Road to the volcano: from San Pedro de Atacama to Licancabur
An experience that will allow you to enter the deepest corners of the Andean Altiplano and come across the most emblematic peaks of the highlands. All stages of this memorable trip, ancient villages and sacred mountains, will allow you to slowly acclimatise en route to the main objective of the expedition: the Licancabur volcano, one of the most important to both the Atacaman and Incan cultures.
From Calama, you will depart in search of the enchanting San Pedro de Atacama, through the desert of the same name. You will arrive at the hotel, after having crossed the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain), to feel in touch with this wonderful land. As an appetizer, the sunset over the Moon Valley will present to you the mountains that are part of your visit over the coming days. The first day will come to a close with a welcome dinner that will delight your palate.
You will begin the second day of the Andean acclimatisation in the Tatio Geysers. You will depart before dawn to be in place at sunrise itself, to witness the spectacle of nature that will be forever printed on your mind. After breakfast, you’ll start on a hike that will take you above 4,000 metres, before starting down to San Pedro de Atacama, through the idyllic landscapes of the highlands, in particular, the incredible biodiversity of Vado del Río Putana and the town of Machuca. The day will conclude with dinner in the exotic atmosphere of San Pedro de Atacama.
This day you will advance another step in the process of getting used to the climate to prepare to face the most complex Andean peaks. Undertaking a route south in search of the highland lakes Miscanti and Miñiques, which you will reach after having bordered the great Salina de Atacama. A small trek in the lagoons will take you to Socaire, an enchanting Andean village to lunch before continuing on the road to Toconao and Quebrada de Jere, that you can climb, if you wish. Then you will return to San Pedro de Atacama to enjoy a delicious dinner.
This morning starts with the first climb of the trip. You will take the path that leads to Paso Jama and Hito Cajon to start the rise of this small mountain with a height of around 5,200 metres and at its peak, is a fantastic viewpoint to contemplate your great objective: the Licancabur volcano. Dinner will again be in San Pedro de Atacama.
Starting off early on this new day, you’ll enter the Andean highlands toward the Lascar volcano, one of the most active in South America. Breakfast from this site will be something unique and as you digest it, you’ll climb, at 5,400 metres. Then, another hour of trekking, you’ll be taken to the summit at 5,600 metres. You will return to San Pedro de Atacama for dinner and to earn a well deserved rest.
After breakfast in San Pedro de Atacama, you will depart toward Hito Cajón, the border that separates Chile and Bolivia before continuing another two kilometres to reach the Laguna Blanca refuge, where you will prepare for the rise to the Lincancabur Volcano the following morning.
This morning, hopping on a 4×4, you’ll approach the base of the Licancabur volcano, located at 4,200 metres. Here lies an archaeological site for the Inca priests who would climb to the top to celebrate their religious rites. You will retrace the same ancient trails and slowly ascend towards the summit. Having conquered the crater, you will be compensated with a view of the mythical lagoon, located at 5,900 metres and a panorama of the highlands that will take your breath away. For the descent, you take a path that is a faster way to reach the Laguna Blanca refuge and, if time allows, starting the return to San Pedro de Atacame to enjoy a tasty dinner and a few well-earned rest.
On your way back to San Pedro de Atacama, you will stop at some places in the town of San Pedro de Atacama worth visiting, such as the Archaeological Museum and the artesanal market. Once at the spa, you will enjoy a farewell lunch before you pack to go to Calama, retracing the path and concluding the final chapter of this unforgettable adventure.
On this program we visit mountains over 5,000 metres, where the Licancabur Peak will be the highest peak on this journey, reaching 5,916 meters above sea level, so that a lack of oxygen in the atmosphere (hypoxia) is present during this trip. Therefore, we have made a program that includes a process of acclimatisation to avoid inconvenience and even altitude sickness. It’s very important to have a good physical condition and hydrate constantly during the trip.
Your clothing should protect against wind and low temperatures so a feather coat and hiking shoes rigid or semi-rigid sole are imperative as are walking sticks and sunscreen since the radiation is very high in this area of the Atacama Desert.
The program includes dinners and lunches (or boxed lunch when we’re in the field) and accommodation in hostels in San Pedro de Atacama and a mountain retreat in Laguna Blanca in Bolivia. It is important to note that in the second half of the trip we cross the border between Chile and Bolivia and vice versa. Also included is the obligatory presence of a Bolivian mountain guide for climbing the normal route to Licancabur Volcano.