ATACAMEÑO EXPERIENCE

4 days / 3 nights

The Likan Antai indigenous people inhabit the region later named “Atacama” by the Spanish Conquerors – reaching from the Atacama Salt Flat up to the Altiplano Highland in Bolivia and Argentina. Prior to Inca domination in the 15th century, their culture evolved from the Pre-Columbian Andean Tiwanaku Empire around 500 AD. The arrival of the Spanish Conquerors in this area of the Atacama Desert in the 16th century preluded the decline of the Likan-Antai Culture and their language, the Kunza. Fortunately, recent initiatives are looking at an increased participation of the Likan Antai in regional planning, for example by the establishment of a co-management system in the Los Flamingos National Reserve.

This diverse 4-day tour based out of San Pedro de Atacama allows a glimpse into the rituals, traditions and the way of living of the Likan Antai Culture. Accompanied by people of this Andean community, you visit the region´s main attractions: The Atacama Salt flat, the Moon Valley, the Natural Reserve “Los Flamencos”, as well as some of the mystical sites of this ancient people whose ancestors once settled in the oasis of the driest desert of the world, the Atacama Desert.

This tour starts in Calama, a mining town in Chile´s northern desert. We pick you up at the airport and take you to the colorful town of San Pedro de Atacama, located 2,300 meters above sea level and surrounded by a beautiful green oasis in the middle of the desert. On the limits of San Pedro de Atacama, there are several small villages of indigenous Atacameño (Likan Antai) communities. These localities are called Ayllus; in the indigenous language Kunzu, this refers to an organized structure of neighborhood assistance based on the land rights of the common ancestors, expressing the importance of community cooperation.

In San Pedro de Atacama there is some time for lunch in one of the many small restaurants. In the afternoon continue on to the community Ayllu de Coyo, about five kilometers southwest of San Pedro. Two Lican Antai families guide you on their traditional paths and explain their local irrigation system and animal husbandry, as well as the production of typical artisan handicrafts. The sale of these handmade goods is becoming increasingly difficult due to the supply of foreign goods (mostly from Bolivia and Peru) on local markets.

Overnight at an Atacameño family house. (D)

The day starts with a visit to the impressive Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna). It is located about 18 kilometers west of San Pedro de Atacama and is part of the nature reserve Los Flamencos, which is co-administered by the Atacameño communities. This unreal place, one of the most spectacular in the Atacama Desert, owes its name to the unique geological formations that resemble a lunar landscape. Explore this beautiful place and examine the strange sculptures that nature has created from salt and clay.

After lunch, the tour continues to the northern part of the Atacama Salt Flat. It is the largest salt flat in Chile, created millions of years ago by the upheaval of the Andes Mountains and the Cordillera Domeyko. The octagonal salt crusts in the middle of the world’s driest desert are truly an impressive sight. It is possible to observe three different species of flamingo, which feed on the lakes´ salt brine. To finish off this memorable day, the visit to Laguna Cejar offers an extraordinary pleasure, possible because of its high salt concentration: Floating on the water without moving.

Overnight at an Atacameño family house. (B, L, D)

Today is dedicated to the traditions of the Atacameño people. The Lama Caravan (walking with lamas) is a truly unique experience that allows reliving this centuries-old way of transport in the desert, while the guide explains you about this symbolic Andean animal.

Afterwards we head to the Salt Mountains, the Cordillera de la Sal, an impressive mountain range consisting of folded sedimentary rocks with salt deposits. Here we visit the community of Ayllu Vilama, whose water mill has been used by the villagers for a century. You have the opportunity to help with some of the community´s daily activities.

A unique cosmic experience awaits you this evening: Community members introduce you to the world of Andean astronomy. The traditional systems of the Likan Antai use the stars for orientation and the cosmic energies for the regulation of their life energy. Spend the night in the town of San Pedro de Atacama.

Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. (B, L)

Today it is time to say goodbye to your hosts. A transfer takes you back to the airport of Calama, from where you can take a flight back home via Santiago or continue your journey through Chile. If you would like to stay in San Pedro for a longer time (recommended!) it is possible to extend your stay, and visit for example the geysers of El Tatio or Chuquicamata, the largest open copper mine in the world. (B)