Seven days in northern Chile. San Pedro de Atacama.
Hello, it’s me again. Yesterday, I wrote a post about how I had booked this trip to Chile, told everyone my grand plans to backpack Patagonia, boarded a flight to Santiago, and then found myself on a bus to a coastal town with the realization that welp, Patagonia is just not in my cards this trip.
I had failed to plan…thoroughly. I mean, I could have squeezed it into the trip and perhaps done a version of the trip I envisioned in my head but I decided against it and to save it for my next trip.
And all of me is so happy for that travel misstep because it lead me north to San Pedro. From Santiago, fly into Calama and make the drive into San Pedro. Usually, your accommodation will help you set that transfer up!
Below are my must sees, which can be EASILY set up with one of the many companies you'll see when walking up and down San Pedro village. You will not need to plan ahead for this. Only difficult thing is deciding between all the sights you want to see!
Piedras Rojas. Completely unbelievable expanse of land and water. I literally had no idea natural water beds could look like that. Some people overlook this as it is a little more out of the way but it was easily the highlight of my trip!
Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte. When I talked about the strong resemblance San Pedro has to Mars (or vice versa??), these two valleys seal the deal. Wildly untamed rock formations descend over their red valleys. I actually did a horseback riding adventure all throughout valle de la muerte (http://atacamahorseadventure.com) and it was magical. It was myself and the ranchero, and his pup that followed us along the entire time…miles! For most of the journey, we were the only two people in the entire valley. Quite a surreal feeling.
Reserva Nacional de Flamencos. A pretty little land of pastel where flamingos roam about.
Termas Banos de Purtima. A nice little spot for relaxation and an afternoon. Definitely still maintains that natural feel and pristine beauty.
Lagunas Miscanti y Miniques. Gorgeous waters surrounded by steep mountains and local flower blooms.
Geyser del Tatio. Frankly, I found this wildly underwhelming but so many others visit these that I thought I would mention it here. There are hot springs you can enjoy but it was a bit overrun by tourists so it lost all of its natural allure.
I was so disappointed that I did not have time to hike Lascar, one of the many volcanos in the area. If you do want to do this, remember to save this for the later portion of your trip because many people suffer from altitude sickness when they do not properly acclimate.
And of course, you’re so close to Bolivia that it is extremely common to catch a bus to Salar de Uyuni. How I wish I had the time!!
Getting to and around:
I booked an inexpensive flight from Santiago to Calama when I arrived in Santiago with LAN Airways. From Calama, I had arranged an airport transfer with my hostel which most places will happily do for you! From Calama, it does take over an hour to get into San Pedro so plan on that when you're thinking about arriving and departing San Pedro.
Calama is definitely the base for San Pedro, so most major Northern cities as well as Santiago have buses that route through there. Flights are also available from the Southern Chile into Calama with both LAN and Sky Airways.
Getting around San Pedro de Atacama won't be something you'll need to worry about because you're either on foot in the village or with a tour group (the tours are great) that provide transportation. Or by horse like me if you wish :)
A backpackers hostel for sure. Funky environment (in a good way), where it is extremely easy to meet fun, nice, and friendly fellow travelers. It is also one of the only, if not the only, hostel with a bar. This does keep noise levels up so a sound night's rest is less readily available but being a solo traveler, I valued the community that Hostal Rural provides. So many people from all over the world! Centrally located as well!
More of a quiet, off the beaten path type of place. I did enjoy my stay there but I was missing a little of the ‘action’ the already pretty quiet San Pedro village. Perhaps if I were traveling on a budget with a boyfriend I would stay there again. Super friendly staff as well!
Nightlife. Hm. I found this town to be pretty quiet at night. The club scene does not exist here (thank goodness!) and nights are more so met with cold beers at local, no frills bars. San Pedro has one main little walking road and crowds vary from night to night.
If you have questions about San Pedro de Atacama, I would definitely be able to help!
Remember this is the desert! Very hot days, very cold nights.
Make the visit.