Plumes of steam from more than 60 geysers and hundreds of fumaroles erupt several feet into the air at the geyser field of El Tatio, high in the Andes in northern Chile. El Tatio isn’t the largest geyser field in the world, but with a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, it’s perhaps the most picturesque.
The El Tatio Geysers are a must for nature lovers and photographers, and the best way to visit is on a guided excursion from San Pedro de Atacama. Most tours include round-trip transport, as well as breakfast after exploring the geyser field; some also stop by another attraction (such as a hot spring or an artisans village) before returning to San Pedro de Atacama.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Watch your step. Visitors have suffered burns from falling through the thin crust into underlying pools of scalding water.
- Dress in layers. It’s cold at sunrise, but you’ll quickly heat up on the way back down.
How to Get There
The El Tatio Geysers are about a 90-minute drive north of San Pedro de Atacama. The road is quite rough, and navigating can be difficult in the dark (if you’re aiming to get to the geyser field by sunrise). Skip the hassle by booking a tour.
When to Get There
Tours from San Pedro de Atacama typically get travelers to the field in time for sunrise, when the geysers are at their most active. Dawn is also the ideal time to spot wildlife like vicuñas and llamas. If you’re driving yourself, you can beat the crowds by going later in the day, but the show won’t be quite as impressive.
The tiny nearby village of Machuca is a popular stop after visiting the geysers. With only around 10 residents, Machuca has a pretty wooden church and a few rustic homes with thatch roofs. Buy artisan-made souvenirs, and sample the local specialty, llama empanadas.