If you like geysers, a visit to El Tatio, locally known as Los Géiseres del Tatio, is an absolute must on a trip to Chile. El Tatio is a geyser field in northern Chile, located within the Andes Mountains. With more than 80 active geysers, the El Tatio geyser field is the world's third-largest field, following only Yellowstone National Park in the western United States and the Valley of the Geysers in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. Although you'll have to get up early to see El Tatio in Chile at its prime in the early morning, you'll be well rewarded with a very memorable experience. Reachable from both Calama and San Pedro de Atacama, the Tatio Geysers are a great attraction to add to a Chile vacation itinerary.
There are several logistical issues to bear in mind when traveling to the Tatio Geysers. First, visitors should be aware that the geyser field is at a high altitude of about 13,780 feet (4,200 meters) above sea level, and altitude sickness may be a problem if they haven't acclimated. The best time to see the geysers is in the early morning, and while the geysers are spraying hot water, the air is quite cold in the morning. Visitors will want to wear clothing suitable for cold weather, but dress in layers so you can take off remove them as the weather warms up later. At the Tatio Geysers, it is possible to bathe in a small thermal pool; if you want to do so, plan ahead and wear a swimsuit under your clothes, as there are no changing facilities at the field.
The best way to visit El Tatio in Chile is with a tour group or with a local guide or driver. The roads leading to the field are difficult, and parts of the field are very dangerous, as the crust is thin in places and the mud and water beneath is near boiling. Save yourself the driving stress and safety hazards by getting a good guide who knows the roads and the spots of the field where it is safe to walk. Tours headed for El Tatio leave from both Calama and San Pedro de Atacama, and local hotels are a good source for booking tours and securing a trustworthy guide.
The Tatio Geysers are best viewed at sunrise. Then, in the icy cold morning air, the hot water eruptions are accompanied by columns of steams. As the air warms up later in the day, the steam isn't visible, and the view of the field becomes less stunning. On average, the eruptions are about two and a half feet high, but eruptions of almost twenty feet have been observed.
As one of the world's largest geyser fields, El Tatio in Chile is a wonderful natural attraction. To get the most out of your visit, book a local guide, visit in the early morning, and don't forget extra layers of clothing to protect yourself from the cold morning air. Then, simply prepare yourself to enjoy otherworldly views that are sure to be a memorable part of your trip to Chile.