Every day, with the first flush of the morning, dozens of geysers, fumaroles, hot springs, and mud pools spit out hot water and steam in the Andes mountain. The view is electrifying, El Tatio undoubtedly falls into the top 3 of the most photogenic natural wonders in Chile.
Already have it in your bucket list? Then this article can be of great help.
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Where is El Tatio located?
Located at 4 320 meters above sea level in northern Chile, right next to the Bolivian border, El Tatio geyser field is a magnificent reward for the trek lovers. Also, as you might guess, this is the world’s highest geothermal field.
It’s situated about 80 km away from San Pedro de Atacama and 180 km from Calama, within a depression east of a string of old volcanoes (Cerros del Tatio, Cerro Volcán, Cerro Deslinde, and Volcán Tatio).
What does “tatio” mean?
Different etymologies have been suggested for the name “El Tatio”. One of them is that “tatio” means “oven” and the other popular one suggests that it translates to “grandpa” (Chileans often refer to their grandfather as “tata”).
Is El Tatio the largest geyser on Earth?
Actually no. Opposed to popular opinion El Tatio is not the world’s largest geyser field, but the third most extensive one (after Yellowstone in the US and the Valley of Geysers on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia).
However, it is sufficient to say that, with its 80 geysers, El Tatio is the largest geyser field in the Southern hemisphere (bragging with about 8% of all geysers in the world).
How much does it cost to visit?
First and foremost, visiting El Tatio geothermal field is not restricted. Thus, if you want to visit on your own, you’ll only have to pay the entrance fee (CLP$10000 or 11 EUR).
The cost of the organized tours is about CLP$20000 (or 23 EUR) which doesn’t include the admission fee. In the end, be prepared to pay about 35 EUR (totally worth it).
A lot of local companies are offering day trips, including the small authentic village of Machuca. The prices vary from 40 to 50 EUR depends on the group size, the company, and the extra services included.
Lonely planet recommends booking the guided sunrise tour from San Pedro de Atacama (Duration: 8 hours; Price: starts from 23 EUR per person) to enjoy the appealing spectacle.
As a side note – most tours to the geothermal field come with breakfast and drinks included in the package.
When is the best time to observe the geysers?
There are no two opinions here: if you want to bask in the unique, impressive spectacle, it’s best to visit El Tatio between 6 -7 a.m. every day.
Can you swim in El Tatio’s thermal springs?
Yes, it’s possible to soak in the hot geyser water in a small natural pool. The average water temperature is 35°C, while the temperature outside is about 0°C. So if you can resist the cold – you’ll surely enjoy the bath time.
EXTRA TIPS BEFORE YOU GO
- When planning your trip in the area, try to leave El Tatio for the end when your body is well-acclimatized to the altitude.
- Do not underrate the altitude! In order to help your body acclimatize, we’d suggest eating a very light meal the night before.
- Sticking to the same topic, try to drink more water than you’d normally drink. This will aid you to supply the fluids you waste due to the low temperature and altitude.
- Arm yourself sunblock and a pair of sunglasses as it gets pretty bright up there.
- Take plenty of layers so you’ll successfully deal with the changing temperatures in the desert – a result of the lack of humidity.
- The altitude will most probably make you need more loo stops than normal. Just keep in mind that both bathrooms on the way are not always open.
In the end, here is some inspiration for real travelers: enjoy the spectacular views from El Tatio geothermal field:
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