Flamingo Tour in Chile’s Atacama Desert

While up in San Pedro de Atacama in the middle of nowhere in the world’s driest desert for 5 days, I booked all of my tours with Terra Extreme. While I generally try to avoid such tourist traps, there really is no other way to do it in San Pedro. There are long distances to cover with little to no signage on desert roads. You’re better off (and much safer by not getting lost in the desert!) booking with a tour company. They are very cheap. My all-day tours ranged from roughly 15 – 40 dollars. They are affordable yet offer once-in-a-lifetime views.

One of these tours involved an all day (or rather, all morning) excursion to see flamingos and take pictures at some amazing high altitude lagoons. A 5am pickup followed by 90 minutes or so of driving landed us here in the Atacama salt flat where the flamingos hang out at Los Flamencos National Reserve. I had never seen a flamingo up so close. He did a good job posing during his photo shoot, wading around in Laguna Chaxa.


The next photo was an opportunity for redemption for me. The only other time I had ever seen flamingos take flight was at West Coast National Park in South Africa. Naturally I had not been ready with my camera. This time I was! Their wings are incredibly beautiful.


The volcanic mountains that serve as backdrop aren’t too shabby either. I think people are usually accustomed to seeing flamingos against a more tropical backdrop of sand, but in this case we get to see them in front of enormous Chilean peaks.


If one turns 180 degrees in the other direction, there is a more sandy, desert-y appearance. I could hardly wrap my head around all these geological variations in one small area!


We wrapped up the day with an hour drive or so to enjoy the postcard views at Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miñiques:


The variety in the terrain in a reasonably small area is shocking. The above photo looks glacial, while the following, just a few hundred yards down the road, looks like it’s from an entirely different planet. Really they are just a stone’s throw away from each other.


Just FYI, the above photo is UNTOUCHED. There is no color filter or photo shop. That’s just the way the place is!

Terra Extreme dropped us off at our respective hostels by 2pm in super hot San Pedro de Atacama. There was time for tanning in the warm hostel courtyard for the rest of the afternoon. I stayed at Hostel la Ruca, and I would recommend it for being the cleanest one I checked out in town and one of the cheaper ones, too.

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4 Comments on “Flamingo Tour in Chile’s Atacama Desert”

  1. Lisa August 21, 2013 at 13:31 #

    Your photos are fantastic, Wow! I think you’re ready to join the National Geographic photography team. Brava!!

    • Marisa LaValette August 21, 2013 at 13:40 #

      I will hold you to this quote if I ever manage to get National Geographic’s attention!

      Thank you for being a devoted fan! I appreciate your readership!

  2. Philemone February 7, 2014 at 11:37 #

    Truly splendid photos, thank you for taking us along in your travels!

    • Marisa LaValette February 7, 2014 at 12:46 #

      Have you ever been to Chile?! Thanks for visiting the site and reading! Happy Friday!

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