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Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & SPA 6-Night Itinerary C

The well-appointed Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa is blessed with a spectacular location, as it is tucked away in a valley of serene beauty, in the shadow of the Pukara de Quitor ruins, and has the San Pedro River winding its way along its side. All of this makes Alto Atacama the perfect base for exploring northern Chile’s spectacular Atacama Desert environment. So that you can enjoy as much of this local area as you want – in any way you want – Alto Atacama has created a program of 30 excursions from which you can design your own itinerary. Each night, you will meet with your guide to discuss your options for the following day, selecting outings that allow you to connect with the landscape through carefully devised walks, hikes, biking routes, cultural encounters and astronomical excursions …or by simply absorbing breathtaking landscape. As an example of a 7-day/6-night program, the following is a combination of cultural, adventure, expedition, contemplative and astronomy excursions that will allow you to make a genuine connection with the desert highland plains. Keep in mind that these excursions are designed for people who love nature and extraordinary landscapes, and that the vast majority of these outings do not require any special physical training or abilities.

Reviews

“Everything went off without a hitch. Accomodation was just what we wanted. Clean, great location and within our budget. The dive master was great. ”Sarah Darwin

Highlights

Atacama Desert, Celestial Excursions, Andean Astronomy, Desert Trekking & Mountain Biking, Licancabur Volcano, Desert Trekking & Mountain Biking

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1: Arrival in the Atacama Desert – Alto Atacama Lodge
Day 2: High Catarpe - Tambo Inka Trail
Day 3: Andean Lagoons
Day 4: Tatio Geysers
Day 5: Capur Salt Flat
Day 6: High Andean Villages
Day 7: Inca Pass – Departure
Itinerary Map

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival in the Atacama Desert – Alto Atacama Lodge

8:30 AM (approx.): Santiago de Chile Flight to Calama, Chile – If just arriving in Chile on an international flight and planning to proceed directly to Atacama, you will make your connection at the Santiago International Airport (Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport [SCL]), which will fly onward to the airport in Calama Chile (CJC), the closest airstrip to San Pedro de Atacama.

Otherwise, if you’re already in Chile and continuing your tour of the country, Surtrek representatives will privately drive you from your hotel to the airport, where they will assist you with your luggage and with checking in for your two-hour flight to the Calama.

In either case, plan on arriving and checking in at the airport at least one hour before your morning Calama flight.

1:00 PM: Departure for the San Pedro Oasis & the Alto Atacama Lodge – Upon landing at the Calama airport, uniformed Alto Atacama guides and staff will be there to welcome you in the luggage claim area. As they offer you a choice of refreshing juices, you’ll find the service throughout to be warm, considerate, friendly and refreshingly unstuffy.

After being assisted with your luggage, you will head off on a 1-1/2-hour private drive through the scenic Atacama Desert.

En route to San Pedro de Atacama, you will be served a delicious box lunch consisting of homemade baked goods, Chilean specialties, hot coffee and fresh juice.

After passing through the oasis village of San Pedro de Atacama, you will then continue for about a mile from San Pedro and approach the Alto Atacama Lodge & Spa, which blends seamlessly into the terracotta-colored desert, making it almost invisible from afar.

2:30 PM: Arriving at the Alto Atacama Lodge – Reaching the lodge, you will be led to your room, where you will have time to unpack, get settled in, shower and relax. No matter which of the three room categories you choose, each guest room has a private terrace, calming colors, red-tiled floors, a mini-bar, an en-suite shower room (no baths) and inviting beds.

4:00 PM (approx.): Eco-spa Unwinding – After having had a chance to get acquainted with your room and the surroundings, you may choose to relax at the lodge’s own eco-friendly spa. Enjoy the luxury of water in the desert and the tranquility of being removed from the rest of the world, or go for a swim in one of the pools overlooking the beautiful Catarpe Valley and its red mountains.

7:30 PM: Welcome Dinner – Dining at the Alto Atacama’s restaurant is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Savor unique dishes made from locally grown organic produce such as socaire potatoes, native quinoa or chanar berries. The chefs at the lodge’s restaurant take pride in working closely with local farmers to give back directly to local farmers.

8:30 PM: Briefing on next day’s activities – Later this same evening, your guide will suggest optional activities available on Day 2. Just a few of the 30 adventurous excursions offered include exploring geysers, hot springs, volcano climbs, mountain biking through desert canyons, and exploring ancient Incan ruins and petroglyphs – excursions always led by your personal, highly trained local guide.

9:00 PM: Socializing / Relaxing / Turning in for the Night – After an already long day, you may wish to sit across from one of the lodge’s outdoor fire-pits to sip a post-dinner drink under the stars. The lounge bar offers a range of excellent Chilean wines, spirits and a Pisco sour made with locally grown leaves of the rica-rica plant.

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Lunch - Dinner
Day 2
High Catarpe - Tambo Inka Trail

7:00 am: Buffet Breakfast – For your first desert sunrise, sit down to a sumptuous buffet breakfast featuring a wide variety of dishes, in addition to Chilean specialties and fresh fruit juices.

8:00 AM: High Catarpe – During this tour, guests will hike to several lookouts across the Catarpe area.

The first stop provides a prime view across the Tambo Valley, a vantage point that shows off the surrounding hills, farmland, and pastures.

The walk continues past petroglyphs and rock carvings before hitting the Cordillera de la Sal, and a scenic descent down to the San Pedro River.

11:00 AM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Returning to the lodge, before your lunch you can experience the serenity offered by the Alto Atacama gardens, a calming oasis of centuries-old ceramics, modern-day geoglyphs, indigenous plants, a salt-water pool and hand-carved rock beds.

1:00 PM: Lunch – The Alto Atacama lunchtime dining experience takes advantage of local produce, filling the menu with innovative twists on northern Chilean cuisine. With the potential for warm days and the hotel’s high-altitude location, the lodge’s expert chefs create dishes that are light and tasty, complementing local traditions with fresh, colorful salads, Peruvian corn, quinoa and a range of appetizing meat or vegetarian mains.

2:30 PM: Tambo Inka Trail – This wide-ranging walk takes in some of the most scenic and culturally significant sites that surround Alto Atacama.

Begin at the renowned Chapel of San Isidro, an iconic example of colonial architecture ideally located near the Catarpe Valley. Enjoy views of the surrounding Cordillera de la Sal, where prehistoric geological formations of sand, clay, salt rock and volcanic ash — which have formed over millions of years — line the horizon.

From San Isidro, after having walked through some of the most breath-taking and beautiful trails of the valley, we will cross to Tambo de Cartape, a former center of the Incan empire, constructed over 600 years ago at the height of their dominance.

5:30 PM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Making our way back to the lodge, you’ll have time to shower, rest up and relax before dinner.

7:00 PM: Gourmet Dining – Tonight’s dinner will be in the main indoor dining room or one of the two outdoor dining rooms – the choice is up to you. Alto Atacama created this variety of intimate indoor and outdoor settings to provide guests the opportunity to be in the company of interesting people from around the world while tasting fine dishes and sipping its incredible selection of Chilean wines.

8:30 PM: Briefing on next day’s activities – Your personal guide will again outline the details of tomorrow’s activities, explaining the places you will visit, the wildlife you might see, as well as more details on the history and geography of the Atacama Desert.

9:00 PM: Socializing & Relaxing / Turning in for the Night – As every afternoon and evening, guests have the run of a free open bar, including a selection of eminently sippable Chilean wines. Softly lit, decorated with artwork by local artisans, and dotted with comfy couches and overstuffed chairs, the indoor bar is just the place to curl up in as you work your way through the list and mingle with other international travelers. Then too, the lodge also has its own observatory and telescope for stargazing across the Atacama’s famously clear skies.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 3
Andean Lagoons

7:00 am: Buffet Breakfast – A standard international breakfast will be served this morning, with a range of excellent buffet and cooked options. You’re sure to find that the level of comfort, service and cuisine on offer is truly exceptional in such a challenging environment.

8:00 AM: Andean Lagoons – This excursion will take guests through the southwest region of San Pedro, initially voyaging into the Tropic of Capricorn to a crossroads where the Ecuadorian and Southern Chilean Empires met, an important location during the days of the Inca.

1:00 PM: Picnic Lunch – The focus at Alto Atacama is health and wellness, ensuring only the freshest local ingredients are used to prepare your daily meals – even the picnic meals. Today, the Ckelar restaurant and its friendly staff will have specially prepared Andean and Chilean cuisine for your excursion. You can opt to try one of the local specialties with ingredients like parrilladas (a mix of grilled meats), seafood risotto, Mediterranean-style salad and Chilean staples such as pastel de choclo (maize casserole).

2:00 PM: Andean Lagoons (contd.) – The hiking tour continues to Socaire, a local village known for its traditional church and historical terraced plantations of quinoa and purple potatoes.

Next, on to the high Andean Lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques, formed as a result of ancient ice thaws, these crystal waters provide a sanctuary to observe the immensity of the mountains. The region is also a showpiece for the unique flora and fauna adapted to these high altitude conditions

4:00 PM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Making our way back to the lodge, you’ll have plenty of time to shower, rest up and relax before dinner.

7:00 PM: Gourmet Dining – Tonight’s dinner might feature mushroom quinoa risotto or lamb with tabouli and hummus, with the focus firmly fixed on using innovative techniques and a modern approach to both the flavor and presentation of these dishes, while also staying true to regional recipes and seasonal ingredients.

8:30 PM: Briefing on next day’s activities – Your personal guide will again outline the details of tomorrow’s activities, explaining the places you will visit, the wildlife you might see, as well as more details on the history and geography of the Atacama.

9:00 PM: Socializing / Relaxing / Turning in for the Night – Following an already full day, you may want a nightcap before retiring. The perfect spot for this is the lodge’s outdoor lounge, where you’ll witness a kaleidoscope of stars and other heavenly bodies in the clearest Chilean sky. As the temperature dips to become even chilly, the roaring fire in the lounge bar makes for a warming and convivial spot in the evening. A sense of place is also created by the traditional Inca artworks and wall-hangings.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 4
Tatio Geysers

5:00 am: Buffet Breakfast – An especially early breakfast will be served buffet-style, perhaps featuring cheese, cereal, style, ham, yogurt, bread and muffins, as well as scrambled eggs topped with linseed and served with homemade bread, muesli with yoghurt and fruit, espresso coffee and fresh juices.

6:00 AM: Tatio Geysers – “Grandpa crying” is the local name used to describe the Tatio Geysers, a geothermal field sitting at 4,321 meters above sea level. Beginning at dawn, we will head off to spend most of the morning exploring these geysers, which consist of large pools of boiling water and mud, fumaroles and natural hot springs. This is also a good chance to appreciate the unique flora and fauna adapted to flourish in this extreme environment.

11:00 PM: Andean Village Visit – While returning to the lodge, you will stop at Machuca, a traditional village previously used by local shepherds.

1:00 PM: Lunch – Back at Alto Atacama for your mid-day meal, you’ll find the lodge’s master chef will have prepared a noontime culinary journey that’s every bit as exciting as what you’ve seen in the desert this morning. This gastronomic adventure is sure to introduce you to more local favorites.

2:30 PM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Following a soothing shower to wash away the desert dust, meander around the lodge’s grounds to discover a stable of friendly llamas, in addition to rock art, local produce and six outdoor pools, each strategically placed to ensure maximum privacy and views across the river and rocky cliffs. Before dining, simply wander around soaking up the sunshine or even just sit on your balcony …camera in hand.

7:00 PM: Gourmet Dining – Like all nights, dinner will be simply world class. You will be able to enjoy a menu of fresh, delicious Chilean fare (with a bit of continental influence), whether served in the dining room or al fresco lounge. Promising to be a culinary feast for the senses, this evening’s dinner will be paired with select South American wines, or freshly pressed juice if you choose.

8:30 PM: Briefing with your guide on next day’s activities – Geysers, hot springs, volcano climbs, mountain biking through desert canyons, and exploring ancient Incan ruins and petroglyphs are just a few of the 30 adventurous excursions offered, always led by your highly trained personal guide from the area. You’ll met briefly with your guide to decide on your tomorrow’s activities.

9:00 PM: Evening Massage Choose from a well-honed menu of classic message treatments, including deep-tissue and Swedish massages that use Weleda and organic Coesam products, or locally-inspired Altiplanic mud wraps and quinoa facials. Or, crank up the romance level with an under-the-stars couple’s massage. After (or between) treatments, relax on the outdoor terrace with chilled water and fresh fruit. The spa is open daily until 11:30 pm.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 5
Capur Salt Flat

7:00 AM: Breakfast – Today’s early morning dining experience at Alto Atacama takes advantage of local produce to create breakfast dishes that are light and tasty. In addition, international breakfast standards like pancakes and French toast will be in the buffet.

8:00 AM: Capur Salt Flat – Making the most of the Altiplano during this challenging hike, you will face the majestic heights of Salar de Capur, meaning “fox” in the local Kunza language. This 4-hour hike will take place along 6 miles (10km) of scenic, ascending trails, reaching panoramic lookouts and changing terrain as the pathway weaves its way up to an ultimate altitude of 4,300m above sea level. Once at the summit, expansive views across the salt plains of Aguas Calientes are the reward for your efforts, with this vantage point providing a striking, memorable look at these undulating lands.

12:00 PM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Making our way back to the lodge, you’ll have time to shower, rest up and relax before lunch.

1:30 PM: Lunch – From the Alto Atacama lunch buffet, choose from at least a half-dozen options; perhaps an Asian-inspired lunch featuring spring rolls with shrimp, or maybe a dorado fish grilled with peppers and onions. And what about preceding any of this with a salad entree made with queso de cabra (local goat cheese), shrimp, and merkén – a Mapuche condiment made from red smoked chili peppers?

3:00 PM:  Free Time – The remainder of the afternoon, you may wish to simply relax, enjoy the lodge’s facilities, swim in the pools, avail yourself of spa, or wander through the grounds. In the Alto Atacama gardens, you’ll meet the local guide, Veronica — usually dressed in native prints, wearing feathered earrings and waist-length plaits — who continues to oversee the gardens and gives impromptu tours that offer a fascinating insight into the challenging desert growing environment.

7:00 PM: Gourmet Dining – Alto Atacama created this variety of intimate indoor and outdoor settings to provide guests the opportunity to be in the company of interesting people while tasting fine dishes. For tonight’s dinner, you can choose the main indoor dining room or one of the two outdoor dining rooms.

8:30 PM: Briefing on next day’s activities – Your personal guide will again outline the details of tomorrow’s activities, explaining the places you will visit, the wildlife you might see, as well as more details on the history and geography of the Atacama.

9:00 PM: Socializing / Relaxing / Turning in for the Night – The indoor bar is just the place to curl up in as you work your way through the wine list and mingle with other international travelers. 

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 6
High Andean Villages

7:00 am: Buffet Breakfast – Breakfast will be served buffet-style, perhaps featuring cheese, cereal, style, ham, yogurt, bread and muffins, as well as scrambled eggs topped with linseed and served with homemade bread, muesli with yoghurt and fruit, espresso coffee and fresh juices.

8:00 AM: High Andean Villages – The first stop on this tour will be Machuca. Known locally as the ancient village of shepherds, Machuca offers an insight into traditional farming techniques and practices.

Guests then continue to Putana Vado, a point where the Putana River spreads out into a mini-lagoon and creates a sudden splash of what, by the standards of the Atacama, is lush scenery. This area is known for the variety of native flora, fauna and birdlife species here.

Next stop is Caspana, another typical village of the Altiplano, though noted for its representative architecture and strong cultural identity.

1:00 PM: Lunch – For lunch, we will stop at a local restaurant in the badland village of Caspana, characterized by its ancestral traditions and terraced crops in the middle of high mountains. Here, you might want to choose from Chilean desert food specialties such as quinoa, lucuma, traditional Atacama patasca stew, papas andinas (native purple potatoes) or even llama meat. Also, you can try ice creams made from desert fruits like chañar or algarrobo. All and all, you can't go wrong.

2:30: High Andean Villages contd. – After lunch in Caspana, the journey continues to Chiu-Chiu, a former trading hub of the region. Chiu-Chiu’s streets are best explored on foot, visiting the central church along the way.

Finally, this exploration ends in the village of Lasan, stopping at the lagoon of Inka Coya en route, then back to the hotel.

4:30 PM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – After an exhilarating full-day excursion, and before a savory dinner, invigorate your body and soul in the lodge’s Puri Spa – a truly revitalizing experience where the soothing options include a Finnish Sauna, Turkish bath, Scottish showers, and indoor & outdoor hot tubs.

In any case, you’ll have time to shower, rest up and relax before dining.

7:30 PM: Gourmet Dining – For a Chilean al fresco BBQ experience, opt for today’s dinner cooked on the “Fogon Atacameno.” This exclusive outdoor BBQ offers local delicacies such as grilled ostrich fillet. On selected days, the Fogon is surrounded with live traditional music and a veritable banquet of meats and salads.

8:30 PM: Briefing on next day’s activities – Your personal guide will outline the details of tomorrow’s morning activities, explaining the place you will visit and the wildlife you’re likely to see.

9:00 PM: Socializing & Relaxing / Turning in for the Night – Relax in comfy couches and overstuffed chairs as you enjoy the free open bar while sharing stories about your Atacama excursions with other guests. Before turning in for the night, you can also do some final stargazing in the Atacama skies from the lodge’s observatory.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 7
Inca Pass – Departure

7:00 am: Buffet Breakfast & Packing up – For your final breakfast at Alto Atacama, join everyone in the main dining room and order up some eggs any way you like them …even benedict- or omelet-style with your choice of filling. In addition to international breakfast standards like pancakes and French toast, Chilean specialties will also be in the buffet.

8:00 AM: Inca Pass – This challenging half-day trek begins with a climb to the base of the cornices of the Catarpe Valley, to marvel over the expansive views before your descent. After taking in the surrounding vista, you will begin the climb down through the dunes of the Mars Valley.

The first stop is Coca Stone, an ancient center for the trading of goods and animals, commonly a stop along old indigenous caravan routes. Here, hikers will also find an abundance of preserved rock art.

Next, the vast and arid Llano de la Paciencia showcases geological formations typical of the area, before you continue through the Mars Valley and eventually home.  12:00 PM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Back at Alto Atacama, after a morning of exploring the sandy surroundings, why not revitalize your spirits in the spa, taking advantage of knowledgeable expert hands and aromatic scents?

1:30 PM: Lunch – The lodge’s outdoor bar and the pool-area dining room give you the choice of enjoying a leisurely lunch by the water and a meal paired with chilled glass of Chilean white wine as the sun warms your body.

3:00 PM: Drive to the Calama Airport – After lunch, you will be driven back to Calama. As you head to the airport, enjoy your last look back at the spectacular Atacama Desert, a unique region of inspiring natural wonders.

4:30 PM: Departing Flight to Santiago de Chile – Reaching the Calama Airport, Alto Atacama staff will be on hand to help you with your luggage, get you your boarding pass, and help you check in. At the airport’s security gate, your guide and Alto Atacama staff will say goodbye, truly hoping that you enjoyed your stay and your Atacama travel experience.

The return flight will take you directly to the city of Santiago, the capital of Chile, where you will be met by Surtrek representatives if you plan on continuing your tour in the country (otherwise you will be able to easily catch your connecting flight home or onward). 

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Breakfast - Lunch

Prices

Price per person
Days
Catarpe RoomQuitor RoomTilo Suite
DoubleDoubleDouble
7US$ 4,800 PPUS$ 3,900 PPUS$ 5,100 PP
*Price per person based upon double occupancy.
*PP (per person)
Included in the price:
  • Accommodations in selected room
  • Transfer in/out from/to Calama (airport) or from / to Border with Bolivia
  • Shuttle service to and from San Pedro de Atacama - available from 09:00 - 23:00
  • Buffet-style American breakfasts
  • Lunch and Dinner à la carte (Starter, Main Course and Dessert)
  • Alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks
  • Open bar from 11:00 to 23:30. After-hour charges apply
  • Daily Excursions - 1 full day excursion or 2 half day excursions per person, per day (maximum of 10 guests per vehicle on half day excursions and 8 guests per vehicle for full day excursions). Excursions with local guide
  • Please note, excursions are offered from 15:00 on arrival day until 13:00 on departure day
    Access to Puri Spa (swimming pools, sauna, steam room, hydro-massage bath and shower)
  • Free use of mountain bikes
  • Guests must inform the property of arrival and departure times at least 72 hours in advance, in order to coordinate the airport shuttle service
  • Park tickets
  • Private astrological observatory of the Andes
Not included in the price:
  • Spa treatments (Massage, reflexology, Reiki, etc.)
  • Premium Alcoholic Beverages
  • Laundry, telephone calls, personal expenses
  • Tips & gratuities
  • International & domestic flights
  • Health & Travel Insurance 

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“We loved the Galapagos Islands. Both of our hotels on Santa Cruz and Isabella islands were excellent. Our tour guides were knowledgeable and directed us to the most interesting sights and wildlife. Thanks Surtrek for organizing an excellent trip.”Catherine Anne Woodruff