San Pedro de Atacama is one of the most popular destinations to visit in Chile for international and domestic tourists alike. Located in the far north of the country and sitting in the midst of a green oasis along the edge of the South American Altiplano, it is the perfect jump-off point for touring the incredible landscape of the Atacama Desert.
Streets of San Pedro de Atacama
Our room actually had four beds, one full and three twins. There was a small dining table and a full bathroom with all the essentials. Coming from our three-day Salar de Uyuni tour, it was nice to finally have a hot shower with decent water pressure! There was also a very large walk-in closet, although we didn't make use of it at all.
Breakfast was included every day, but portions were very small. Each guest received one piece of bread, some scrambled eggs, and a slice of cheese. Butter and jam were provided, along with a glass of juice and a thermos of hot water. Not terrible for a complimentary meal, but definitely not enough to sustain me through lunch.
After visiting a couple of different locations, we ended up paying 7,000 CLP per person for the Valle de la Luna tour, and 17,000 CLP per person for the El Tatio tour. Note that entrance fees to the parks are typically not included. In this case, an extra 2,000 CLP is required for Valle de la Luna, and 5,000 CLP is required for El Tatio.
Since Valle de la Luna is only about eight kilometers away from town, it is also possible to bike there independently. However, be aware that the altitude and daytime heat make it a difficult journey even for those who are rather fit. Tour buses will sometimes pick up stranded bikers, and we saw a few who definitely overestimated their own stamina.
Almost all Valle de la Luna tours start in the afternoon and include sunset viewing from the Cari Viewpoint. Different tours may visit different locations, but most will at least stop at the Salt Canyon, Salt Caves, Valle de la Muerte, and Tres Marias. I wasn't a huge fan of our tour guide, since he spent an unreasonable amount of time talking and going off on tangents that had nothing to do with what we were seeing. In the end, we had to rush through several stops simply because he had wasted so much time in the beginning. Thankfully, we were at least able to see the beautiful sunset.
Valle de la Luna
Piedra del Coyote
Sunset against the Lincancabur Volcano
El Tatio geothermal field
Being at 14,000 feet before sunrise can be excruciatingly cold, so be sure to wear plenty of layers. If you are prone to altitude sickness, it may also be wise to take some coca leaves or acetazolamide before departing. After taking in the sunrise and walking through the geyser field, the tour continued at another location a short distance away. There, we bathed in a natural hot spring and saw some more fumaroles and geysers. Along the way, there were plenty of wild vicuñas roaming the desolate land all around us.
R. P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum
Ultraviolet ray indicator
Iglesia San Pedro de Atacama