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Atacama Desert

Overview

Welcome to the Atacama Desert, a landscape like no other! We are delighted to offer this spectacular adventure, organised by an experienced and dedicated local team of horsemen and guides. Registered and certified with SERNATUR, the national tourism service, this outfitter offers high standards of …

Highlights

  • Ride through the driest non-polar desert in the world
  • Admire snow-capped volcanoes as you cross the altiplano
  • Ride through mountains, canyons, salt lakes & dunes
  • Enjoy a Pisco Sour around the campfire, under the stars
  • Look out for flamingoes, llamas, vicunas and condors

Essential Facts

  • 1 itinerary available
  • Max 14 riders per group
  • Average of 7 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 100kg / 220 lbs / 15st 10lbs

Description

Welcome to the Atacama Desert, a landscape like no other! We are delighted to offer this spectacular adventure, organised by an experienced and dedicated local team of horsemen and guides. Registered and certified with SERNATUR, the national tourism service, this outfitter offers high standards of safety and quality, whilst still bringing you a serious adventure - this is one for those with a true spirit for the outdoors, riders who are unafraid to cross wild and harsh terrain, to camp in remote regions and spend long hours in the saddle. Your guides are trained Wilderness First Responders and have been riding and hiking in the Andes Mountains since the early 90s.

The Atacama desert is a plateau in northern Chile which covers a thousand kilometers of land on the Pacific Coast, west of the Andes mountains. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world and is still home to descendants of the Incas - the Atacamenos. The picturesque desert villages which lie along the Inca trail have a Wild West appearance as if time has stood still, and the surroundings are breathtaking. The snow-covered volcanoes of San Pedro (6,145m) and San Pablo (6,092m) watch over you as you journey across this high altiplano, crossing sand dunes, rocky mountains, canyons, rivers, salt lakes and even geysers. During the trail you may encounter flamingoes, llamas, vicunas and condors as well as donkeys and mules tethered outside shops in the local villages.

Each night you camp under star-lit skies - your chef prepares meals and the huasos take care of the horses whilst you enjoy a Pisco Sour around the campfire. The logistics team supports the ride with a truck, transporting all the tents, equipment and meals to each stop. You do need to be ready to put up your own tent - all part of this epic adventure!

Horses & Riding

Tack

The tack used on this ride is traditional and local Chilean huaso. Saddles are made from a simple frame with a sheepskin over the top for the comfort of the rider. Bridles are similar to western headstalls and often made from rawhide rather than treated leather.

Horses

The horses are Chilean Criollo - often referred to as the largest pony in the world even though they are actually horses. This unique breed originated from the Iberian horse but adapted over hundreds of years to the Chilean climate and landscape. They have a specialised musculature to enable speed over short stretches with stamina to survive in mountainous areas. Their double coat is long in winter and short and glossy in summer, allowing them to adapt to both the cold and hot conditions. They are sure-footed across the rocky terrain but still keen to canter across the wide-open areas.

Riding

There is 1 itinerary:

  • Wild Atacama Trail is a trail ride

Ages

12 years or older (children must be accompanied by an adult)

Health

Much of the ride is at high altitude, so you need good general health and fitness to cope. You should talk to your doctor about the altitude if you have any medical concerns.

Weight

100kg / 220 lbs / 15st 10lbs

Food & Accommodation

Food

All meals are prepared for you by the camp staff. Food is taken along with you, but there is the chance to stock-up partway through the week.

Breakfast is usually a buffet and includes coffee/tea/mate, yoghurt, cereals, bread/cake, cheese and sometimes scrambled eggs with bacon.

Lunch is boxed and carried with you - it usually contains sandwiches with cereal bars/chocolate, fruit and juice.

On arrival in camp there are appetizers including drinks and nibbles.

Dinner will be traditional Chilean food. At least once this will be a Chilean asado barbecue, but other nights will include pasta dishes and rice dishes.

Wine is provided with dinner - generally one bottle between three people. One or two extra bottles are available at extra cost, but they are limited to how many they can carry. Due to the high altitudes they recommend you drink lots of water/soft drinks rather than alcohol throughout the day.

Accommodation

The first and last night are in comfortable double/twin rooms in cozy guesthouses, as is the night of day 4.

For the rest of the trail you camp in the desert. The igloo tents have space for two people. There is also one large dome tent for the kitchen/dining and socialising if the weather is unkind. You will need to bring your own sleeping bags and mattresses.

Itineraries

Wild Atacama Trail Tented accommodation.

Other Activities

This is a riding trail covering large distances on horseback, and so non-riders cannot be accepted.

Travel

There are no direct flights to Calama (airport code CJC) from the UK so you will need to route through Santiago de Chile. There are a number of airlines operating this route, but most do require a change in a European hub city, for example, Air France via Paris or Iberia via Madrid.

Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1 - Calama - Chiu Chiu

Riding: No riding.

You will be met at Calama airport at 2pm and transferred c. 1 hour to the tiny desert village of Chiu Chiu which is at an altitude of 2,525m. You can explore the village on foot before having dinner in a local restaurant and retiring to your guesthouse.

Day 2 - Chiu Chiu - Puente del Diablo

Riding: 6 hours

After breakfast you take a quick visit to the oldest church in Chile - San Lucas of Chiu Chiu, which was built in the 1600's. You then meet your horses and set off on your ride. Leave the village behind you and trot towards the lake Laguna Inka Coya. From there you follow the riverbed of the Rio Salado, climbing to reach Puente del Diablo (Devils Bridge) which is a natural bridge over the narrowest point of the Rio Salado canyon. Here, on the plains alongside the riverbed, you will set up camp (altitude 2,620m) - if the weather is kind you may prefer to sleep under the amazing starlit skies!

Day 3 - Punte del Diablo - Turi

Riding: 7 hours

Nothing is more spectacular than waking up in the desert. After coffee and a good breakfast in camp you remount to continue your desert expedition. Follow the Rio Salado and part of the pilgrim route of the Virgin Aiquina. The mighty volcanoes of San Pedro, San Pablo and Paniri are present on the horizon as you continue through the canyon, where you may encounter herds of llamas and goats. Eventually you reach the vast plains of Turi, where you set up camp at the foot of Pucara Turi at 3,100m.

Day 4 - Turi - Caspana

Riding: 6 hours

You can start the day with a dip in the natural mineral baths of Turi to refresh aching muscles before another full day of riding. Start by visiting the Pucara of Turi - the largest fortress built by the Atacameno people and then continue riding to the typical village of Caspana. This village is surrounded by a fertile valley full of terraced crops and fruit trees - there are only 400 inhabitants and the houses are built out of liparita clay. You can visit the church which was built in 1641 and has been declared a national monument. 

Tonight you will sleep in a cosy guesthouse instead of camping, to have a break from sleeping in tents.

Day 5 - Caspana - Turcapo

Riding: 9 hours

An early wake-up for a long day of riding. Leave Caspana behind and climb the dizzying rocky landscape along an old Inca trail to reach a high plateau. Continue riding in a south-easterly direction, passing at the foot of the mountains of Cablor. After c. 4 hours of riding you reach Chita mountain where you follow a path to the top of the plateau at 4,000m. From here there are breathtaking views of the peaks and volcanoes surrounding you. At the end of the day you descend a long slope leading to the bottom of a huge, rugged canyon with small salt flats. Visit one of the few locals who lives in a natural cave and then continue through the canyon to Turcapo where you set up camp in a corral belonging to local villagers (altitude 3241m).

Day 6 - Turcapo - Rio Grande

Riding: 8 hours

Start by riding through orchards then ride up a beautiful slope to reach another plateau. Continue riding through dramatic landscapes to a ravine with large pools where you can stop for a refreshing bath. Cross this plateau along an Inca trail before descending towards the Rio Grande where you'll discover an oasis in the valley - here you set up camp (altitude 3500m).

Day 7 - Rio Grande - Catarpe

Riding: 7 hours

Leave the Rio Grande and climb uphill to reach the pampa where you again pick up the Inca trail and descend for a long time through small hills, but with large views of the snow-capped volcanoes and mountains. In the distance you can spot the sparse vegetation of San Pedro de Atacama - your final destination. Continue through San Bartolo to the point where the rivers of Rio Salado and Rio Grande converge, and keep riding downhill to your camp in Catarpe (altitude 2555m).

Day 8 - Catarpe - San Pedro de Atacama

Riding: 7 hours

Your final breakfast in camp before mounting the horses and heading to the river. Follow the Rio Grande to reach the Valle de la Muerte (Valley of Death). Here you follow a path to the impressive Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) - the sand dunes and fantastic surroundings are the ideal landscape for your final gallop in the Atacama desert. With an additional layer of dust you'll arrive in the village of San Pedro de Atacama looking like outlaws! Arriving at your guesthouse you'll wash away the dust with an ice-cold beer and refreshing shower. Final dinner and night in a guesthouse at 2,500m.

Day 9 - San Pedro de Atacama - Calama

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast you are transferred to the airport for your flight.

Accommodation

The first, fourth and last nights are in comfortable double/twin rooms in cozy guesthouses. For the rest of the trail you camp in the desert.

Experience Intermediate / Experienced

Suitable for intermediate to experienced riders. You should be confident on a horse in all paces in the outdoors. The pace is varied to include walk, trot and canter.

Minimum group size 6
Maximum group size 14
Departure windows

Sept. 3, 2021 - Sept. 11, 2021

Oct. 7, 2021 - Oct. 15, 2021

Nov. 5, 2021 - Nov. 13, 2021

Pricing

2021
Sharing
£3240 $4510 €3800
Included 8 nights accommodation in shared rooms/tents, all meals, drinks on the ride (limited to 1/3 bottle of wine per person per day), 7 days of riding, return airport transfers.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, additional drinks on the trail and in hotels (alcoholic and soft drinks), tips & other personal expenses.

Extras

2021 - Single Supplement £250 $350 €295
Paid to Far and Ride
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.