This line of steam is part of the highest altitude geyser field on earth, about 16,000 feet (4,876 m.) above sea level in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The geysers are active every morning until about 9:00 a.m., so a very early departure to reach the geysers at sunrise is wise.
The stark colors of the Atacama are amazing. We traveled for hours each day through scenes like this during our visit to this area. The lakes exist high in the mountains and are fed by springs, as there is almost no rain in this area.
Guanaco, a member of the llama family, is the dominant mammal in this area. We were told that they are also a relative of the camel. They kept a watchful eye on us, but did not appear fearful of humans. Their tall necks are helpful to keep a lookout for puma, their predator.
Many of the lakes in the Atacama Desert are ringed with white salt and minerals because of the evaporation in the dry air and intense sun.
That is not a cloud peeking above the ridge line. It is smoke and steam from an active volcano, and the ridge line is the crest of the crater. At one point, we counted 30 volcanos in view from the same spot, although all but a few are dormant.