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San Pedro de Atacama

It´s nice not having to worry about the weather when planning a trip to the Atacama desert. A long, thing, almost lifeless plain stretching from the southern tip of Peru down through northern Chile, parts of the Atacama haven´t seen a drop of rain since record keeping began. It´s the driest place on Earth, and while this may make farming and maintaining moist lips a difficult task, it also makes for an archeologist´s and astronomers paradise. Everything that enters the Atacama Desert and doesn´t leave is preserved in time there for thousands of years, from plant life to people. On top of this, the perfect clear skies have led to the construction of several observatories, from which astronomers and tourists can probe the depths of the cosmos.

Opening out a tourist map of San Pedro de Atacama is like opening out a map of Disneyland. As the horizon to the east is painted with the white-capped peaks of the Andes. There is a huge range of spectacular natural wonders in the area, including moon-like valleys, majestic high plateau lagoons, steaming geysers, 20,000 feet high volcanoes and a lake saltier than the Dead Sea. The town of San Pedro itself is no more than a handful of adobe streets winding around a picturesque oasis. Yet over the past decade the tourist infrastructure has developed impressively and the town now offers hotels and restaurants to fulfill the most basic to luxurious desires.

Main Attractions

  • Ride a bicycle out to Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) to enjoy the otherworldly rock formations and one of the best sunsets in South America.
  • Check out Geysers del Tatio, the third largest geyser site on Earth and at 4200m one of the highest.
  • Be awe-inspired by the breathtaking views of the high plateau lagoons, including Miscanti and Miñiques.
  • Drive out to the Atacama Salt Pan and swim in densely salty Lake Cejas, where you can float on your back and read the newspaper.
  • Make a night tour to an observatory and marvel at the universe from one of the best places to do so on the planet.

Best time to go

San Pedro de Atacama is hot and dry 12 months of the year, though temperatures to drop drastically at night.

Getting there

Buses and jeeps drive to San Pedro from all over central and northern Chile as well as from the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia and Jujuy and Salta in northern Argentina.
Planes fly to the nearby large town of Calama, 1 hour and 20 minutes from San Pedro.

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