There are various incredible things to do in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. The city often called a gateway to the Atacama Desert, is the driest non-polar desert on the planet. San Pedro de Atacama is a small city in Northern Chile close to the border with Bolivia. The city is located in the course of the desert at a excessive altitude, 3160 m above sea stage.
The Atacama Desert is an unbelievable place that gives breathtaking surroundings, a weird panorama, a singular ecosystem, and superb alternatives for journey fanatics to discover among the desert’s hidden gems in a singular means. Atacama desert and Carretera Austral had been our two favourite locations in Chile. On this put up, we tried to divide things to do within the Atacama desert based on their sort and the way in which they are often completed – with a tour (rental automobile) or independently.
Prime Three excursions in San Pedro de Atacama
Find out how to go to San Pedro de Atacama?
When planning a go to to the Atacama Desert it’s essential to determine what you need to see and to do there. Many of the points of interest aren’t accessible by public transport and are too far to stroll or cycle there from the city. To get the most effective out of your go to to San Pedro de Atacama and not spend quite a bit I’d counsel combining actions that you are able to do independently and arranged excursions. All close by pure points of interest could be reached by bike and even strolling from the city of San Pedro de Atacama. All lagoons, geysers, and volcanoes are too far to cycle you’ll must lease a automobile or be part of a tour.
One other essential factor to remember is the place you’re going after San Pedro de Atacama. In case you’re heading to Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia you don’t need to see comparable points of interest, however quite one thing completely different that you simply don’t see in Uyuni. In case you’re not going to Uyuni from San Pedro de Atacama then attempt to diversify the actions. Attempt to go to volcanos, valleys, colourful lagoons, and geysers. Whichever factor to do in San Pedro de Atacama you select it is going to be positively one in every of the highlights of your South America journey similar to Iguazu Falls and Perito Moreno Glacier.
When is the most effective time to go to San Pedro de Atacama?
There are three distinguished seasons in San Pedro de Atacama; winter, summer season, and shoulder season. Might to September is winter when the times are good and nice however the nights are chilly. Night time temperatures typically go beneath 0°C. Summer time months, between December and March, are sizzling and really dry. Day temperatures are round 30°C, and at night time it cools right down to 20°C.
Most rainfalls happen between January and March and typically if it rains quite a bit it may end up in some pure points of interest being closed. The tip of the wet season shouldn’t be the most effective time to go to the Atacama. Within the shoulder season (April, October, and November) the times aren’t as sizzling as in the summertime and the nights aren’t as chilly as within the winter. You would possibly get some rain however not as a lot as in the course of the wet interval.
We had been in San Pedro de Atacama in December, simply earlier than Christmas. December is the excessive season which suggests the city will get busy and costs improve. In case you determine to go to Atacama on the finish of the yr it’s higher to e-book lodging, excursions, and transportation beforehand.
Renting a automobile in Atacama
In case you’re a household or a gaggle of buddies renting a automobile and visiting points of interest independently could be cheaper than doing excursions. There may be not a lot site visitors on the roads that result in the principle points of interest. Many of the roads besides the highways are gravel.
The place to remain in San Pedro de Atacama?
There are many lodging choices within the city from tenting and staying in a dormitory to luxurious accommodations and cabins.
Journey insurance coverage in your journey
Contemplating journey insurance coverage in your journey? World Nomads affords protection for greater than 150 journey actions in addition to emergency medical, misplaced baggage, journey cancellation, and extra.
Since 2002, World Nomads have been defending, connecting, and galvanizing unbiased vacationers. They provide easy and versatile journey insurance coverage and security recommendation that can assist you journey confidently.
Finest things to do in San Pedro de Atacama with out a tour
Biking within the desert
It will get extremely popular on the market within the afternoon so the most effective time for biking is early morning and night. Don’t overlook to take sufficient water, placed on sunscreen and put on a cap or a hat. Renting a bicycle is probably the most price range method to do sightseeing round San Pedro de Atacama this fashion you will get to Moon Valley, Loss of life Valley, Satan’s Throat, and so forth. More often than not you cycle on a dust highway typically it will get a bit bumpy.
There are a number of locations within the city the place you may lease a bicycle simply ensure you get a bicycle lock and a lightweight (in case you’ll determine to remain within the Valley for the sundown and can cycle again at midnight).
We beloved biking by way of the desert and stopping on the way in which to take photographs and benefit from the surroundings. Bike rental corporations in San Pedro de Atacama cost CLP 5000/US$5 for half a day.
You are able to do an e-bike tour by way of the desert as properly.
Mountain climbing within the desert sounds loopy, doesn’t it?! It could be apparent however you’ll have to hold loads of water with you since you’ll get actually thirsty. The most secure and best place to hike is within the Moon Vallely. You possibly can go as much as rock formations and sand dunes to get spectacular views of the valley and the Atacama Desert.
As for the climbing route we went by way of the Loss of life Valley. We mixed climbing and tenting. We walked for about Three hours, then discovered a spot to pitch a tent. The subsequent morning on the way in which again we walked by way of the Satan’s Throat and obtained a bit misplaced within the maze. Basically, the climbing experience was nice, there have been only a few folks we noticed principally locals from small villages that unfold out within the desert. I’d strongly suggest utilizing navigation for climbing within the Atacama Desert and sticking to the principle routes. You don’t need to get misplaced there.
Atacama climbing excursions
In case you’re planning a visit to Chile and revel in climbing our posts on the most effective hikes in Patagonia and climbing in Torres del Paine could be attention-grabbing for you.
Tenting within the desert
In case you determine to experience tenting within the driest place on Earth be sure that to take sufficient water that may final you for the way in which to and again. We walked round within the desert for fairly some time earlier than we discovered an appropriate place for pitching our tent. The bottom could be very rocky and it’s tough to discover a flat sandy spot. For a snug sleep, you’ll want a very good tenting mat.
The night time within the desert was superb, we introduced a tenting cooking set, made dinner, and had been sitting outdoors consuming and looking out on the superb sky. Keep in mind that it will get fairly chilly at night time within the desert so convey a sleeping bag and hotter garments with you. On a unique event (climbing the Fish River Canyon in Namibia) we obtained very chilly at night time within the desert sleeping outdoors in our skinny sleeping luggage.
The subsequent morning was great. We awoke early simply earlier than dawn, made espresso, packed our stuff, and began heading again earlier than it obtained too sizzling. On the way in which, we visited the Satan’s Throat Gorge. We arrived within the city earlier than noon.
Discover Moon Valley
Visiting Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) is likely one of the prime free things to do in San Pedro de Atacama. The valley is situated about 7km from the city. You possibly can mainly stroll there however I’d counsel biking (as we did). The world of Moon Valley is kind of massive and to get an opportunity to see it you’ll want some sort of transport. In case you’re actually on a decent price range and don’t plan to make use of any tour corporations the Moon Valley is unquestionably a must-visit place for you.
The weird panorama of Moon Valley provides you a sense of being on one other planet. If in case you have time I’d counsel exploring the realm and visiting Tres Marias (Three Marys), a gaggle of three rocks that appears like three ladies standing subsequent to one another.
It’s finest to go to the valley within the morning or within the night due to the warmth. Moon Valley is an ideal place to observe the sundown. The sundown from Piedra del Coyote is beautiful however put together to see many individuals within the valley this time of the day. It’s an incredible spectacle when the setting solar colours the desert into completely different shades of crimson. If you wish to go to the valley with out crowds, the morning is a greater time. The doorway charge is CLP 10 000/US$12 per individual.
Moon Valley tours
Go to Loss of life Valley
Loss of life Valley (Valle de la Muerte) is often known as Mars Valley (Valle de Marte). It has an much more weird panorama than Moon Valley. It has even much less sand and extra clay formations which were formed by the wind and the water for 1000’s of years. The panorama reminds a labyrinth it’s good to stroll round and discover the realm. We visited the place within the morning and there have been only a few folks, plus it was good and funky. The doorway is barely Three km from San Pedro de Atacama you may mainly stroll there from the city. The doorway charge is CLP 5000/US$6.
Stroll/cycle by way of Satan’s Throat and The Tunnel
Each locations are situated about 500 m from one another and seven km from San Pedro de Atacama. Satan’s Throat is a small canyon or a passage between the rocks. In some locations, it’s very slim in some a bit wider. Strolling there may be like strolling by way of a maze with reddish rugged partitions.
One of the simplest ways of attending to Satan’s Throat is by bike. It’s doable to achieve each locations by strolling however it’s fairly far to stroll each methods. You possibly can attempt to get a journey however there aren’t many automobiles on the highway and most of them are tour teams. We visited each as part of our climbing/tenting journey within the Atacama however biking could be positively higher. The doorway charge is CLP 3000/US$3,5.
After the Satan’s Throat, you may cycle/stroll 500 m to get to The Tunnel (El Túnel). It’s a man-made tunnel within the mountain constructed initially of the 20th century. You possibly can cycle by way of it.
Go to Pukará de Quitor
Pukará de Quitor is an archaeological web site of the Pre-Colombian interval situated Three km from San Pedro de Atacama. Right here you may see the stays of an historic fortress constructed by native tribes within the 12th century. We extremely suggest strolling to the point of view, a 700-meter steep ascent to the highest from the place you get among the finest views of Loss of life Valley. The ruins are fairly spectacular, particularly the large heads carved out of rocks.
Visiting Pukará de Quitor is a not-to-miss factor to do in San Pedro de Atacama if you happen to’re focused on archeology and the historical past of the area. The doorway charge is CLP 5000/US$6. You possibly can stroll there and again from San Pedro de Atacama or go by bicycle which is quicker and offers you an opportunity to go to extra sights situated close by.
If you’re on a motorbike you may go to Tulor, one other archaeological web site close to San Pedro de Atacama. Tulor is situated 9 km south of the city following on a gravel highway. Tulor is an historic village that consists of greater than 20 constructions from homes and storage services to boreholes. You even can see human stays. The origins of the settlement date again 2500 years. Entrance charge CLP 5000/US$6 per individual.
You possibly can go to each villages with a tour – Archaeological Experience in Atacama Tulor and Quitor
Stroll across the city
San Pedro de Atacama is a small city however there are some attention-grabbing things to see there. Among the highlights of the city embody the principle Plaza, the Church of San Pedro de Atacama, the meteorite museum, the archeological museum Gustavo Le Paige, and lots of curiosity retailers on the principle highway. There are various good espresso retailers and eating places within the city the place you may relaxation in between.
You possibly can be part of a walkling tour in San Pedro de Atacama to study extra in regards to the city and its historical past.
Things to do in San Pedro de Atacama with a tour
Go to colourful desert lagoons
Visiting the well-known desert lagoons is likely one of the primary things to do in San Pedro de Atacama. They’re the principle reason vacationers come to the Atacama Desert. In case you don’t have a lot time or your price range shouldn’t be excessive sufficient to do many excursions I’d counsel selecting a tour to the lagoons. Some full-day excursions mix a go to to the lagoons with volcanoes, and geysers.
There are various spectacular lagoons within the Atacama Desert of various colours, some have flamingos, some are good for swimming, and a few are surrounded by geysers and volcanoes. Which of them to decide on is as much as you however I’d suggest visiting Cejar Lagoon, a blue salty lake the place you may float like within the Lifeless Sea. Instead, you may go to the much less touristy Laguna Baltinache. Each lakes are beautiful. Laguna Cejar is barely 18 km away from San Pedro de Atacama which explains its recognition. Laguna Baltinache is 57 km away, it’s smaller and attracts fewer folks.
If you wish to see many flamingos I’d suggest going to Chaxa Lagoon. In the summertime you may see tons of o birds there. The lake is situated in Los Flamencos Nationwide Reserve, in the course of the Salar de Atacama.
Visiting the well-known Lagunas Altiplanicas is likely one of the hottest things to do in San Pedro de Atacama. The Miscanti Lake and Laguna Miñiques are among the most scenic lakes in Atacama. The lakes look particularly spectacular within the winter surrounded by snow. Each lakes are situated subsequent to one another, and 110 km south of San Pedro de Atacama. To get to the lakes you drive the identical highway that goes to Laguna Chaxa and the Salar de Atacama. On a day journey, you may go to all these points of interest. On the way in which to the Lagunas Altiplanicas, there’s a small salt lake – Lejia Lake.
As for the lake with probably the most spectacular turquoise shade, I feel Laguna Verde (Inexperienced Lake) is the winner right here. It seems inexperienced at sure occasions of the day however even with out it, the surroundings across the lake is breathtaking; surrounded by volcanoes and mountains this lake seems beautiful on a pleasant sunny day.
Admire spectacular volcanoes
Chile is known for its a number of volcanoes and the Atacama space shouldn’t be an exclusion. Visiting a volcano is a not-to-miss factor to do in San Pedro de Atacama. There you may see some sleeping giants like Licancabur and Láscar Volcanos.
Lincancabur might be probably the most iconic volcano within the desert. It’s virtually 6000 m excessive (5916m). Lincancabur Volcano is situated 60 km east of San Pedro de Atacama it may be seen from the city. Lincancabur has an ideal cone form, good for taking photographs, particularly in winter when its peak is roofed in snow. For many who like journey, I’d suggest climbing to the crater of the volcano. We didn’t know in regards to the climb after we had been in San Pedro de Atacama in any other case would have positively completed it. It’s not typically you may in a comparatively straightforward means get to 6000 m above sea stage.
Láscar is one other huge volcano close to San Pedro de Atacama, about 70 km south. It’s slightly bit smaller than Lincancabur Volcano, 5592 m, however way more lively. In reality, Lascar is probably the most lively volcano within the area. Even if it’s an lively volcano it’s doable to climb it as properly which is in a means much more thrilling as you climb as much as the crater of the lively volcano. These two peaks are on our bucket record of things to do, subsequent time we’re in San Pedro de Atacama we’ll positively do it. There are a number of tour operators on the principle road in San Pedro that provide the climb.
Take pleasure in geysers & sizzling springs
The Antofagasta area in Chile (the place San Pedro de Atacama is) has one of many highest concentrations of geysers on the planet after Yellowstone within the US and the Geysers Valley in Kamchatka, Russia. El Tatio geyser discipline consists of greater than 60 geysers, situated at 4320 m elevation. It’s the best geyser discipline on the planet. For us seeing El Tatio was a must-do exercise in San Pedro de Atacama although we did see a few geysers in Uyuni as properly they weren’t that massive and spectacular.
Sizzling springs within the valley surrounding El Tatio are one more reason to go to the volcano. You possibly can soak in sizzling water having fun with the beautiful surroundings round you. It’s higher to come back there within the morning when it’s chilly outdoors. In the course of the day it’s too sizzling to take a seat in sizzling springs at 35°C outdoors except you come there in winter.
In case you like extra of a tranquil and stress-free sizzling spring experience, Termas de Puritama is the proper place. It’s a system of swimming pools situated in a picturesque canyon. There are eight swimming pools in whole. Water temperature within the swimming pools varies between 28°C and 30°C. There are bogs and altering rooms. As a way to make the experience stress-free and pleasurable, the variety of folks allowed within the swimming pools on the similar time is restricted.
Discover valleys & salt flats
To be sincere we fully skipped this half as a result of we simply got here from a 3-day tour in Uyuni and it felt like we’d seen sufficient salt flats, deserts, and weird rock formations. It doesn’t imply that these within the Atacama Desert look similar to those in Uyuni. If we had extra time and a better price range we want to go and go to all of them however we had to decide on and determined to see one thing completely different that we hadn’t seen earlier than.
Pedras Rojas and Salar de Tara are probably the most visited points of interest on this class. As you may guess from the identify, the valley is roofed with big reddish boulders, the colour is the results of the oxidation of iron. The crimson rocks distinction with the blueish shade of the white shade of the close by salt flat and lake. It’s an incredible spot for pictures lovers. Piedras Rojas Valley is situated about 150 km away from San Pedro de Atacama.
As for Salar de Tara if you happen to’ve been to Uyuni in Bolivia or Salina Grandes in Argentina you may skip this one. It’s much less touristy than the opposite two however for my part much less spectacular. Right here and there you may see white salt patches however it’s not like the entire space is roofed in salt. If in case you have by no means seen a salt flat then it’s value visiting.
One other attention-grabbing valley is the Rainbow Valley. As you may guess from the identify its rock formation are completely different colours. Not precisely the rainbow colours however fairly spectacular for a desert. Rocks and the bottom there are coloured in reddish, brownish, greenish, and whitish colours. The valley is situated 90 km from San Pedro de Atacama, it’s a brief 3-hour tour.
See big cacti
If you wish to see the well-known Cardones (gigantic cactuses) that develop within the north of Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia head to the Cactus Valley. Among the cacti you may see there are 5-7m excessive, which suggests they’re very previous. They develop a few centimeters per yr, and a few of them are over 300 years previous. Locals use cacti as a constructing materials and make some components of their homes (home windows, doorways) utilizing it as a substitute of wooden or plastic.
In case you’re coming from Uyuni you’ve already seen 1000’s of those cactus and doubtless took tons of of photographs as properly. It’s doable to do an hour hike (4km) by way of the valley to benefit from the surroundings.
Go on a sizzling air balloon journey
It won’t be probably the most price range factor to do in San Pedro de Atacama however it’s a really particular exercise. It’s at all times an unbelievable experience to watch a pure surprise like a desert or a lake from the air. The weird panorama of the Atacama Desert is a superb place for it. This kind of panorama at all times seems superb from the air. If in case you have by no means completed a hot-air balloon journey Atacama is an ideal place for a first-timer.
The excursions depart from San Pedro de Atacama very early within the morning, 5am-5.30am as a way to make it for the dawn. Simply think about the waste desert of the Atacama with the solar rising over the horizon.
In case you like sizzling air balloon rides over weird landscapes add Cappadocia to your bucket record driving on a balloon over the beautiful Goreme Nationwide Park is one in every of the highlights of Turkey.
Atacama sizzling air balloon excursions
Climb Cerro Toco
In case you like bodily challenges and revel in concurring mountains then climbing Cerro Toco is a not-to-miss factor to do in San Pedro de Atacama. Cerro Toco is an actual big, a 5600-meter mountain dominates the realm close to the border with Bolivia. Because of its straightforward accessibility, it’s probably the most climbed mountain within the Andes Mountains. In contrast to many 5000 m peaks the place you begin the climb from 2000 m or 3000 m and steadily stroll up for a few days, on Cerro Toco you will get by automobile to 5000 m and stroll the remainder 600 m to the highest in a few hours.
Vital to keep in mind that going that top requires good acclimatization, be sure that to remain for a few days in San Pedro de Atacama earlier than making an attempt to summit. It takes half a day to get to Cerro Toco from San Pedro de Atacama, climb to the highest and get again to the city. Value round 100US$ per individual together with information, transportation, breakfast and lunch, and oxygen (for emergency).
Hike Zapaleri Volcano
Zapaleri Vilcano is one other big of the Atacama Desert. It’s 50 m increased than Cerro Toco. Its peak stands at 5650 m above sea stage. The situation of Zapaleri Volcano could be very symbolic. It marks the triple border level between Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. The climb begins at about 5000 m until there you will get by automobile however you’ll want a 4×Four car, so if you happen to lease a automobile ensure you lease the appropriate one as a result of the highway could be very rocky and bumpy. It’s beneficial to do the climb with a information. It requires correct acclimatization as properly.
Sandboarding is a well-liked factor to do in San Pedro de Atacama. If in case you have by no means tried it do it within the Atacama Desert, there are some fairly spectacular dunes to slip down. Many of the sandboarding excursions happen in Loss of life Valley there are a number of appropriate dunes of various sizes and steepnesses.
Happening standing shouldn’t be as straightforward because it seems and it’s not precisely like snowboarding, you mainly go down straight. The best means goes down a much bigger dune laying on the board in your abdomen or sitting on the board. Simply be ready, it is going to be fairly a quick and thrilling descent. We’ve completed sandboarding elsewhere in South America and in the Namib desert.
Ensure that to convey water and sunscreen. I’d counsel as properly sporting an extended sleeve shirt and lengthy pants in case you fall and for further solar safety. Some corporations supply night time sandboarding excursions. Now we have by no means completed one like that however it have to be fairly thrilling and quiet.
In case you desire browsing over sandboarding Chile has an incredible spot for that as properly, the small city of Pichilemu, which is commonly referred to as the surf capital of Chile.
Stargazing within the desert
The Atacama Desert is likely one of the finest locations on the planet for stargazing. For us it was one other spotlight of Atacama or truly any desert, the sky there may be simply completely beautiful with no gentle air pollution. I by no means noticed so many stars and constellations in my life (not, truly I did in the Namib Desert). You possibly can clearly see the Milky Manner. In reality, the Atacama Desert is likely one of the finest spots within the southern hemisphere to see it. Think about how a lot you may see on the market with a telescope. The stargazing tour could be very attention-grabbing and academic. It’s essential to keep in mind that near the complete Moon you received’t have the ability to see many stars because the Moon is simply too vibrant.
ALMA Observatory is located within the Atacama Desert as a result of it’s among the finest locations for astronomic observations.
Uncover Yerbas Buenas Petroglyphs
Visiting among the native villages, cities, and archaeological websites is one other well-liked factor to do in San Pedro de Atacama. A lot of them could be visited as part of a tour and are normally mixed with visits to some pure points of interest like lagoons and geysers.
Yerbas Buenas Petroglyphs are one of the attention-grabbing archeological websites within the Atacama Desert. Yerbas Buenas is situated 50 km from San Pedro de Atacama, lower than one hour drive. There are tons of of petroglyphs within the space. The petroglyphs date 10 000 years again and had been created by the Atacamaño individuals who inhabited the area at the moment.
To get extra out of the go to I’d counsel going there with a information who will present some attention-grabbing information in regards to the petroglyphs and the historical past of the area. The petroglyphs are normally visited as part of a tour of the Rainbow Valley. Entrance charge CLP 3000/US$Four per individual.
Go to Chacabuco village
One of many deserted nitrate cities within the area, and doubtless the best-preserved one. The city was based in 1924 in the course of the nitrate increase in Chile however after the invention of the artificial analog on the finish of the 30th, all of the mines had been shut down. In contrast to the opposite mine cities, Chacabuco’s historical past continued within the second half of the 20th century when it was used as a focus camp for political prisoners of the Pinochet regime.
We love visiting deserted ghost cities within the desert like this one or Kolmanskop in Namibia. Chacabuco is an attention-grabbing place the one drawback is the situation, it’s fairly removed from San Pedro, about 200km however like different websites that may be visited as part of a tour.
Go to Machuca Village
Machuca village is simply 44 km away from San Pedro de Atacama. This small village with solely 20 homes represents a conventional native village of the area. All homes look the identical; one-story stone buildings are similar to the homes you keep in your tour in Uyuni. Machuca is normally visited on the way in which to Tatio Geyser. It’s a comparatively new vacationer vacation spot however in the previous few years, locals opened a number of accommodations and eating places. In case you lease a automobile in San Pedro de Atacama it could be a very good place to remain in a single day to experience the native tradition.
Please comply with and like us:
The gorgeous half of Stingy Nomads, chargeable for all our land adventures (climbing, climbing, strolling the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves strolling since she was a baby, she prefers to stroll 1000 km with a backpack quite than to do a 10 000 km highway journey (truly any highway journey). Alya is an enormous fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Each time we go away she desperately misses our canine Chile.