Bask in Chilean sunrise and sunset
THIS place almost never rains. In San Pedro de Atacama, in the northern part of Chile, lies some of the most spectacular scenery. But be wary of altitude sickness, as the Chilean town is situated about 2,400m above sea level.
VISITING THE TOWN
San Pedro de Atacama is so small that you can walk around the town in under an hour.
The hotel we stayed at, Hotel Dunas, is a small, one-level establishment located conveniently near the Plaza de Armas. The place is suitable for one to two people per room.
One noteworthy place to visit is the main church right beside the Plaza de Armas, the whitewashed Iglesia de San Pedro, which serves the townsfolk. It is a small, wooden-ceilinged colonial church built with indigenous materials.
A short ride from town is the Salar de Atacama, which is a salt flat. This is caused by the depression from the rising of the Andes with the neighbouring Domeyko mountain ranges.
Within the salt flat are lagoons filled with brine shrimps. These 1cm-long crustaceans serve as food for migratory birds. Laguna Chaxa is one of the biggest lagoons in this reserve, and, with its abundance of brine shrimps, is one of the most popular breeding sites for flamingoes.
Before sunset, head down to one of the Lagunas Altiplanicas to enjoy a peaceful afternoon by the lakes.
The best way to end the day is to head to the San Pedro night market to mingle with the locals and purchase some souvenirs.
EL TATIO GEYSERS
About 90km away by car is the impressive sight of the El Tatio Geysers, the world's highest geysers located 4,300m above sea level, which are best visited at dawn.
Wear thick clothing as temperatures can be as low as minus 10 deg C. Still, the crowds start to disperse after 7am, and most tourists head to the nearby hot springs for a dip.
The hot springs reach temperatures of about 33 deg C. Take along a towel and a change of clothes if you want to soak in the mineral-filled water.
Having enjoyed the sunrise at the geysers, head to the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) for great views of the sunset.
There, find the perfect spot on the sand dune and watch the spectacle of the sun slipping slowly below the horizon.
The writer is an IT consultant who blogs at http://imatraveller.livejournal.com