San Pedro de Atacama is a town in the north of Chile that is situated in the driest non-polar desert in the world. The landscape here is like you’re on another planet. Be ready to be blown away, and get excited.

It’s full of volcanos, valleys, sand dunes, salt flats, flamingos, guanacos and salt lakes. A trip to this desert is one of the top things to do in Chile and in South America.

Top facts to know before visiting

It is an amazing town, where anything is possible…at a cost. Be prepared to spend, Chile is one of the most expensive countries in South America, and this town is one of the most expensive of Chile.

Everything, even a lookout, is private. You have to pay high entrance fees to see any site you wish to visit.

I would recommend tours to get more bang for your buck plus to have more convenience.

Top things to do!

  1. Purilibre (see left) – honestly, my favourite thing I’ve done in San Pedro. Underrated, free, natural hot springs in a valley. The temperature is perfect for the hot desert in that it’s more like a heated pool, rather than a hot tub. Go visit while it’s still less known.
  2. El Tatio Geysers – an amazing geyser field that is best at sunrise, be prepared for subzero temperatures
  3. Piedras Rojas – an altiplanic turquoise lagoon with red rocks and volcanos surrounding it (was closed for maintenance in 2019)
  4. The Valley of the Moon – a landscape that is like walking on Mars or the moon, best at sunset!
  5. Stargaze, the skies here are amazing, SPACE offers a great guided tour of the stars with telescopes that the astronomer has made himself
  6. Laguna Cejar – a salt lake that is like a mini Dead Sea, where you can float and relax due to high salt content
  7. Atacama Salt Flat & Flamingo Reserve – see the salt flats and flamingos that live here
  8. Sandboarding in the Valley of the Dead – super cool to do at night where they have a DJ, and sometimes turn off the lights so you can really see the stars
  9. A tour of the surrounding Altiplanic Lakes that will take you to beautiful lakes & volcanos surrounded by wildlife
  10. See the town, and visit the Adobe Church
  11. Visit the San Pedro de Atacama Cemetery in between tours

Places to eat

  • La Picada del Indio – traditional food, three course meal that’s well priced
  • Emporio Andino – great breakfast, coffee, and pretty good empanadas
  • Adobe – Chilean food with a modern twist. Great decor.

How to make the most of your stay (on a budget)

  • Shop around, the town is completely saturated with tour agencies, book the day before or day of for a tour. Don’t feel the need to book online or in advance
  • Get a package deal, most agencies offer cheaper prices if you book all your tours with them
  • Bargain!
  • Make your own food (restaurants here can get expensive)
  • Bring cash, the ATMs can run out of money/be out of order