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Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & SPA 5-Night Itinerary

Blessed with a spectacular location in the shadow of the Pukara de Quitor ruins, the Alto Atacama Lodge & Spa is the perfect base for exploring northern Chile’s spectacular Atacama Desert. 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 take part in designing your own experience. 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 6-day/5-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, but that the vast majority of these outings do not require any special physical training or abilities. 

Reviews

“The trip was excellent from beginning to end. The Isabella II was a fine ship and the crew and guides were all of the highest quality. I would recommend them to others. For us, the ship was the perfect size – not too small and not too large.”Walter Squire

Highlights

Atacama Desert, Mars Valley, Full-Moon Walk, Desert Valley, Toconao Village, Los Flamencos National Reserve, Cardones Ravine, Rainbow Valley, Tatio Geysers, Ojos del Salar Salt Lakes

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1: Flight to the Atacama Desert – Alto Atacama Lodge
Day 2: Lican Antai Culture Tour – Rock Art Tour
Day 3: Wetlands and Pecan Monks
Day 4: Tatio Geysers
Day 5: Capur Salt Flat
Day 6: Inca Pass – Departure
Itinerary Map

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Flight to 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
Lican Antai Culture Tour – Rock Art Tour

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 in such a challenging environment is truly exceptional.

8:00 AM: Lican Antai Cultural Tour The first traces of human activity in the area date back more than 10,000 years. Since then, the Atacama Desert has continued to be a hub of human interaction, a commercial crossroads for Andean peoples, and a proud cradle of Ancient cultural heritage. This tour offers guests the opportunity to explore the legacy left by indigenous populations – from the Lican Antai people, to the Tiwanaku culture, and later the Inca civilization. This is a chance to understand the heritage of these local hosts a little better.

For the Lican Antai culture tour, the first stop is the Tulor archaeological site, near the village of San Pedro. Some 2400 years old and well maintained, the site has been of great value in understanding many aspects of local history.

Then, we will travel to San Pedro to explore the old city and its church.

Finally, visit Pukara of Quitor – a pre-Hispanic village that provides an outstanding example of original native heritage.

 11:00 AM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Returning to the lodge, enjoy the luxury of water in the desert and the tranquility of being removed from the rest of the world, while taking a swim in one of the six outdoor pools and an outdoor Jacuzzi, overlooking the beautiful Catarpe Valley and its red mountains. Stones from the surrounding desert form a wall of privacy for each of the pools, where the sense of being deeply renewed by the cleansing water as you gaze out into the desert is a unique experience.

1:00 PM: Lunch – As the focus at Alto Atacama is health and wellness, it ensures only the freshest local ingredients are used to prepare your daily meals. Today, the Ckelar Restaurant and its friendly staff will offer a menu of Andean and Chilean cuisine that caters to any dietary requirement. From the a la carte menu you can select from local specialties like sizzling parrilladas (mix of grilled meats), seafood risotto, Mediterranean-style salad and Chilean staples such as pastel de choclo (maize casserole).

2:30 PM: Rock Art Outing – Rested, refueled and ready, we will strike out on the day’s second cultural tour: The Rock Art Outing.

This trip begins in the region of Hierbas Buenas, where you will find ancient thousand-year-old petroglyphs that represent scenes of the local shepherds’ lifestyles, the day-to-day lives of people of the remote past, and the growth of farming communities.

Having explored the caves and rock faces, move onto Rainbow Valley, so called due to the multi-colored nature of its hills and cliffs, caused by the buildup of different mineral deposits and their reflection of the sunlight.

 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 – The dining experience at Alto Atacama takes advantage of local produce, filling the menu with innovative twists on north Chilean cuisine. With the potential for warm days and the hotel’s high-altitude location, Alto Atacama’s expert chefs create dishes that are light and tasty, not heavy or overwhelming. This approach complements the local traditions with fresh, colorful salads, quinoa and a range of appetizing meat or vegetarian mains. 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 Desert.

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 somewhat chilly, the roaring fire in the lounge’s 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 3
Wetlands and Pecan Monks

7:00 AM: Breakfast – Today’s early morning dining experience at Alto Atacama takes advantage of local produce, filling the menu with innovative twists on north Chilean cuisine. With the potential for warm days and the hotel’s high-altitude location, the lodge’s expert chefs will 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: Wetlands – The Wetlands tour offers the chance to delve deep into the Andean landscape, observing a variety of wildlife.

The first stop is the wetland park of Quepiaco, an important protected area in the region and a great place to spot native bird species.

Next is the Salar de Pujsa, the largest reserve of its kind and the migration point for nesting flamingos to lay their eggs.

11:00 AM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – Returning to the lodge, in the Alto Atacama gardens you’ll meet the local guide, Veronica — usually dressed in native prints, wearing feathered earrings and waist-length plaits. She continues to oversee the gardens and give impromptu tours that offer a fascinating insight into this challenging growing environment.

1:00 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 these with a salad entree made with queso de cabra (local goat cheese), shrimp, and merkén – a Mapuche condiment made from red smoked chili peppers?

2:30 PM: Pecan Monks – For this afternoon’s excursion, you might choose to visit the immense rock formations known as the “Pecan Monks,” noted for their sheer size and abrupt emergence from the desert floor.

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 – 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 recipes and sipping its incredible selection of Chilean wines. 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.

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 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: 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: 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 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 AM: Return to the Lodge / Free Time – After an exhilarating morning excursion, and before a savory lunch, 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.

1:30 PM: Lunch – For lunch, you might want to choose from Chilean desert food specialties such as quinoa, lucuma, traditional Atacama patasca stew, papas andinas (native purple potatoes) and even llama meat. Also, you can try ice creams made from desert fruits like chañar or algarrobo. You can't go wrong.

3:00 PM:  Free Time – The remainder of the afternoon, you may wish to simply relax, enjoy the serenity of lodge’s facilities, swim in the pools, avail yourself of spa, or wander through the grounds.

7:00 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 morning’s activities, explaining the place you will visit and the wildlife you might 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 6
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.

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
6US$ 4,000 PPUS$ 3,250 PPUS$ 4,250 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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Traveler Reviews
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Reviews

“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