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We are Birders - We are Leica

We are Birders - We are Leica

Grand Atacama Desert Fantastico Sur Expeditions

All-inclusive and flexible wildlife and cultural photo tour to the Atacama Desert and Chilean Altiplano. Comprehensive visits to wildlife hotspots, pristine corners with outstading photo highlights and Atacameños villages. Daily departures from Santiago or Calama, Chile.

From US$ 1,190 - 4 and 5 days from Calama, Chile.




Chile's Atacama Desert is by far the driest place on Earth; this is an absolute desert by definition. It is a sparsely populated plateau, extending eastwards from the coast of the Pacific Ocean to the high altiplano. Although the average width of the Atacama is less than 100 miles (160 km), it extends more than 600 miles (960 km) southward from the Peruvian border. The Atacama Desert comprises the virtually lifeless coastal pampas, plains that are dissected by dramatic and deep river gorges. To the east this barren, lunar landscape, changes abruptly as it rises through the foothills of the Andes. This becomes the impressive altiplano, with its alluvial salt basins or salars, fabulous snow-capped volcanoes and a surprising variety of wildlife. During this journey we shall visit the high, dry plains known as the Puna. Although this is a harsh and barren place, it too supports a wide range of wildlife that includes guanacos, vicuñas, bizarre vizcachas and flamingoes.

Join us on this trip to northern Chile, with countless highlights for the naturalist and for the nature photographer. Departures are guaranteed with two participants.



Trip Highlights

• Three species of flamingo (Chilean, Andean, and James').

• Spectacular and diverse landscapes dominated by volcanoes, snowy peaks, puna grasslands and saltpans.

• The Atacama Desert, the driest in the world.

• Explore the pukaras, ayllos and ritual villages from remarkable pre-Hispanic cultures.

• A visit to the Le Paige Anthropological Museum, one of the best in Chile.

• Photographic visits to El Tatio Geyser fields.

• Interesting mammals such as vicuñas, guanacos, foxes and striking birds that include lesser rhea, horned coots.


This program is operated as a custom trip (flexible option which runs on a date you choose giving you more privacy), available upon request for individuals or small private groups.


The Difference of Traveling with Fantástico Sur Expeditions:

• Fully flexible, hotel-based, all-inclusive trip with private transportation and naturalist guide.

• Great hotel-based accommodation, superb dinning cuisine and memorable picnic lunches.

• Spacious private vehicle that ensure a window seat to each trip participant.

• Each vehicle and driver we use has been authorized by the Chilean Transportation Authority.

• The service and expertise of a professional local naturalist leader, who will look after every logistical aspect of “your” holiday.

• Top-class spotting scopes will be available for the use of our guests for a better observation and study of the wildlife and landscapes.

• You will receive a free, signed copy of one of our natural history book "Atacama Desert, Wildlife and Landscapes" by Enrique Couve and Claudio F. Vidal.

• …plus an useful pre-departure information package (maps, wildlife checklists and more).




Day 1 • Flight Santiago to Calama (c. 2 hours) – Drive to San Pedro de Atacama – Valle de la Luna (Moon's Valley)

Today we will fly from Santiago to Calama. Later we shall drive to the pleasant village of San Pedro de Atacama, which will be our base for the following 3 nights.

Hotel Altiplánico or Hosteria San Pedro, San Pedro de Atacama (4*).(L,D)(G).


Day 2 • Chaxa Lake – Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons – Salar de Talar

We shall visit Salar de Atacama, one of the largest saltpans in the world. The water in the saltpans has its origins in the geyser fields and from the melting snow and ice in the highlands. It accumulates temporarily in these huge depressions where it evaporates very rapidly. Salts are concentrated and precipitate, and the water becomes pink, blue or white, through colonization by saline tolerant bacteria and diatoms. Some invertebrates are also able to survive in this extremely caustic environment. The salar and its diatoms are a magnet for the flamingoes, this being one of the few places where you can observe up to three species; Puna, Chilean and James's, the latter being the rarest in the world. The crust of the salar is reminiscent of the topography of a ploughed field. It is dominated by many ridges and crevices and it is encrusted with crystalline formations.

During the afternoon we will visit the impressive Lagunas Miscanti & Miñiques which hold one of the few bredding populations of the scarce Horned Coot. We might see herds of vicuñas around these lake agiant the magnificent mountain backdrop.

Hotel Altiplánico or Hosteria San Pedro, San Pedro de Atacama (4*).(B,L,D)(G).


Day 3 • Salar de Tara

Full day exploration to Salar de Tara area where we will also follow the road up to the limit with Argentina, at Jama Pass, located nearly 14,000 ft high (4,230 meters). We will see all three flamingo species (Chilean, Andean and James'), and several high-altitude birds including Andean Tinamou, Lesser Rhea, Golden-spotted Ground-Dove, Mountain Parakeet, Red-backed Sierra-Finch among several others. We will also see the bizarre Mountain Vizcacha and Vicuña herds. There are lots of geological features in the area, including the remarkable rock columns called "Monjes de Pakana". (B,L,D)(G)


Day 4 • Tatio Geyser Field – Vado de Putana - Le Paige Anthropological Museum

Today we will explore the impressive El Tatio Geysers, located at an altitude of 13,800 feet. This is one of the highest geyser fields in the world. Early in the morning we view a bizarre landscape filled with columns of steam, covered by cones of crystallized silica and other salts, and containing ponds of boiling pastel-colored mud. Surprisingly, some plants and animals are adapted to live in these extreme environments at the very limit of where life is possible.

Hotel Altiplánico or Hosteria San Pedro, San Pedro de Atacama (4*).(B,L,D)(G).


Day 5 • Toconao – Transfer to Calama – Flight to Santiago

Early in the morning we will visit the little stone village of Toconao with its unique constructions. This is a small pre-Hispanic settlement, and in the surrounding area we will find a selection of interesting petroglyphs. At midday we will travel to Calama and take our flight to Santiago. (B)(G).


Codes: B=Breakfast; L=Lunch/Box-lunch; D=Dinner; G=Guide; *=Hotel Category


The  Grand Atacama Desert | Trip Map




2010 | 2011 Dates:

Available year-round.

Meet/Depart: Daily departures from Calama, Chile.


Rates for Custom departures (you choose the date):

 Based at Hosteria San Pedro de Atacama
 Trip Length 4 days | 3 nights
 Number of people 2-3 4+
Single Suppl.
 Price per person


 Trip Length
 5 days | 4 nights
 Number of people
 2-3  4+  Single Suppl.
 Price per person
 $1,944  $1,575 $264
 Based at Hotel Altiplanico
 Trip Length
 4 days | 3 nights
 Number of people
 2-3  4+  Single Suppl.
 Price per person
 $1,682  $1,299
 Trip Length
 5 days | 4 nights
 Number of people
 2-3  4+  Single Suppl.
 Price per person
 $2,119  $1,697  $264

Trips are guaranteed to depart with a minimum of 2 participants.

The above price is per person in US$, based on double occupancy.


Do you want us to arrange your flights from Santiago to Calama?

Domestic flights Santiago – Calama – Santiago (from US$ 150 per person).

Duration of the flight: 2 hours (direct).


What the trip includes/excludes

Single supplement will be added if single accommodations are requested.

The trip price includes: All accommodations, meals and guide services as stated in the itinerary, private ground transportation during the tour plus park entrance fees.

The trip price excludes: Domestic flights, tipping, travel insurance, à la carte dishes, snacks, drinks, laundry, telephone calls and anything else of a purely personal nature.


Tour Registration: To register for this tour, complete the Fantástico Sur Expeditions registration form and return it (by fax or email) with a deposit of US$ 500 per person. Full payment of the tour fee is due 90 days prior to tour departure.


Cancellation Policy: Notice of cancellation can only be accepted IN WRITING from the person who signed the booking form and takes effect on the day such noticed is received by us.

Refunds are made according to the following schedule:

If cancellation is made 120 days or more before departure date, the deposit less US$ 200 is refundable.

If cancellation is made between 120 and 60 days before departure, the deposit is not refundable, but any payments covering the balance of the fee will be refunded.

If cancellation is made fewer than 60 days before departure date, no refund is available.

This policy and fee schedule also applies to pre-trip and post trip extensions, as well as any transfers from one tour to another. We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself.