If you’re looking for all the best things to do in San Pedro de Atacama and the surrounding desert, read on. Today’s guest author brings us a perfect 3-4 day itinerary for exploring the Atacama desert.
The Atacama is the world’s oldest desert, and you must have read about this desert of Chile in your history books.
Fast-forward twenty years (or thirty?), you can now visit this desert and the many geographical wonders that the Atacama hides within its vast expanse. From azure lakes to pink flamingoes nesting around these lakes to high snow-sprinkled volcanoes to golden grass spread like a carpet — Atacama has it all.
While traveling in Chile, head over the Northern town of San Pedro de Atacama, which is the gateway to the Atacama desert. But before heading to the desert, remember that San Pedro is also a peaceful town that has enough activities for travelers to spend a day or two in the village.
Here is a 3-4 day itinerary to both San Pedro de Atacama and the desert of Atacama…
Spend a day in San Pedro de Atacama Town
Spend a day or two eating the empanadas, drinking wine at the plaza, and admiring the adobe houses in the village!
Though most of the people go to San Pedro to travel to the Atacama, when they arrive in the town they slow down. Why wouldn’t they?
Traditional local markets to buy Chilean souvenirs, customary food stalls, cosmopolitan culture all spread in the village of San Pedro that still has houses and a church made of adobe that stands tall at the square.
Take a day to walk around the town, eat and drink, and sit at the central plaza to watch young artists honing their juggling or dancing skills.
Explore the Attractions of Atacama Chile
Take a tour or self-drive to the many tourist attractions of the Atacama Desert…
For the next two-three days of your Atacama trip, you can either rent a self-driving car or book a tour from one of the many travel agencies lining the streets of San Pedro to visit Atacama desert’s absurd geographical creations.
Some of those geographies are — Piedra Rojas or the Red Rocks, Geysers del Tatio — The Hot Geysers of Tatio, natural hot springs, and Valle de La Luna or the moon valley.
Piedra Rojas are red rocks formed by lava deposits that sit next to deep-blue Chaxa lake home to beautiful pink flamingos. Make sure to visit the high-altitude lakes of Miscanti y Minique on the way to the red rocks.
Once you are at the lakes, you would wonder if you are still in the world’s driest desert, such is the landscape.
Geysers del Tatio
The Geysers del Tatio or the hot geysers of Tatio are best visited before dawn. Geysers are formed when hot rocks meet cold water. You would see steam shooting out of the ground at places, and these formations are called geysers.
Your tour guide must combine the tour to the geysers of Tatio with a visit to the hot springs. These feel heavenly to dip in those early morning hours of freezing desert cold. But remember to not stay for too long in the hot springs. Otherwise, your body temperature could suddenly decrease as you are in extreme climatic conditions.
Valle de la Luna
Another fun visit in the Atacama desert is the moon valley or the Valle de la Luna. This is a vast valley that sprawls in the lap of Atacama. The surface of the moon valley resembles the craters of the moon and thus the name.
Moon valley makes for a day trip, so you could be back to your hotel by evening. But not before watching the sunset behind one of the gorgeous volcanoes of the Atacama visible from the moon valley!
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Stargazing in the Atacama Desert
Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to spot the Milky Way! Millions of stars are visible from San Pedro and the Atacama desert at night. The Atacama is known for astronomical activities, and enthusiastic stargazers come from around the world to the Atacama to see a sky full of shining stars.
You can stargaze from San Pedro. Or, get out in the Atacama desert and camp for a night to see the stars. Feel free to ask your tour company or hostel for a star-gazing tour.
You will see more than you can count so keep a night extra for this.
This is our 3-4 days itinerary to San Pedro and the Atacama desert. Of course, you can customise it to plan your Atacama trip to suit you!
Hope you have a fun and star-filled Atacama trip. Scroll down to leave a comment with your own tips – or any questions!
Priyanka Gupta is an itinerant travel blogger from India who left her investment banking career to travel the world. Having travelled extensively thorough South America, solo, Priyanka is now based out of India. She focuses on culturally immersive travel while relishing local delicacies and never missing a chance to see wildlife. Priyanka blogs full-time and claims to know the art of blogging from even the camps in the wild.