San Pedro de Atacama

North & Atacama Desert

The geographical environment of San Pedro de Atacama seems as if it were painted by hand. The beauty of the landscape can be observed at the break of dawn, felt at noon, and observed in the stars at night.

Current weather San Pedro de Atacama

27.5ºC | Clouds and sun

Located 102 km from Calama (the closest city), the land around San Pedro de Atacama is primarily owned by native peoples whose focus is agriculture and tourism. Its old town square features a church (built in 1774) that reveals some of local architectural style: cactus wood details, adobe construction and leather-bound algarrobo beams. Nearby, you’ll find the R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archeological Museum, where you can marvel at mummies and everyday objects that offer a glimpse into the richness of the area’s past.

The town is filled with artisanal crafts stands where you can buy knit goods, jewelry and herbs, including coca leaves that can be used to combat altitude sickness on visits to the El Tatio Geysers. You can enjoy a wonderful view of the geothermic field at sunrise from 4,300 meters above sea level. The geysers are one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions. On the way back, treat yourself to a relaxing visit to the Puritama Hot Springs. Pure delight.

Heading southeast from San Pedro, you’ll come across a number of attractions: the town of Toconao, the Atacama Salt Flat and the Chaxa Lagoon, which is home to flamingoes and other bird species.

A few destinations are best visited at sunset, such as Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte. Both offer gorgeous shadows and shifting colors that make them perfect for photography. You can reach both places from San Pedro by bike.

All of these sites are part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve, whose nearly 74,000 hectares are divided into seven sectors, each of which contains different natural settings.

Know the experience of our visitors in Chile, through this video!


El Tatio Geysers

The craters of El Tatio awake very early in the morning. This geothermic field attracts hundreds of visitors a year, despite the fact that it sits at an altitude of 4,200 meters.

The best time to see the geysers is between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. Whether you’re visiting on your own or as part of a guided tour, the rule is to leave San Pedro de Atacama at around 5:00 am. But the wonders of this setting don’t end with the geysers. You’ll come across vicunas, viscachas, ñandúes and a variety of birds that live among the llaretas (a Chilean plant), giant cacti and paja brava grass.


Pukara de Quitor

Built around 1100 BC on top of the steep hills near San Pedro de Atacama Pukara Quitor was a formidable fortress, designed with a military strategic advantage that protected his people for centuries. It was declared a National Monument of Chile in 1982, it is located approximately at 3 km from the city of San Pedro de Atacama.


Toconao

This is a colonial village entirely built with stones of volcanic origin, liparitas. It is located at 2,475 meters above sea level; it is an oasis where they grow all kinds of fruits.

Faced to its square, the Church and Belfry of San Lucas are located, which have been declared National Monuments.


Puritama Hot Springs

Flowing from the underground streams of the Atacama Desert, the Puritama Hot Springs are warm and rejuvenating and highly-recommended for combating stress and rheumatic illnesses. Located 30 km north of San Pedro de Atacama, Puritama is very close to the Valley of the Moon. The hot springs are nestled in a mountainous canon with water flowing directly from the earth at temperatures of between 25ºC (77ºF) and 33ºC (91ºF). Basic facilities with changing rooms, bathrooms, and wooden walkways are available.


Los Flamencos National Reserve

The best way to organize your visit is by dividing the reserve into seven sectors according to their unique characteristics. This “map” helps simplify the task of planning your route and can serve as a guide to this magnificent nature preserve.


Tara Salt Flat

This salt flat is located five hours away andmore than 4,000 meters above sea level in the Atacama Plateau. It is located by enormous columns of volcanic eruption scarps at the foot of volcanoes and next to a lagoon with flamingos and vicunas. It also includes the Tara Lagoon, the Zapaleri River, the Aguas Calientes Salt Flat, and the Black Lagoon.


Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons

located at an altitude of 4,300 meters and surrounded by llaretas and straw. These beautiful mirrors of water attract large numbers of Chilean flamingos, horned coots, parinas, and guallatas, among other birds. Other notable highland lakes are the Green Lagoon at 4,325 meters above sea level and the Sejar Lagoon.


The Valley of the Moon

An interesting area of rock formations and colors of sand that are very similar to those of the lunar surface. The sunsets here are an explosion of colors, while on nights with a full moon the valley has an indescribable look, full of majesty and silence, coldly beautiful and imposing. Here there is no life or moisture, making it the most inhospitable place on earth.


Atacama Salt Flat, Soncor area

its landscape is characterized by saline ridges with birds that survive by feeding on small crustaceans and algae. It is an important site of Andean flamingo breeding and the largest salt deposit in Chile. Its surfaceis 100 kilometers long and 80 wide and white and rough, stained by the dust of the desert.


Atacama Salt Flat, Quelana area

Characterized by its extensive salt crust, wildlife, saline mud, and mud. It includes the water lagoons of Quelana.


Tambillo

The only mesquite forest in Atacama.


Pujsa Salt Flat

The most difficult area to access with in the Los Flamencos National Reserve due to its depression between mountains and volcanic structures. It has several lagoons and the Quepiaco Ravine.


Astronomical Tours

Upon reservation, you can visit the Paranal Observatory the last two weekends of each month, except in December. The visits are free and they begin at 2:00 pm and end at approximately 4:30 pm. It is essential to book early, as space is limited and sells out several months in advance. Children under 5 are not allowed. The most basic tours are offered by the agency SPACE. Tours are conducted every night and are geared towards people who want to learn more about the Atacama sky.


ALMA Observatory visits

ALMA is open every Saturday and Sunday morning to members of the public who want to visit its facilities located in northern Chile (50 km from San Pedro de Atacama). Visitors must register in advance by completing and submitting the form below. Only those who are registered in advance may visit the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF), where ALMA personnel work and where visitors can observe the control room, laboratories and usually antennas under maintenance and the antenna transporter. For safety reasons, operations on the Chajnantor Plateau (the Array Operations Site, or AOS, where the antennas are located) are not open to visitors, due to the location at 5,000 meters above sea level.

To obtain an entry pass (free of charge), look for the date you plan to visit. If there are no available spots, you can register for the wait list.


Caving Tours

Indigenous peoples are active in this type of tourism, where tourists visit the caves of the Valley of the Moon.


Photographs and wildlife watching

If you’re looking to take photos of the local fauna, remember to be patient and wait without moving. The viscachas might allow you to take a picture from up close, but you should resist the urgeto give them food due to their status as a protected species. Generally speaking, the llamas are more accustomed to human visitors, but try to avoid bothering them because some spit.


Appropriate clothing

The temperatures in San Pedro typically rise rapidly before noon (exceeding 20ºC) and can reach lows of 0ºC in the morning and at night. Make sure you bring warm clothing, especially if you plan on visiting high-altitude sites like the El Tatio Geysers.


Visiting El Tatio Geyser

Here it’s important to follow your guide’s instructions and the signs that show the safest places to stand. The ground at El Tatio is a form of crust that isn’t always stable. Watch your step!

Avoid accidents with burns. Do not touch the water. Do not forget to bring a bathing suit because in the vicinity there are thermal pools to soak.


“La Puna” in El Tatio Geyser

In order to avoid “la puna” (altitude sickness), you should drink about two liters of water before heading to the geysers. Another option is to buy coca leaves at one of the artisan fairs in San Pedro, and make an infusion to drink along the way.


Admission

Some of the reserve’s sectors are managed by the Atacama community, and admission is charged in order to help finance preservation efforts.


Go for a swim or soak

The reserve has numerous hot springs and lagoons, but not all of them have rest rooms, so it’s good to be prepared. Wear your bathing suit under your clothes if you would rather not change in the open. Don’t forget to pack fresh water to get the salt off your skin and warm clothing to keep you from getting a chill when you get out of the water.

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