If you enjoy beautiful landscapes, you are sure to enjoy this tour, that consists in visiting a couple of Altiplanic Lagoons in the Atacama region, complemented with other mountain scenery and villages that you come across on the way.
About an hour drive away from town (San Pedro de Atacama), the first stop is made by Chaxa Lagoon, a salt plane that offers contrasting views of salty lands against snow capped mountains in the background. This salar is home to a local variety of flamingo that managed to survive on these extremely salty waters, funny enough, rich in a tiny little kind of prawn that doesn’t need any seasoning before being devoured by the hungry birds.
The tour starts so early in the morning, that you actually have breakfast after the first spot: in good Grado 10 fashion, you can enjoy eggs and ham/cheese toast freshly made on the portable kitchen attached to the overland. You get to have breakfast out in the open, surrounded by the imposing mountain ranges and the almost snow-like whiteness of the salt covered ground.
Next stop: Socaire, a small village that lived its peak times while mining was being exploited in the region. Now-a-days, it is of touristic due to its ancient church and bell tower, where our cool guide Cristian explains a little bit of the history of the region. Cristian is a kick-ass guide: not everyone can talk about a church in such entertaining, fresh manner. He does his job with a lot of energy, and that really reflects in the way one gets to enjoy the tours!
Stepping inside Socaire’s church, I can’t help but thinking about the movie Kill Bill, as the building reminds me of the scene when Uma Thurman’s character is getting married, before the bloodshed begun.
After a few more kilometers up the mountains, we finally reach the actual Altiplanic lagoons that give name to this tour. Almost hidden between a series of mountains, one finds two beautiful lagoons of blue waters, surrounded by vicunas (a local animal, cousin of the camel family) feeding on the short grass fields. Nearby, in some huge cracks on the ground, you can see adventurous mountain climbers who defy the stones step by step. This place is pretty all around, no matter in which direction your eyes try to feast on.
Going down, on the way back to town, we still stop in Toconao, a small typically Atacameno town. There isn’t that much to explore here: the central square and ancient church are the main attractive and some tourists seem to complement that with ice-cream, finding some comfort in the shade of the town square trees. The weather is so hot once you come down the mountains and back to the desert, that anything cold and refreshing is much appreciated!
We go back to town to grab a quick lunch, as we’re going on another tour that same afternoon. Actually, a bunch of us are!