Letting off Steam at the Tatio Geysers – San Pedro Part 4

The Tatio Geysers, 99 km from San Pedro de Atacama is another surreal landscape adorning the Atacama desert in northern Chile.


Our sunrise bike ride to Valle de la Luna was a good practice run for waking up early for a 4am trip to Tatio Geysers. At 4,320 metres above sea level, I’m not sure what was more of a shock to the system – the altitude or the extremely early morning rise.


Arriving at the geysers we were greeted with awesome view of 40 violent bursts of vapour, up to 10 metres high.

The white steam glistened in the dawn light against the navy blue sky.


When it’s minus 10 degrees outside at six in the morning at the Geysers, the first instinctive thing you do is gravitate towards the mile high clouds of hot steam shooting out of the ground to warm up. It doesn’t look dangerous, but it is. Unfortunately, many tourists have died in doing just that. Others have caught hypothermia after the blast of hot steam left their clothes wet in freezing cold temperatures.


These geysers are the result of geothermic activity of 85° C meeting the below zero temperatures above ground through fissures in the earth’s crust. So hot are the vapours that our guide cooked our egg breakfast, right there. (Note: do not do this at home kids!). The 40 geysers, 60 hot springs ad 70 ‘fumarolas’ make up the 3km geothermic field.


Attempts in the past to capture and use this geothermic energy have resulted in polemic failures. In 1960 CORFO, Chilean economic development agency, started a project to generate electricity to use in nearby mines. Eventually it resulted in financial loss and the company terminated the venture. The project base is still in tact and is now only used by scientists.


Energy prospection in 2009 by GDN, a geothermal exploitation company jointly owned by Chilean State holdings and an Italian Energy consortium, brought about major community concerns about the public safety of the project. It’s still a point of contention for the locals.


After breakfast we had the choice to go and bathe in the nearby hot springs or continue moving to keep warm and get the feeling back into our extremities. At minus 10 outside, we decided on the latter.


On the way back to San Pedro, we stopped briefly in a village called Machuka. The tiny village and its 5 habitants thrive on the passing tourism here for selling handicrafts, hot meals, homemade cheeses and even accommodation for those eager travellers passing through here on foot.


And with that our hot and steamy (no pun intended) week in the Chilean desert of Atacama was complete.


Proxima estación…Bolivia!

2 Responses to “Letting off Steam at the Tatio Geysers – San Pedro Part 4”
  1. Carole Malinda says:

    Can’t wait for your next adventure

    • munyivaresponsibletravel says:

      Us too! We’re a little slow with the blog updates because of a lack of internet connections in Bolivia, but we’re getting there.

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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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