You’ll want to wake up early to get to Chaxa Lagoon (Laguna Chaxa), the most popular access point to the vast Atacama Salt Lake. Here you’ll walk along a craggy, salt-encrusted path to arrive at the lake, just as the pink of the sunrise is coming over the horizon. Watch as three different species of flamingos take flight in the morning sun before heading to the high-altitude lakes of Miscanti and Miñique, azure pools framed by the lake’s bright white mineral deposits and long yellow pampa grass.
No need to wake with the sun on day two, when you can get out and explore the town of San Pedro de Atacama. Highlights include the centuries-old adobe church in the Plaza de Armas, with its roof made partially of dried cactus. From here, it’s time to get educated about the history of the area, with a visit the the R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum, where you can see about 1,000 artifacts collected by the museum’s namesake, a Belgian priest.