El Tatio Geyser Field
El Tatio Geyser Field looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie, with snow-covered volcanoes surrounding jets of steam rising from bubbling holes in the crusty surface. At an elevation of 14,170 feet (4,320 meters) above sea level, this mountainous terrain of more than 80 active jets is among the world’s highest geyser fields. Get close to one of the geysers, which propel hot water about 2.5 feet (75 centimeters) into the air.
Visit the site at sunrise, when the air is cold enough to make steam from the jets visible as a rising white fog. Dress warmly, as mornings at such a high elevation are very cold. In addition to the geysers, the area has about 100 fumaroles, which vent volcanic gas. Capture photos of the steamy terrain with the mountains looming in the background.
Bathe in one of the hot springs in the eerie surroundings of one of the world’s largest geyser fields. Use very warm gray goo from the bubbling mud pots at 95 F (35 C) to cleanse your skin. Be careful that you don’t fall through the thin crust into boiling water. There are few railings and signs, so this very real danger results in accidents surprisingly often.
Take photos of the stunning sunrise from this gurgling volcanic plateau. Watch the gradual shift of the hues of the surrounding volcanoes as dawn turns to day.
You will need to pay an entrance fee on top of the tour operator price. A daytrip should last about 8 hours. The site is open at all times.
El Tatio Geyser Field is roughly 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of the town of San Pedro de Atacama. Take a daytrip with a tour operator and leave as early as 4 a.m. to arrive at the site before sunrise. While the sky is still dark, enjoy the Southern Hemisphere view of the Milky Way shining brightly. The journey up to the icy volcanic ridge takes between 3 and 4 hours.