San Pedro de Atacama is a small town located 102km east from Calama, capital of the Loa Province, in the II Region of Chile.
San Pedro is one of many oases found in the highlands near the Andes Mountains, part of the Atacama Desert. Its surrounding landscape includes desert, salt flats, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs.
This small town is of great importance to Chile as it is considered the country’s archeological capital, also because of its extreme geographical position and extraordinary landscape, and its eternal blue sky. Plus, it is home to the ALMA Observatory.
The town’s central square features a church built in 1774, representative of the local architectural style. Nearby, you can find the Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum, named after the Jesuit Belgian priest who settled in San Pedro in 1955, which has a collection of 380,000 pre-colombian artifacts from the Atacameño culture.
The town is filled with restaurants, cafés and bars. You will also find craft fairs and shops. Do not forget to look for the natural way to protect yourself from altitude sickness with coca leaves, chachacima and flor de la puna.
The weather in San Pedro de Atacama is desert-like, very dry and hot.
Winter temperature: 22ºC by day and 4ºC by night (blue sky all the year)
Summer temperature: 27ºC by day and 16ºC by night (occasional rains)
No matter the season, it is recommended to take light colored clothing, light weight trousers, shorts, t-shirts, bathing suit, sunblock and warmer clothing for the evenings.
It is very important to keep hydrated at all times, bring your water bottle to refill at every moment where available.
Located in the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range), it is an extraordinary attraction because of its close resemblance to the surface of the moon, and it is an enormous natural coliseum.
The best time of the day to visit the Valle de la Luna is at dusk, to see a spectacle of shade and changing colors.
Distance: 2 km
Traveling south from San Pedro is the Salar de Atacama (Atacama Salt Flat). From here you can see the Licancabur (5,920 mts)and Lascar (5,592 mts) volcanoes, among others. Toconao, located at 2,500 mts above sea level, is an old colonial village, its buildings are built entirely with liparita stone, which is of volcanic origin. At the end of the road you reach the Chaxa Lagoon, inhabited by three different types of flamingos and a large number of migratory birds.
Distance to Toconao: 38 km
Located in the middle of the Atacama Salt Flat, is the Laguna de Cejar. Its turquoise waters, surrounded by white salt crystals, have a high concentration of salt and lithium, which make its level of flotation higher than that of the Dead Sea. Do not forget to take your bathing suit.
Distance: 30 km
The Tatío Geysers are a geo thermal field at the feet of the Andes, at 4.200 meters above sea level. Its fumaroles are the highest in the world (4,300 mts), produced by the high temperatures inside the water filled craters, whose origins are the underground hot water rivers created by the Tatío Volcano. It is best to visit at sunrise to truly appreciate the steam rising from the depths of the earth.
Distance: 89 km
These hot springs (32 degrees C)are located on the way to the Tatío Geysers in the middle of a canyon. The springs are made up of hot water falls and pools of highly mineralized therapeutic waters fed by the Puritama River.
Distance: 28 km
Three kilometers northwest from San Pedro are the ruins of Pukará de Quitor, the center of social and political power built by the Atacameños. It was also used as a fortress to protect themselves from their potential enemies. It is located on the slope of Quitor hill, along the San Pedro River. It was declared a National Monument in 1982.
Distance: 3 km
El Valle de la Muerte is found in the middle of a mountainous and sandy valley near San Pedro. It gets its name from the numerous animals and humans who have tried to cross it and have not survived. Proof is in the animal and human remains found on the site. To arrive, you cross the Cordillera de la Sal, a “mountain range” of natural salt made sculptures.
Distance: 3 km
The Miscanti and Miñique Lagoons are located more than 4,200 meters above sea level. They are part of the National Flamingo Reserve and cared for by the indigenous Socaire community. The waters are an intense blue, surrounded by the white edge of the lagoon. A large variety of birds can be found nesting there. Distance 90 km
Tulor is a 3,000 year old village buried under sand, discovered in the 1950s by the Belgian Jesuit Priest Gustavo Le Paige. The village remains are an archeological and historical site. The houses and buildings are round and half buried under the sand due to the winds. The site is curated by the Coyo indigenous community, with the support of several government agencies.
Distance: 10 km