El Tatio Geysers
The El Tatio Geysers are a very popular attraction visited from San Pedro de Atacama. Over an area of 10 km2, one can admire numerous geysers, steaming fumaroles, boiling mud pools, hot springs, and bubbling pools. It is an impressive sight at times.
The geysers are said to be the highest in the world, but don't be fooled, it is a misleading statement. It is not about geysers spitting water at impressive heights, but about geysers located at the highest altitude. There are at 4300 metres above sea level.
A large majority of people visit the geysers on a tour departing from San Pedro de Atacama. They leave at 4 in the morning in order to reach the site at dawn. It is at these early hours that the show is the most impressive since the fumaroles are more active and the vapour is visible due to the intense morning cold.
As for me, I reached the site in the afternoon and the rangers gave me permission to camp near the entrance, sheltered from the wind. At 4300 metres, the night was cold and tough, but it was worth it. I was able to visit the site in the afternoon, surrounded by peace and quiet; I was the only one around. Then the next day, I made another round of the geysers.
Day 1 - In the Afternoon
Day 2 - Next morning
It is at dawn that the sights are really impressive. Due to the intense cold, the vapour coming from the hot springs and fumaroles is very visible. The only drawback is that I must share the site with a horde of tourists that just arrived from San Pedro.
At 10 AM, the people that came on a tour are already gone. I can enjoy the pool with the few independent travellers still on site. It is way more pleasant this way.