The siliceous sinter deposits of El Tatio geothermal field in northern Chile have been examined petrographically and mineralogically. These sinters consist of amorphous silica (opal-A) deposited around hot springs and geysers from nearly neutral, silica-saturated, sodium chloride waters. Water cooling and evaporation to dryness are the main processes that control the opal-A deposition in both subaqueous and subaerial settings, in close spatial relation to microbial communities. All fingerprints of organisms observed in the studied sinter samples represent microbes and suggest that the microbial community is moderately diverse (cyanobacteria, green bacteria, and diatoms). The most important ecological parameter is the temperature gradient, which is closely related to the observed depositional settings: 1) Geyser setting: water temperature = 70-86 °C (boiling point at El Tatio: 4200 m a.s.l.); coarse laminated sinter macrostructure with rapid local variations; biota comprises non-photosynthetic hyperthermophilic bacteria. 2) Splash areas around geysers: water temperature = 60-75 °C; laminated spicule and column macrostructure, locally forming cupolas (< 30 cm); predominant Synechococcus-like cyanobacteria. 3) Hot spring setting: water temperature = 40-60 °C; laminated spicules and columns and subspherical oncoids characterize the sinter macrostructure; filamentous cyanobacteria Phormidium and diatoms (e.g., Synedra sp.) are the most characteristic microbes. 4) Discharge environments: water temperature = 20-40 °C; sinter composed of laminated spicules and oncoids of varied shape; cyanobacterial mats of Phormidium and Calothrix and diatoms (e.g., Synedra sp.) are abundant. El Tatio is a natural laboratory of great interest because the sedimentary macrostructures and microtextures reflect the geological and biological processes involved in the primary deposition and early diagenesis of siliceous sinters.