When-Where-Why?

After 24h bus from Valparaiso, here we are in San Pedro de Atacama. This is a cute Chilean town in the desert, very touristic but charming.

There are plenty of things to visit in the area. Mostly with a tour but there are also options if you like cycling.

We went in April 2019 during 6 days.

This is a desert area, so do not expect to have hot water all the time and electricity. They have some issues with this.

Housing

We camped in the place called Hostal del Sol Naciente.

They have a few camping spots and some dorms.

For the camping it costs 5000 $CH per person.

They have several bathrooms and toilets. A kitchen with good equipment and a leaving room.

They also have “hot water” in the shower and the wifi.

Good place to stay.

Activities

There are hundreds of tours offices in the town. Take the time to find the one corresponding to your budget. It is easy to negotiate.

We opted for this company: LOCAVENTURAS

There are quite expense as they do private and semi-private tours (7 people max) but the service is better and they go to places where no other tours are going and they also go to some additional other places not offered by some tours. We did the tours Valle de la Luna & Muerte and Piedras Rojas with them.

What:two beautiful valleys with impressive views. Dunes and rock formations. They would resemble the surface of the moon and that of March (March having become muerte). It is extremely interesting from a geological point of view because we can see the different stratifications and their composition. There is a path along the ridge that rises gradually. The return is done on the ridge and allows to appreciate the sumptuous landscape.

How:With a ride, rental car or bike. Cycling go in the morning because it is more expensive in the afternoon and there is a big climb to get there.

Duration:Half day.

Difficulty:Easy.

Price:Variable according to your agency + about 3000 $ CH the entry of each site.

Tips:It’s so hot so take some water! Leave in the morning to pay less. I advise you to go through a tour with explanations if you want to know more about the geology of the sites because it’s really interesting, besides they go to other places that you may not have thought and which offer magnificent panoramas.

What:Visit two villages: Socaire and Toconao which are typical villages of the region and which have two pretty churches. Then there is a lot of road to discover the different lagunas. It’s really pretty. The landscape takes on different shades because of the metals found in the soil and in the water. It looks a lot like Bolivia. The desert of Atacama is different from that of Uyuni. We can observe the sunset on the volcanoes at Laguna Chaxa.

How:With a tour or rental car.

Duration:All day.

Difficulty:Easy.

Price:Variable according to your agency + 5500 $ CH the entry of each site.

Tip:Take a windbreaker and sunscreen.

What: Grand Canyon with many things to see: watchtowers, archaeological sites, a church and a canyon. That’s wonderful. It takes effort because of the sun and the heat, otherwise it’s pretty flat.

– El Tunel: in fact, it’s an impressive view of the canyon. There is a rise of one hour progressive then a tunnel (5 minutes) and at the end a magnificent point of view.

– Quebrada del Diablo (or Chulakao Ravine: This is the canyon that gives its name to the site.It is quite long (we were told 1:30 to make it round trip) We did a part only because it is enough monotonous as landscape but it is interesting geologically speaking.

– Capella San Isidro: Pretty church built in 1913 by Don Lucas Cenzano, and which is 1 hour walk from the entrance. It overlooks the valley.

– Tambo de Catare: Remains of a pre-Inca fortress built in 1450. It was a strategic point because it dominated the upper part of the San Pedro River.

How: On foot, by bike or by car.

Duration: On foot, 6h on the spot. 1h to get there on foot.

Difficulty: Easy but the heat can change everything.

Price: 3000 $ CH

Tips: The trails are in full sun so do not forget to take water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat.

What:Fortress and administrative center. Great archaeological site. It is now impossible to walk in the ruins but there are beautiful views. There is a zig-zag trail that climbs and gives a magnificent view of the Luna Valley, San Pedro de Atacama, the volcanoes and Quebrada del Diablo.

How:On foot, by bike or by car but once at the site on foot. It is not far from the city, about 30 minutes walk.

Duration:1h30 on site and 30min from San Pedro.

Difficulty:Easy.

Price:3000 $ CH

Tips:the path is in full sun so remember to take water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat.

What:It is a site with three lagunas, one of which gives its name to the site. We can observe two (Laguna Cejar & Laguna Baltinache) and swim in the third (Laguna Piedra). The water is frozen. It is so loaded with salt that we float. It’s nice and the setting is beautiful. You can shower (without soap) after swimming.

How:By bike or car (rental or tour).

Duration:45min on site. Less than two hours go by bike.

Difficulty:Easy.

Price:$ 10,000 CH

Tips:Warnings If you come by bike, pay close attention to the paths shown by maps.me as some pass through the middle of the desert and no longer exist; so it can become very dangerous if you get lost (like us!).

Geyser del Tatio : Geysers where you can swim. The tours start before sunrise.

Laguna Leija

Cerro Tocco

Termas de Puritama

Lagunas escondidas

Valle del Arcoiris : petroglyphs and valley

Sandboard

Cool addresses

La Parada del Desierto: A small restaurant that does not pay much attention but serves roast chicken super good and not excessive.
Address: On Licancabur right next to the Vicente mini market

El Paso Turistico: Small restaurants that serve menus between $ 3000 CH – $ 5000 CH. It’s really nice because they are very small and in general there are few people, especially locals.
Address: On Licancabur in front of the football stadium

El Huerto: Restaurant with a very nice patio. They serve very good homemade dishes not excessive (dish + drink about 6000 $ CH – 7000 $ CH). They make their homemade bread and are super nice.
Address: On Gustavo Le Paige not far from the Volcano Aventura agency

Franchuteria: Bakery run by a Frenchman. Everything is done in the French and it is sometimes even better than in France! Croissants and pain au chocolat are to die for. A little pricey but it’s good to have fun once or twice (bread from home with chicken from the rotisserie … yum!). You can enjoy on the spot it has a nice garden and it’s quiet.
Address: Not far from Padre le Paige junction and Avenida del Inca

Blanco Market: Bobo place with small shops, bars and restaurants.
Address: At the corner of Calama and Caracoles

Barros: Bar with live music every night
Address: At the corner Licancabur-Tocopillas

Advices

There are several mines in the area, so avoid drinking water from the tap.

There a several little supermercados and little food markets in town so do not need to buy plenty of food on the first day.

It is super hot so remember to take at least 3L of water with you (do not think it’s too much!). Put sunscreen on and take a jacket or sweater in case you have to go back after sunset (it’s really cold at night).

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