Just to mention a few experiences that explora Atacama propose, we ride horses through the red land plains and huge sand dunes, characteristic of one of the driest desert in the world, visit turquoise lagoons that are located over 4,000 meters (13,123 f.a.s.l.) in the highlands, walk through geysers, and follow green riverbeds in an area where water is a limited resource.
explora Atacama was designed as the perfect base from where to explore the desert, the Andes highlands and many surrounding natural areas. Through more than 40 explorations that can be completed hiking, by bike, by van, horseback riding or in our observatory, you’ll be able to discover the deepest mysteries of the desert: its contrasts, geography, the sky, wildlife and culture.
Either on foot, horseback riding, or bike –including high mountain ascents and astronomical sessions– over 40 explorations take our travelers to the cultural richness of this fascinating territory. Our explorations are always led by a competent guide from our School of Guides and are made up of groups of up to eight travelers. They have different length and difficulty levels.
The altitude of our explorations ranges between 2,800 (9,186 f.a.s.l.) and over 5,000 meters above sea level (16.404 f.a.s.l.) ; consequently, some of them need prior acclimatization. For safety reasons, high mountain hiking requires a minimum of two night acclimatization so that travelers can get used to high altitudes and then scale up slowly towards higher mountain peaks.
A minimum of four nights are recommended for an exploration experience in which you can really know what Atacama is about, although we are sure that after each exploration day you will want to extend your stay to explore more of this wonderful place. A six night program is a good option to get a fuller sense of the area and even explore highlands or volcanoes.
Spa facilities include pools, sauna and steam bath, open-air Jacuzzis. Other facilities include barbeque area, Explorer's Bar, massage room, hotel store, private astronomical observatory, horse stables.
Over 15 years ago, explora bought the Puritama Hot Springs, whose innovative architecture has gained critical acclaim. Approximately 19,770 acres of land – a hot springs area currently in the process of being declared a nature reserve that represents a fundamental part of the Fundación explora.
The 50 rooms of explora Atacama are designed to take full advantage of the silence, privacy, and spaciousness of the surrounding landscape, ensuring deep rest after a long day of exploration. Rooms are not equipped with televisions or Wi-Fi, only available in the hotel’s common areas.
19 Tulur rooms measuring 33m² (355 feet²). Views of the Cordillera de La Sal, or Salt Mountains.
27 Yali rooms measuring 33m² (355 feet²). Views of the desert landscape.
4 Catur suites measuring 50m² (538 feet²). With balconies and views of the countryside.
The Atacama Desert, running over 600 miles between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, is one of the driest regions on earth. In fact it has hardly ever rained here in recorded history.
During your stay here you'll enjoy full days of exploration with your guide in the Atacama Desert, an incredible world of soaring volcanoes, stark lava fields, and huge rolling trackless dunes. In addition, you'll learn of the ancient civilizations that once inhabited this region.
Every evening explora guides meet with you in the bar/living room area of the hotel. There, they will explain all of the planned explorations available for the next day and help you choose the best exploration for you according to your interests and abilities. The maximum group size is 8 travelers, along with a bilingual explora guide.
Treks, horseback rides, cycling explorations, high-mountain climbs and stargazing sessions will help you to discover Atacama’s ancestral culture and unique wildlife, and also get to know in-depth the varied natural landscapes that make up this vast territory. The following menu includes descriptions of the main explorations; the itineraries can experience modifications at any time and without prior notice.
The explorations are grouped by elevation and activity in order to safely acclimatize the body to the altitude accordingly. Please make sure to speak to an explora guide daily to know the exact explorations being offered.
Guatín – Punta del Inca
Departure by van from explora we take the road toward the Guatin village, at the confluence of the Puritama and Purifica Rivers. For the most part, this exploration goes through a cactus valley. The trail follows the river along a canyon, crossing it several times, and descending by the edge of waterfalls (with falls of 3 meters/ 10 feet, approximately). Finally, leaving the canyon, we enjoy panoramic views of Atacama. Return to the hotel by van.
Departure by van from explora to La Sal Mountains, where we walk along the Kari ravine, a canyon formed by water erosion and surrounded by huge sedimentary walls of clay, gypsum, and salt. During the hike, we’ll tackle different kinds of slopes, descending through a sand dune and two waterfalls (these only carry water during the rainy season). Return to the hotel by van.
Departure by van from explora to La Luna Valley where we enjoy the varied scenery of La Sal Mountains, where the wind and water erosion have carved the land into stone sculptures, geological formations and sand dunes. We walk across several valleys and vast plains, typical of the desert landscape. Return to the hotel by van.
Quebrada de Nacimiento
Departure by van toward the Socaire village. Here, we start the exploration, climbing toward the entrance of the Nacimiento ravine with panoramic views of the volcanoes. We descend through the ravine and have a light snack. Then, we keep hiking through old shepherd paths, following the river and surrounded by rock walls. Return to explora by van.
Departure by van from explora to the source of the San Pedro River. Uphill hike that leads to the summit, with views of the green valley of Catarpe against La Sal Mountains and Los Andes’ volcanoes. This is a great opportunity to enjoy panoramic views, the desert’s silence, and to get a general idea of the Atacama territory. Return to the hotel by van.
This exploration offers a different way of visiting the Tatio geysers, a geothermal field with over 80 boiling water sources. In this trip there are excellent opportunities of studying the highlands fauna, which includes vicuñas, flamingos and foxes, among others. We walk through the reserve with views of The Mountains and steaming hot water sources. Return to the hotel by van.
Departing by van from the hotel, we head north until we get to an old grazing farm. From there, we descend through a ravine into a slightly upward trail that leads to the Puritama hot springs, where we enjoy its swimming pools. To bathe in these thermal waters, at approximately 32ºC (90ºF), is a stimulating experience for both the body and the spirit. The first thermal well has been reserved for our travelers. Return to the hotel by van.
Departing by van, we head toward the Catarpe Valley by an old road. From there, we hike along the ledges of La Sal Mountains Range, with panoramic views of the oasis, the Atacama salt flat, and The Andes, La Sal, and Domeyko Mountain Ranges, three mountain ranges that shape the region’s geography.
By the end of the exploration we descend through Marte Valley’s sand dunes. This is a good opportunity to learn more about the local history, geography and archaeology. Return to the hotel by van.
Departing by van from the hotel, we head toward La Luna Valley. From here, we hike through the reserve’s south side, one of its least explored areas. The landscape has rock formations, natural sculptures, and huge sand dunes. By the end of the hike, we enjoy a 360° view from La Sal Mountains to the Atacama Desert. Return to the hotel by van.
Departure by van from the hotel toward the Domeyko Mountains, home of the guanaco, a mammal of the Camelidae family. We visit archaeological sites with cave paintings and walk through a ravine that was used as a caravan route for trade and foraging by several ancient people that populated the Atacama Desert.
By the end of the hike, we arrive to the Arcoiris Valley, a site with huge earth walls. Rich in minerals, these walls render a multicolored landscape.
Guatin – Puritama
Departure by van from explora to Guatin, a small shepherd village, where we begin an uphill hike that leads to the edge of the ravine of the Puritama River (Puritama means hot water in Kunza language). We walk for 45 minutes surrounding the ravine until we reach the river’s edge, where old Atacama settlements and the source of Puritama hot springs are located.
Here, we have a light snack and enjoy the warm water pools. This exploration offers archeological and anthropological nuances, and an opportunity to get to know the local flora and fauna. Return to the hotel by van.
* Recommended for travelers who want to get acclimatized to the next level hikes that reach 4.000 m.a.s.l. (13.200 feet). Please bring a swimsuit and sandals. Towels will be provided.
Departure by van from the hotel, we take the road to Argentina toward the the Andean Highlands. We begin the walk at over 4.000 m.a.s.l. (13.123 f.a.s.l) with views of several salt flats and highland hills. With birdwatching opportunities, this exploration leads us through salt flats until we reach the pass of the Mochota Hill, with views of the Aguas Calientes salt flat.
Finally, we have lunch at a spot that will be selected depending on weather conditions.
Ruta del Agua
Departure by van from the hotel toward the north side of the Puritama Natural Reserve. We start hiking with views of the The Mountains, its volcanoes and the Atacama salt flat basin. To get to the hot springs, we walk across several ravines, some of them deep and others shallow.
The hike offers a chance to note several changes in the flora and visit the habitat of the Andean mountain cat, one of the world’s least studied endangered species. At the hot springs, we have a light lunch and enjoy the thermal pools. In the evening, we keep walking along the ravine toward Guatin, a grazing area.
Because of the contrasts in flora and fauna due to elevation changes, this hike offers a chance to visit intermediate ravines between the oasis and The Mountains.
Departure by van toward the Argentinean border in central Andes where we hike through remote and colorful landscapes. We walk through unusual rock formations and highland salt flats with views of the mountains. Return to the hotel by van.
This exploration offers a different perspective on the Tatio geysers. We depart by van toward the geothermal field where we begin an upward hike with views of the geysers and the Andes Mountains. Then, we descend through an open ravine leading to a little-known warm-water river. We walk along the river through mineral formations typical of this of geological region.
We depart by van from explora toward the Domeyko Mountains, where we begin cycling along a steep trail, surrounded by thick multicolored walls, until we reach the valley’s ravine . In this exploration we might see guanacos and other local fauna, in addition to the diverse local flora. Return to the hotel by van.
Valle de la Luna
Departure by van from explora toward La Sal Mountains. Here, we begin cycling from La Paciencia plain toward La Luna Valley through a captivating landscape. We return to explora by bicycle. The return roads are very different from one another and include uneven slopes, with several ascend and descends.
Piedra de la Coca
Departure by van from explora toward the Catarpe Valley. We take a detour through an ancient dirt road up to La Sal Mountains. After cycling through an historic tunnel, we begin descending across dry riverbeds into Piedra de la Coca, an area with petroglyphs. We continue over the La Paciencia plain biking through more dry riverbeds and rocky paths. We return to the hotel by bicycle through the Marte Valley.
We depart from the hotel and cycle across the Catarpe Valley. We ascend toward Cuchabrache through an old road that goes across La Sal Mountains, where we pass by several gypsum and salt ravines. During this bicycle exploration, travelers can appreciate the local culture, observe the petroglyphs and visit the San Isidro Chapel.
We depart by bicycle from explora toward the archaeological Tulor and Beter sites. The later is a colonial Atacama settlement where we learn a little bit about the local history and walk along the archaeological remains. After this stop, we continue biking until we reach the ayllu de Solor where we get to see how Atacama people live nowadays. Return to the hotel by bicycle.
This exploration is our first bicycle route in the high Andean highlands. We depart by van toward the Argentinean border. There, we cycle at over 4.000 m.a.s.l. (13.123 f.a.s.l.) passing through plains and multicolored mountains. This remote adventure is a challenge worth experiencing.
Río Grande – San Bartolo
We depart by van from explora toward Rio Grande, from where we begin cycling along shepherd paths on the side of the river. During this exploration, we pass through different ravines. In some of them we will need to get off the bike and walk it along. The strength of this exploration is that it offers speed changes and direct contact with nature. Return to the hotel by van.
Departure by horse from explora toward the ayllus of Séquitor, Yaye, and Checar –all of these are social and farming communities of the ancient Atacama people. Located in small oasis in the middle of the desert, crops are still being grown in them.
Departure by horse from explora toward the south of San Pedro and the ayllu of Solor. Along the road, we can appreciate the traditional building techniques of the desert, with adobe walls and thatched roofs. The ride continues toward the Andes Mountains, crossing the Vilama river, until we reach the ayllu of Solor. We stroll through its walled streets and learn more about one of the most developed farming practices in the Atacama oasis. We return to explora through the pampa.
Dunas de la Chula
We depart the hotel toward the La Sal Mountains. Along the way, we cross the San Pedro River and go through some dunes, from where we enjoy a panoramic view of the Andes and the oasis. Then, we enter a dry riverbed that leads to the Valley of the Dinosaurs and return to explora through the pampa.
We ride from explora toward the ayllu of Cúcuter, an oasis in the middle of the desert. Here, the green vegetation and the chañar trees contrast with the landscape of the desert and the milky colors of Atacama salt flat.
Departure by horse from explora toward the ayllu of Solor, where we can observe the communal lifestyle and local traditions. The ride continues through a trail that leads to the Beter sand dunes, where we can appreciate the flora of the saline regions. Arriving to Beter, we get off our horses and visit an archeological site. We return to explora by horse.
Valle de Marte
We depart by horse from the hotel toward the Marte Valley. Here, we ride through desert landscapes with reddish sedimentary formations and clay esplanades. This exploration is ideal for travelers who want to get a general idea of La Sal Mountains’ geography.
Departure by horse from explora toward the Catarpe Valley through a road surrounded by oasis fields. We trot and gallop our horses before ascending through the ledge of La Sal Mountains, where we enjoy panoramic views. After riding along the ledge, we descend through sand dunes into the foot of the Marte Valley before heading back to explora.
From explora, we head toward Vilama, riding through farms and settlements once populated by the ancient Atacama people. The ride continues through old cattle roads, watercourses and several ravines. Finally, we head for the Gatchi village, passing through volcanic rock formations.
Valle de la Luna
Departure from explora horse stables toward La Sal Mountains, crossing the Chula sand dunes. We trot and gallop our horses until we reach La Luna Valley. During this horseback ride we go through pristine and solitary landscapes, experiencing the desert’s emptiness. For riders used to gallop and trot for long spans.
We ride along the Catarpe Valley following the course of a river that flows toward San Pedro de Atacama. We go up the ravine, passing by Chuschul, a highly regarded archeaological site. We have lunch by the Salado River. During this exploration, we also see petroglyphs.
After lunch, we ride down into the Salado River and follow its course until we get to its confluence with the Grande River. Then, we head toward the San Pedro River, and return to explora through the Catarpe valley.
San Pedro- Matancilla
We ride across La Sal Mountains toward San Bartolo. Entering the ravines, we find petroglyphs and an ancient mining settlement. From the ravine, we take an upward road toward the ledges of the Domeyko Mountains until we reach Hierbas Buenas, an area famous for its cave art. Return to explora by van.
High Mountain Ascent
Departure by van from explora, we head east until we reach Los Andes Mountains. The ascent begins in an old sulphur plant. We climb through a sharp and steep trail for two hours. Toco Hill is an ideal introduction to high mountain climbing. Its summit offers a view of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and surrounding volcanoes.
Departure by van from explora (2 hours) until we reach a sulphur mine located between Bolivia and Chile on the ridge of the Sairecabur volcano (5.300 m.a.s.l. / 17.400 p.s.n.m.). The ascent begins in a steep rocky path. After two hours of trekking, we arrive at the edge of the Saciel volcano crater. From the summit we have a view of the crater’s interiors. The descending route is selected according to wind conditions.
Departure by van from explora toward the Talabre village, southeast from the San Pedro oasis. The ascent begins with a hike through volcanic rocks and boulders. Its length depends on snow conditions. The summit offers views of numerous volcanoes in the Andes Mountains, including the Lascar volcano with its characteristic vent. The descent route goes through volcanic rocks for 2-3 hours. Lunch is served in the highlands.
Departure from explora by van heading north towards Azufrera Saciel, where we will tour an old mine. Our drive continues, as we curve our way up to the Sairecabur Caldera—part of the Sairecabur Volcano Complex. Here we begin our ascent across loose rocks, stones, and boulders. We cross through an old, abandoned sulfur mine, before the final steep ascent across rocks and boulders. The summit is the highest dome of Sairecabur.
Departing by van from explora we head north toward the foot of the Colorado volcano. We start climbing gradually over a slope that becomes steeper as we go forward. We pass through huge rocks and loose stones to continue climbing until we reach the summit, which offers panoramic views of the Atacama salt flat basin and the highlands. The descending route toward the base goes through barely marked paths and requires great care. Return to explora by van.
Departure by van from the hotel to the foot of Jurinquinca Hill, located north of the San Pedro de Atacama oasis. The ascent begins at 4.500 m.a.s.l. (14.763 f.a.s.l.) through a pathless route. From the summit, we see the Andes Mountains, with views of Licancabur and Colorado, as well as parts of the Atacama salt mine.
After completing several explorations at over 4.000 m.a.s.l. (13.123 f.a.s.l.) , gradually acclimatizing our body, on the sixth day we depart by van from explora toward a remote campsite in Bolivia.
Once settled, we go on a hike in the area of Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca, from where we enjoy a good view of the Licancabur volcano. The following day, we begin our hike before sunrise. The trail is very well marked and we light it using headlights. Mid-way, we watch the sunrise over Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca.
After hiking for several hours, we reach the summit, from where we have a view of the world’s highest crater and lagoon. The descending route can be challenging due to the steep slopes and unstable ground. On our way back, we pass by ancient Inca ruins.
*This exploration requires a 60-day confirmation prior to arrival at explora. Check visa requirements to enter Bolivia.
Cuenca del Salar
Departure by van from explora (35 min) toward the south to visit the village of Toconao. In this oasis, surrounded by vegetable gardens, we take a light 45-minute hike.
From here, we continue toward Los Flamencos National Reserve until we reach the surroundings of the Chaxa lagoon, located in the Atacama salt flat. This spot is ideal for birdwatching. Here, we watch the sunset and then return to the hotel.
Departing from explora, on the road to Calama, we take a detour to visit the Yerbas Buenas archaeological site. Here, we have a chance to see different styles of petroglyphs left by caravans that used this site as a resting spot. We continue toward the small village of Río Grande, one of the most beautiful villages in Atacama, where we stroll through its picturesque streets. Return to the hotel by van.
Cordillera de la Sal
Departure by van toward La Sal Mountains, where we can appreciate landscapes typical of the desert, with reddish clay plains, sand dunes and various sedimentary formations. We reach the highest peak in this mountain range from where we have a view of The Mountains. We take a 30-minute hike through the south of La Sal Mountains, one of its least explored areas.
We depart by van toward the Argentinean border to appreciate multicolored landscapes and salt flats in the Andean Highlands. We explore different ecological layers, having the opportunity of seeing diverse flora and fauna, which has evolved to survive extreme conditions. Once we reach the summit, we get off the van to be in direct contact with nature and experience walking at over 4.000 m.a.s.l. (13.123 f.a.s.l.).