Chile // El Norte Grande //

The Tatio geysers

A trip to the TATIO GEYSERS is quite an ordeal: first, you drag yourself out of bed in the dead of night with no electric lights to see by; then you stand shivering in the street while you wait for your tour company to come and pick you up at around 4am; and finally, you embark on a three-hour journey on a rough, bumpy road. Added to this is the somewhat surreal experience of finding yourself in a pre-dawn rush hour, part of a caravan of minibuses following each other’s lights across the desert.

But hardly anyone who makes the trip regrets it. At 4300m above sea level, these geysers form the highest geothermal field in the world. It’s essentially a large, flat field containing countless blowholes full of bubbling water that, between around 6am and 8am, send billowing clouds of steam high into the air (strictly speaking, though, geysers spurt water, not steam). At the same time, the spray forms pools of water on the ground, streaked with silver reflections as they catch the first rays of the sun. It’s a magnificent spectacle. Take great care, however, when walking around the field; the crust of earth is very thin in some parts, and serious accidents can happen.

You should also remember that it will be freezing cold when you arrive, though once the sun’s out the place warms up quite quickly. There’s also a swimming pool near the geysers, visited by most tour companies, so remember to take your swimming gear. It’s worth noting, however, that tour guides will refuse to take you if you’re visibly hungover when they come to pick you up at 4am, so it’s best to have a quiet one the evening before.