We spent our last day in Chile on another tour, this time being taken round the altiplanic lakes and the multi-tonal mountains surrounding them – begetting landscapes so spectacular and surreal that they looked like paintings.
Our Cosmo Andino tour guide from the Tatio Geysers tour, Maurizio, picked us up from our lodgings in San Pedro de Atacama at 6.30am and drove us to Los Flamencos Nature Reserve.
Flamingos at dawn
As it was still early and there weren’t many people about, the flamingos and other wading birds hadn’t yet moved away from the lake’s banks. This meant we were able to admire them, and their mirror-like reflections in the lake’s surface, from closer than ever before. The rising sun cast a beautiful light over the lake’s placid surface, creating a magical scene.
Afterwards the eight of us returned to the minibus to enjoy a tasty breakfast of bread, mashed avocado, ham, cheese, biscuits, juice, tea and coffee, before getting back into the minibus.
A spectacular drive
From there we continued driving south, through a wondrous landscape of pastel-coloured lakes and mountains. We stopped often to take in the beautiful scenery, as well as to spot wildlife such as vicunas (like llamas but daintier) and viscachas (like rabbits but with long tails). It was like driving through a dream.
Walking in a watercolour
After an hour or two, we left the minibus to walk between two lakes: Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miniques. The sky was a deep rich blue, and the white fluffy clouds cast purple shadows onto the pastel-coloured mountains. The placid lakes’ white-salt rims faded into cool earth flocked with yellow grasses. As you can see from the photos, the overall effect was one of walking into a watercolour painting.
At Laguna Miniques a decent buffet lunch was awaiting us by the minibus, and we ate it while gazing out at the glorious backdrop.
Tropic of Capricorn
On the way back to San Pedro de Atacama we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn to take photos, and again to see an old church built from traditional building materials such as cactus wood. We made one last stop in a small village called Toconao, which had a lovely run-down belltower at its centre.
Dinner at Ckunna
We were dropped back in San Pedro at around 4.30pm, and rested in our accommodation Ckuri Atacama for a bit before going out for dinner. We began with drinks at a casual cafe bar called Roots, before heading to Chilean restaurant Ckunna for dinner.
Beginning with a rica rica pisco sour (delicious!), I ordered the wokked chicken and red peppers in a pesto and cream sauce with quinoa, while Steve had the pilpil soup with seafood and beef.
The food was really good, and the meal was made even better by the local band playing live in the corner, whose cool, atmospheric music set the scene rather than intruded. It was the perfect end to an amazing few days in Chile.
The following day, we’d be continuing our journey by flying to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2018. All rights reserved.