San Pedro De Atacama is a town in the north of Chile. It is one of Chile's most popular tourist destinations, with visitors attracted by the stunning landscapes in the area and the many archaeological sites.
This museum has a fascinating collection of meteorites and information on how to hunt them in the desert.
The reserve is known as Chile's most diverse and is a haven for nature lovers.
Located 12,000 feet above sea level, here you'll find the third-largest geyser site on earth, with more than 80 active geysers.
The "Moon Valley" is an otherworldly landscape of caves, craters, gorges, and salt mines.
This church is a national monument and a fine example of colonial architecture using adobe.
At nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, the Geysers del Tatio are among the highest in the world. The ideal time to visit is sunrise, when the light is at its most breathtaking. Along the way, visitors can observe the wild vicuñas, an endangered Andean camel. Also on the route is the Putana river with its numerous bird species, as well as vizcachas, similar to rabbits or squirrels. Other highlights include the Machuca with its sulfur mines and flamingos.
A breathtaking outlook, the Valle de la Luna can be accessed by car or bike. A magnificent place to watch the sunrise or sunset, the valley is formed in a salt mountain range, featuring clinal and anticlinal formations, as well as stone canyon walls and rock salt strata. Other highlights include the Grand Crater, the Salt Canyon, the Salt Caves and the Cari Viewpoint. Bike rides are usually 10 miles, though drivers are usually willing to lend a hand if you get stuck or tired. Also, bike rental shops will offer headlights, tail reflectors and helmets, as well as emergency kits.
Located in the village of Toconao, known for its church and bell tower, Lagunas Altiplanicas features Laguna Chaxa, a national park that boasts three species of flamingos, as well as the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons, which features a variety of local fauna. In Socaire, a small hamlet, visitors are welcome to enjoy lunch or breakfast, which includes home-grown potatoes, big beans, carrots, and quinoa. Visitors are advised to wear long sleeves and pants, as well as sunglasses since the light reflects brightly off the salt pan.
On the northern tip of the Atacama salt pan, Laguna Cejar offers spectacular views of the Andes, as well as the chance to bathe in the salt water lakes. Tours includes visits to the Cejar and Piedra lagoons, as well as Ojos del Salar and Lake Tebinquinche. Guests can enjoy a cocktail or pisco sour at the end of the visit, as well as admire the sunset over Lake Tebinquinche, which reflects the changing colors of the surrounding mountains. Again, guests are advised to wear protective gear to guard against the sun and lower temperatures. Also, the high alcohol content of the pisco sour can be deceiving, so guests are encouraged to drink slowly.
Known as the Hot Springs, the Puritama is actually a warm river with temperatures at around 91ºF. Clear and clean, the river is home to colorful rainbow trout. Located at Hotel Explora, a luxury establishment with elegant accommodations, the site offers spectacular views of the ancient agricultural terraces, enormous stone walls and cacti. With eight artificial pools made from volcanic rocks, visitors can enjoy a hydro-massage in the waterfall or simply a soak in the crystalline water.
San Pedro De Atacama has a cold desert climate, with average daytime temperatures ranging from 47 to 62 degrees. It can get very cold at night during winter and visitors should be aware that mild altitude sickness is a possibility due to the town's 8,000ft elevation.
There is no airport in San Pedro De Atacama. The nearest airport is El Loa Airport (CJC) at Calama, around 70 miles to the northwest. The airport has regular flights from Santiago and some services from other cities in Chile. A minibus transfer to San Pedro De Atacama will cost CLP$12,000.
San Pedro De Atacama lies on the main road from Argentina, which crosses the Paso de Jama. The road is paved as is the road from Santiago, but inexperienced drivers should take care when driving at altitude.
San Pedro De Atacama has good bus services from cities across Chile and also connections from Jujuy and Salta in Argentina. The fare from Calama is CLP$2,500.
Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa is a luxury hotel on Camino Sequitor. The Hotel Diego de Almagro offers a budget option in a good downtown location.
Centro - San Pedro De Atacama is a small and compact town, with the center comprising 12 small blocks. Caracoles is the main street and is pedestrianized. Here, you will find the town's main shopping areas, attractions like the Iglesia San Pedro De Atacama, and the Museo del Meteorito.
Calama - this is a larger town to the northwest, which has an interesting frontier feel and more shopping and accommodation.
Toconao - this is a small, quaint village with a pretty square, just south of San Pedro De Atacama.
San Pedro De Atacama has no public transport system but is small enough to comfortably explore on foot.
Taxis in San Pedro De Atacama are rare but can be booked from your hotel. Expect to pay an initial fare of CLP$400 and then CLP$3,000 per mile, but you can also negotiate a fixed fare based on your destination.
Roads in and around San Pedro De Atacama can be in poor condition. Driving into the mountains or the desert also requires care. Car rental is available from El Loa Airport from CLP$34,000.
There is basic shopping on Caracoles and local crafts can be purchased in the museum shop.
A quart of milk in San Pedro De Atacama costs CLP$717 and a loaf of bread is CLP$867.
La Pica Del Indio on Tocopilla serves local dishes and is renowned as one of the best restaurants in town. La Estaka on Caracoles specializes in Latin dishes and is vegetarian friendly.