It’s time to take a sunrise tour of El Tatio Geysers in Northern Chile.
Visiting El Tatio Geysers At Sunrise
As I set my alarm for 4am, and rolled over in Hostel Desert – our cute little base in San Pedro de Atacama, I felt excited for the next day’s events. Over the past year or so of travel blogging I’d visited Costa Rican waterfalls, Guatemalan volcanoes, Mayan ruins, medieval Croatian cities and been swimming in several oceans, lakes and rivers. Up until now though, I’d never seen a geyser. In fact, I didn’t really know what a geyser was.
At an altitude of 4320m, 90km north of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and just a few metres from the Bolivian border, is El Tatio (geiser del tatio). It’s the world’s third largest geyser field, and home to 80 active geysers. It’s aptly named too – El Tatio is a native American word for ‘oven’, and in an ancient lost language means ‘old man who cries’.
What Is A Geyser?
Well, as I looked out at sunrise, I’d describe it as an eerie area of land filled with bubbling pockets of water and steaming gases. Geysers occur when cold underground rivers hit hot rocks, heating and projecting the water up to the surface. As we were in a volcanic region in the Andes Mountains, it was hardly surprising to find them here.
But let’s go back to the beginning. It was 4am, I was deep in the heart of the Atacama Desert with just constellations for illumination, and wearing as many layers as I could for warmth. We were heading to high altitude for sunrise… and from what I’d heard, it was going to be cold.
Booking A Tour To Visit El Tatio Geysers At Sunrise
We chose to book with a popular tour operator. Once on board a minibus, friendly tour guide Veronica introduced herself, then suggested we catch a few zzzs as the journey would take around an hour and a half. Never a good napper (and full of beans at 4.30am – much to my other half’s annoyance), I attempted to take in the landscape. Yes it was pitch black, but occasionally there was an ominous silhouette of a volcano, or a new view of the spectacularly starry night sky.
Driving To El Tatio Geysers At Sunrise
I’m not going to lie, as someone who suffers with travel sickness, this journey was a tough one! The roads were incredibly bumpy and full of bends, leaving me very jealous of the dozing passengers around me. As we neared the entrance to the geyser site, the sun started to rise casting beautiful glimmers of light over the mountains. This was the start of an extremely magical day.