It's a long weekend here to celebrate La Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of Chile, and the oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama is packed with tourists. Even so, we managed to find solitude in the ancient river canyons of Catarpe, located just outside of town.
From the main biking trail in the Catarpe Valley, we took a detour into Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). Here, the wide canyon walls started to close in on our trail, and at times, I had to avoid scratching myself against the sharp orange rocks which have weathered centuries of erosion.
The trail continued to wind around the spurs before opening up to a wide panorama of the surrounding mountains of Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range). From here, we followed a very exciting downhill path before arriving at the Chapel of San Isidro, a perfect pit stop to rehydrate. The Atacama Desert, is after all, the driest desert in the world.
We parked our bikes and hiked a few minutes to the remains of a tambo, a structure typically found along Incan roads where chasquis (messengers) used to take rest on their journeys across the empire. From here, there were views of the mountain range, as well as the green river valley through which the San Pedro River flows.
This half-day bike ride hike (7km, 3 hours) is available as part of our customised itineraries in the Atacama Desert, and is suitable for those who have basic mountain biking experience or are regular road cyclists. If you are interested in visiting the Atacama Desert, get in touch with us at email@example.com.