Local guides trained in geology take you through this incredible rainbow-painted valley just outside of San Pedro!
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This Rainbow Valley Chile tour is an excellent chance to see one of the more off-the-beaten-path attractions in the Atacama desert. Located west of the Salar de Atacama Basin, the Cordillera de Domeyko has one of the most enigmatic and interesting landscapes to observe. Start in Rainbow Valley, where you’ll have breakfast prepared as you explore a great diversity of rock formations in a wide range of colors and shapes. To finish, you’ll be taken to see a number of petroglyphs, ancient drawings in stone made by hunter-gatherers 3-4 thousand years ago!
This guide offers regular tours for groups of up to 15 people. Your reservation admits you to be a part of one of these groups. If you are interested in organizing a private tour for yourself or for a group, contact us in the chat box in the bottom right corner, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humans have inhabited the Atacama desert for over 10,000 years, but the first organized tribes began to roam the region as hunter-gatherers about 7,000 years ago. The Loa River, the main water source of the desert, sustained agricultural and llama-herding villages dispersed along it and around San Pedro de Atacama from around 900 BC. Around Lake Titicaca, the Tiwanaku culture rose to prominence, and its influence is reflected today in local textile iconography. As this group collapsed, the Atacamenos dominated the desert beginning in 1000 BC through developing a system to transport goods from the coast to the Andean highland. Then, the Inca Empire absorbed this group in the 15th century.
The origin of the desert’s title, “Atacama,” remains a topic of debate. Some attribute the name to the Tacama duck, which is indigenous to northern Chile and the Peruvian coast and flaunts a black and white coat. Others trace its etymology to the indigenous Kunza language, which has a word, “Atchamar,” meaning “head of the country.” It is how the Atacamenos referred to their land.
Tales of gold somewhere south of the Incan Empire drew the first Europeans to the Atacama desert. Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro first set food in the region, and the invasion of the Spanish led to the downfall of the Incas and Atacamenos, who resisted the European rule. The Atacamenos were massacred in large numbers before signing an agreement to remain subjects of the Spanish later in the 15th century.
Chile claimed the Atacama desert as part of its territory as a result of the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), and it labeled the indigenous groups in the area as Chilean nationals. Tribes were torn apart as the national borders between Chile, Peru and Bolivia broke ties. Many of the Atacamenos engaged in silver nitrate and copper mining in the 19th century, but the silver nitrate industry collapsed in the early 20th century and it resulted in an economic crisis. In 1933, the Chilean government finally recognized the Atacamenos as one of the nine indigenous groups in Chile. However, the state never fairly redistributed the tribe’s ancestral land, which they view as sacred.
Recently, tourism has created a new economic opportunity for the indigenous groups and other peoples in Atacama. Cultural tourism provides a viable source of income for locals in small villages that practice llama herding or mining, and some find they no longer need to migrate to larger cities like Calama to support themselves and their families.
San Pedro rests at 2,407 meters, which is just over the threshold for altitude sickness. At high altitudes, the air pressure drops, and with each breath you take, there is less oxygen than at sea level entering your blood. The effect of this reduced blood oxygen level varies depending on the person, but people commonly report symptoms of dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, headaches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Fittingly, altitude sickness has been described as being like a very bad hangover. Some people also have trouble sleeping at high altitude, due to “periodic breathing” (your body alternating between deep and shallow breaths). Your breathing might even pause completely, making you wake up with a gasp. This is called an “apnoea,” and you needn’t worry too much about it.
Your body will naturally adapt to the lower oxygen level by making more blood cells to carry oxygen around, and by taking deeper, more frequent breaths. Acclimatization typically takes three to five days, after which time you should stop feeling the effects of altitude.
The best defense against altitude sickness is a gradual ascent. If you start feeling altitude sickness the best thing to do is to descend. But if your itinerary doesn’t allow for that, stay where you are. In other words, if you start feeling any symptoms of altitude sickness, don’t climb any higher. Drinking water before and during your travel can also help. Dehydration is one of the main causes of altitude sickness. You will naturally breathe more frequently at a high altitude to get more oxygen into your blood, but because the air is also dry you will lose more water from exhaling than you’re gaining from breathing in. Aim for 2-3 liters of water a day before you travel to pre- hydrate your body. Keep this going once you’re at the high altitude. You can also ask your doctor about altitude sickness remedies. Some doctors will prescribe Diamox / Acetazolamide, which you should start taking a couple of days before arriving at altitude and continue for 48 hours after arrival. One alternative to Diamox is Exedrin Migraine, which just treats the headache side of altitude sickness. When you arrive in Atacama, eat a high-carb, low protein diet, avoid alcohol and coffee, and drink coca tea, for which you can buy the leaves in many San Pedro convenience stores. However, most people only feel the effects of altitude very mildly, so you shouldn’t let concerns about altitude ruin your upcoming trip.
San Pedro de Atacama is generally sunny, and the area experiences very little rainfall. Its warmest month is January, when temperatures reach an average high of 77 F (25 C) and a low of 46 F (8 C). Its coldest month is July, when temperatures usually remain around 70 F (11 C) during midday and drop below freezing at night. The region is the driest on Earth, with very low humidity. The Atacama desert is a region of extremes, and you should make sure to pack for the intense weather fluctuations. It’s best to bring a variety of layers.
After you book your experience, you will receive a confirmation email from us confirming that your payment went through. You will then be connected directly to the tour operator, in case you have any further questions. We are also happy to answer any questions about the tour, or travel in general in your country of destination.