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There are plenty of amazing things to do in San Pedro de Atacama Chile. First things first. Add it to your itinerary. No hemming and hawing. Just add San Pedro Chile to the places not to be missed in South America.
I wanted to see San Pedro firsthand. Period. The lure of photographs, which had swept me away, needed to be satisfied. The Atacama Desert in northern Chile was one of the first things written in stone on my itinerary through South America.
San Pedro de Atacama didn’t disappoint. In fact, I absolutely loved it!
San Pedro Chile is a bustling, little hippie town situated in the Atacama desert. The things to do in San Pedro mostly involve the natural beauty of the Atacama Desert.
And the Atacama Desert? It’s the driest non-polar place on earth with one of the clearest night skies. Add in flamingo-filled lagoons, volcanoes, sand dunes, the world’s highest geyser field and salt flats and you have a unique destination, all around San Pedro, just waiting to be explored.
San Pedro de Atacama Chile | FAQ
6 Wonderful Things To Do In San Pedro de Atacama
It is hard to decide what to do in San Pedro de Atacama Chile because there is so much to do. There are many captivating locations and landscapes to visit in the Atacama Desert. Venture out from San Pedro de Atacama each day into the intriguing natural world that is the Atacama Desert.
1. Visit Valle de la Luna
Not far from San Pedro de Atacama is Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley. This striking landscape should be at the top of your list.
It’s not hard to imagine how Valle de la Luna earned its name. Sedimentary strata in the red rock formations tell tales of earthquakes and tsunamis happening thousands of years ago. Red rocks sculpted from years of erosion, windswept sand dunes and narrow caves carved out amidst the weathered rocks will have you wondering if you have landed on the moon.
Sunset in the Valle de la Luna is spectacular.
The light shifts, the colours change ever so slightly and suddenly the Andes are bathed in shades of pink and purple.
How To Get To Valle de la Luna:
I couldn’t decide whether I should pay for a tour or rent a bike to get to Moon Valley. I decided on a tour and when I witnessed the cyclists grinding up the major hills in the heat, I was more than happy that I did! If you decide to cycle, go early in the morning and bring lots of water. You are in the driest place in the world, after all.
Tour Company: Terra Extreme www.terraextreme.cl 9 am – 9 pm
Valle de la Luna Tour: Summer hours: 4 pm – 8 pm
Cost: CLP$15000 ($29 Cdn) + CLP$3000 ($6 Cdn) for entrance to Valle de la Luna
- There is a bathroom at the entrance to the Valle de la Luna – we stopped twice: once before entering the Valle and the other before we headed out to a higher vantage point for sunset
- Bring water but if you run out, there is a place to buy water (same stop as the bathroom stop)
My tour leader was outstanding and very passionate about his subject. As with all tours, we left at sunset just as the sun was setting. As we drove away the mountains turned different shades of pink. It was awesome but I would have loved to stay longer.
2. Witness El Tatio Geyser Field
Another incredible thing to do in San Pedro de Atacama was watching the fumaroles at sunrise. The El Tatio geyser field was well worth the 4:30 am pick up time. Seeing swirling steam rising against the backdrop of the Andes as the sun rises makes for a memorable trip. Read about all the trip details to the highest geyser field in the world, El Tatio.
How To Get To El Tatio Geysers:
Tour Company: Terra Extreme www.terraextreme.cl 9 am – 9 pm
El Tatio Geysers Tour: Summer hours: 4:30 am – 1 pm
Cost: On your own: The entrance to El Tatio is CLP$10000 ($20Cdn)
With a tour: The tour is CLP$20000 ($40Cdn) + the entrance to El Tatio is CLP$10000 ($20Cdn)
- Wear layers as it is an early, chilly start.
- Bring a bathing suit in case you want to soak in the thermal pools.
- Acclimatize to the altitude in San Pedro de Atacama before heading to the El Tatio geysers (4320m/14170feet)
3. Gaze At The Night Sky
The Atacama Desert is one of the best places in the world to see the night sky. For the best skies, you need to leave the lights of San Pedro Chile behind! I took a tour with SPACE.
Masses of stars sparkle against the black backdrop of our sky. Constellations tell ancient stories. The Milky Way clearly leads somewhere. Nebulae, planets and other galaxies are evident to the naked eye. Standing in the silence of the desert this magnificent spectacle reminded me that we are just here for a fleeting moment.
This Northern Hemisphere resident was quite unfamiliar with the Southern Hemisphere constellations. Goodbye, Big Dipper. Hello, Southern Cross! I had never even entertained the thought that the moon phases would look “backwards” to my amateur astronomer’s eye. Using high powered telescopes with French astronomer Alain Maury was a highlight. The mysterious universe felt so close.
How To Get To SPACE From San Pedro:
Tour Company: San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations (SPACE) Book your tour at the office: 400-2 Caracoles Street (the main street) Book in advance. This tour company has full bookings every night.
SPACE Night Tour: 10:30 pm – 1:00am
Cost: CLP $25000 ($49 Cdn)
- The prime time to see the night sky is at the new moon.
- Tours are not available about 6 days either side of the full moon – the sky is too bright.
- Tours are also weather dependent – for example, the evening I went clouds were forecast and the tour would have been cancelled if the sky was too cloudy.
- Choose a tour company that has telescopes.
- Bring a light jacket or sweater as the majority of the tour is outdoors (of course!).
- I would have liked more time to photograph the night sky. If this is a passion for you, figure out how to get more time in the desert at night.
4. Tour Laguna Cejar, Ojos del Salar & Laguna Tebinquiche
Care to float as if you are in the Dead Sea? Look no further than the Laguna Cejar or Cejar Lagoon. Jump in, float like a log and be amazed by the stunning landscapes around you. The “Ojos del Salar” are two lakes surrounded by the white expanse of the salt flats and the Andes mountains. The tour is timed to take in yet another amazing Atacama Desert sunset.
How To Get To The Lagunas:
You have to pick and choose your tours from San Pedro de Atacama. I didn’t go on this one but it came highly recommended. If you have a car, this is a good one to visit independently.
Laguna Cejar: Summer hours: 4:00 pm – 9 pm
Cost: CLP$17000 ($34Cdn)
- Bring your bathing suit
- Bring a light jacket for the sunset
5. Be Awestruck At The Altiplanic Lagoons & The Atacama Salt Flats
If you have just come from the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, the tour operators suggest that you skip this full-day trip from San Pedro de Atacama as the landscapes are very similar. It is amazing to see salt flats and lagoons filled with flamingoes. I could have easily gone again to witness these incredible landscapes.
Altiplanic Lagoons + Atacama Salt Flats: Summer 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Cost: CLP$50000 + CLP $5500($99 + $11Cdn)
6. Just Chill In San Pedro Chile
Wondering what to do in San Pedro Chile? Spend an afternoon exploring the small town. It is one of the things to do in San Pedro de Atacama that was the most chill.
Licancabur Volcano makes the perfect backdrop to San Pedro de Atacama, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chile. Some visitors find the town too touristy but the dirt roads and the red hue of the ancient adobe buildings, built of clay, straw and water, give off a bohemian feel that hooked me immediately.
I found San Pedro’s laid back, hippie vibe, the summer weather, the Spanish music floating through the main square and the dramatic landscapes waiting to be explored eclipsed any rumours of over-tourism.
The truth is, there is an overabundance of tour operators in San Pedro de Atacama. It is an understatement to say they are on every street corner. Needless to say, you can find any kind of tour you are looking for. The plus is that the operators really don’t hassle you.
The church, the main square and the markets (both artisan and food) are some of the highlights to be seen in San Pedro Chile. Local artisans are more than willing to chat about their creations and the indigenous history of San Pedro. I love learning about ancient cultures. Who knew the Cunza language of the ancient Atacamaño people even existed and in fact was almost lost forever?
Where To Eat In San Pedro de Atacama:
Empanadas: They are found EVERYWHERE in Chile and make for a cheap, quick meal or snack. Being gluten-free I indulged only once – right here. The empanada was delicious but my body wasn’t so happy.
Franchuteria: It’s no secret I love all things French so of course, I checked out the French café in town. Sit in the lovely garden and enjoy a coffee with a croissant or a sandwich on their homemade bread.
Roots Café: Loved this tiny café with gluten-free sandwiches (made on arepas) and top-notch coffee.
Las Delicias de Carmen: Had a delicious Chilean meal right here.
El Huerto: Eat like a local and then swing in a hammock!
San Pedro de Atacama. Think slow pace. Feel chill. I could have stayed a lot longer.
More Travel Info
Looking for an itinerary through South America? Here is my 3-month itinerary through Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia
Is there a guidebook I recommend? Yes! Right here.
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Need accommodation? Booking.com has you covered in San Pedro de Atacama? Check hotels out right here
What else have I written about Chile? Read more travel information right here.
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