (social and agricultural communities in atacama), a small oasis in the middle of the desert where the local people have their orchards.

Accommodations

Explora Atacama

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 4
Depart Explora Atacama

Your amazing time in the Atacama Desert has come to an end, but your unique explorations will have changed you. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and hop aboard the van one final time.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Transfer from and to the Calama Airport on a preset schedule; accommodations; all meals, plus snacks and open bar; two half-day explorations or one full-day exploration with guides daily; horseback and bike riding gear, trekking poles; star-gazing sessions from the hotel’s observatory; entrance to nature reserves, national parks, archaeological sites and Puritama hot springs; access to pools, hot tubs and leisure areas; WiFi in common areas.

Exclusions

International airfare, insurance of any kind, discretionary gratuities, spa or massage service, laundry, premium wines or other items of a personal nature; peak season/holiday surcharges (please contact AdventureSmith for details).

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 30% of the total trip cost is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 90 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms may apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person penalties, based on number of days prior to departure:
Up to 61 days – full refund
60 to 30 days – $200 per room
29 to 10 days – 30% of total trip cost
9 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Arrival & Departure

The Explora Atacama adventure begins and ends in Calama, Chile (CJC). We highly recommend arriving one day prior to your trip start date in case of any flight delay, cancellation or lost luggage issues. Plan flights to arrive to Calama, about a two-hour flight from Santiago, anytime on day 1; a representative will meet you based on your flight schedule and transfer you to Explora Atacama. Plan flights to depart Calama anytime after 11am on the final day. Arrival and departure transportation can also be arranged from the Chilean border in Sico and Jama, for an additional fee. Please inquire for details. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Activities

Whether you are looking for light activity options or more challenging outdoor pursuits, the guides can tailor most excursions to suit your skill level. Adventure activities cover every corner of the Atacama Desert, either by horse, bike, foot or van. Prior horseback riding experience is not required. Hikes range from easy to expert mountain ascents. A bilingual English or Spanish guide will accompany each group of up to eight guests. Provided gear includes walking sticks and leg protectors for hikes; helmet, bike and water bottle for two-wheeled excursions; and all the necessary equipment for horse riding.

Room Configuration

For the 2020-21 season, single travelers wishing to book a double-occupancy room may do so at one of the following supplements of the per-person listed rate in select rooms upon availability:
– 15% May 1 through October 31, 2020 and April 4 through 30, 2021
– 34% November 1 through December 21, 2020; January 2 through February 11, 2021; and February 21 through March 28, 2021
– 70% December 22, 2020 through January 1, 2021; February 12 through 20, 2021; and March 29 through April 3, 2021

For Christmas, the programs have fixed check-in dates with stays of 6 days. For New Year, the programs have fixed check-in dates with stays of 7 days. During Carnival, the programs have fixed check-in dates with stays of 5 days.

Families & Children

For the 2020-21 season, there are additional beds for children 3 to 11 when sharing their parent’s room. Maximum one extra bed per room and two children per adult. Children under the age of 3 are complimentary when sharing room with their parents. Please inquire for special rates for children ages 3-17 years old accompanying their parents, which are subject to availability. Rates for children aged 12-17 traveling with their parents are not valid December 22 through January 1, February 12 through 20 and March 29 through April 3.

Travel Insurance

Protect your travel investment with insurance. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. You must purchase your travel insurance policy within 15 or 21 days of booking (depending on plan) for it to cover pre-existing medical conditions; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.Alternative Itinerary

In addition to the 4-day itinerary listed above, 5-, 6- and 7-day itineraries are available, adding extra days to discover the Atacama Desert. Please inquire for pricing and details.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the guides’ discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of adventure travel unique. Between mid-December and the beginning of March, occasional rains and snow in higher areas result in what is called the Altiplano Winter. During these months and due to unstable weather conditions in the area, some explorations could be subject to changes or even cancelled in order to protect travelers’ safety.

Rates & Dates

Trip Rates & Details

Note that Low Season rates apply May 1-June 30, 2020; Shoulder Season rates apply July 1-October 31, 2020; High Season rates apply November 1-December 21, 2020 & January 2-February 11, 2021 & February 21-March 28, 2021; and Peak Season rates apply December 22, 2020-January 1, 2021 & February 12-20, 2021 & March 29-April 3, 2021.

See Deals section for details on flexible booking policies.

2020-21 Low Season
Explora Atacama Lodge
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From $1817USD
Per Person
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2020-21 Shoulder Season
Explora Atacama Lodge
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From $2100USD
Per Person
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2020-21 High Season
Explora Atacama Lodge
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From $2577USD
Per Person
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2020-21 Peak Season
Explora Atacama Lodge
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From $3036USD
Per Person
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Accommodation

Learn About the Lodge on Your Itinerary

Lodge
Explora Atacama Lodge

Explora Atacama is a luxury lodge located in the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama 8,202 feet above sea level in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Exquisite dining, enchanting grounds and over 40 unique explorations are how you will spend your time embracing the area.

Deals

Current Deals on This Trip

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Offer expires November 30th, 2020
No Solo Premium On 2021 Explora Atacama Adventures

Book your Atacama Desert adventure as a solo traveler and don't pay the premium in this special deal.

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Offer expires October 31st, 2020
Save 25-30% On Explora Patagonia, Atacama & Rapa Nui Adventures

Save up to 30% per person on your 2020 or 2021 Explora Patagonia, Atacama or Rapa Nui adventure.

Expert Review

Reviews from Our Experts So You Know What to Expect

Todd Smith • February 20th, 2017
Expert Review: Explora Atacama

Reach new heights with AdventureSmith founder Todd Smith as he explores the Atacama Desert and climbs the 18,000-foot Cerro Toco.

Book with the confidence that comes from experience.

100+ combined years of experience, 7 continents explored, decades of expedition cruising around the world & here to help you find & book your dream trip.

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Explora Atacama

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