The tour to the Piedras Rojas (aka Red Stones) was our last stop on our South America tour. We got picked up quite early by our tour operator (again Vive Atacama) and stopped for the first time at the Laguna Chaxa for some flamingo watching. After walking around the lagoon our bus driver already waited for us with a delicious breakfast including toasted bread, stirred eggs, cake and coffee. A perfect start into the day. Then we continued through some small towns before we arrived at the eagerly awaited Piedras Rojas. We have seen many pictures of that area, but when we saw this huge colour palette ranging from white, yellow and orange to brown and red we were mesmerized by its beauty. The intense blue sky and some random clouds added the final touch to a truly stunning scenery. Our advice though: make sure you bring your sunglasses with you. The white salt on the ground reflects the already strong sun and if you don’t have anything to protect your eyes it is incredibly difficult to see things clearly. We did not bring any sunglasses that day and had to walk with our eyes closed for some time to relax our eyes for a little while.
When we continued to the Altiplano Lakes we saw for the first time why our tour operator always reminded us to put on our safety belts. When we drove up a curvy gravel road another another bus full with tourists was laying next to the street, rolled over to the side. We could not believe our eyes when we saw the other tourists crawling out of the back of the bus. Fortunately nobody was really hurt because everybody in there was also wearing safety belts. So be smart an buckle up whenever you are in the area.
Also make sure that you are not prone to altitude sickness, because the Altiplano Lakes lie well above 4.000 meters (12.000 ft) altitude and it can get quite ugly if you get altitude sickness up there. Unfortunately, Bianca got it and she felt miserable. The worst thing is that you cannot really do anything against it and the only thing that helps is going down below 3.000 meters and sleep of the terribly headache and the general feeling of sickness. For that reason we also had to cancel our early morning trip to the El Tatio Geysir the next morning.
But all in all don’t get us wrong. If you are in San Pedro and you don’t have any problem with the altitude this trip is definitely something you have to do. The landscapes you will see on this day are mesmerizing and unbelievably beautiful!