Things to do in San Pedro de Atacama

Valle de la luna

01 June 2015

Things to do in San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is a community in the northern part of Chile. The city is build in the Atacama desert. With only 5600 inhabitants it is uncrowded.

Many tourist are coming to San Pedro for its unique nature reserves. But the city itself is nice to visit too. The buildings and houses are made from some kind of clay and it has a laid back feeling.

Valle de la luna

Valle de la luna or moon valley only suggest a very awkward landscape which you can’t find anywhere in the world. In the same area there is also Valle de la muerte, dead valley. The area is protected so you have to pay an entrance fee to keep the area maintained.

This area has stone and sand formations which are carved and shaped by the strong wind. The red stones are covered with a thin layer of dry salt which gives a unique scenery.

You can visit Valle de la luna with a tour from San Pedro, which also goes to valle de la muerte. The tour leaves at the end of the day, so you can enjoy the sunset.

It is also possible to rent bikes and bike to the national reserve yourself. And if you really are into adventure you can rent sand boards and ride the sand dunes.

I really enjoyed the afternoon trip to the Valles. Both are a bit look alike and they are absolutely stunning! We made a small hike trough a cave/canyon. It was too dark for me, since I’m a bit claustrophobic, but we got nice scenery and good explanations of the area.

Canyon Garganta del diablo

Canyon garganta del diablo or canyon of the devil’s throat has a strong name. I don’t know how it got it, but it got my attention. My brother and I rented a bike and asked for directions. With good directions from the bike rental company, but with a lousy map we started the adventure.

The ride should be only 7 km, which is fine to bike. We had to pass trough a few low water rivers and we biked on gravel roads.

After a few wrong turns my brother and I split up. Finally, I got to the starting point of the canyon. It started wide, good for biking trough it. But it got smaller, with steep walls next to me. Finally, I got to a point where they told us to lift our bikes trough a small crack. The bike was too heavy to lift for me. I live in the Netherlands, where they steal bikes a lot. So I didn’t want to leave the bike behind alone to long. I walked a bit, to see if I could get to the place where you can climb the walls to see the viewpoint. Unfortunately I had to admit to myself this is not gonna work unless my bother would be here helping with the bikes. I biked back hoping we would see each other.

I took my loss and biked back to the city.

This route I found really pleasant. Easy roads, just some gravel and rivers to cross. And the nature is beautiful!

El Tatio geysir

The tour to see the El tatio geyser leaves at 4 AM. We heard it can be freezing cold, so bear in mind to dress to this. The geyser is only active in the morning, that’s why you’ll leave early. The tours you can book in the center.

We didn’t visit these geysers since we just saw some geyser in Bolivia. But I’m sure if you this would be perfect to see if you missed the ones in Bolivia.

Star gazing

Yes, you read it right! Star gazing! Since San pedro de Atacama has a really dry climate and it is 2500 above sea level this place has the best looks on the galaxies on earth!

This astronomic tour we booked at an office of the plaza in the city center. You have to book ahead, or else the tours will be fully booked.
They pick you up at 9PM and take you to an observatory where they have huge telescopes. Two enthusiastic astronomers from Chile and America had great information about the galaxies and planets. They show you the planets, stars and galaxies and switching turns you can watch trough the telescopes.
It is really informative and another experience you won’t find elsewhere!

There are many other tours and sights to visit like the salt lake, where you can swim or better, float like the dead sea in Israel.
Hot springs and lakes with flamingo’s. Just take your time to visit this area.

How to get here?

We took a tour at Uyuni in Bolivia. The tour was for 3 days and we got dropped of at the border of Chile. From here you can take a bit to San Pedro de Atacama.
I'm sure you can do this trip visa verse. So you can book a 3 day tour to Uyuni with a drop off at Uyuni town. Be aware you will go from 2500 meters to 5000 meters in 1 day just a few hours basically. This means you have to be aware of high altitude which can cause altitude sickness. The symptoms are heavy headache, sleep disturbance and dizziness.
Make sure you will drink enough water and try to take it slow.
If you want to leave San Pedro de Atacama, you can book bus tickets at the bus station. Make sure you will book in advance, the buses tend to be fully booked often.