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Guide To San Pedro De Atacama Chile – Best Tours & Things To Do


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Denys Penrod



Welcome to the enchanting destination of San Pedro De Atacama in Chile. Nestled in the heart of the Atacama Desert, this small town attracts adventurous travelers from around the world with its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique natural wonders.


The town of San Pedro De Atacama serves as the gateway to exploring the mesmerizing landscapes that surround it. From otherworldly salt flats and lagoons to towering volcanoes and ancient archaeological sites, this region offers a wealth of unforgettable experiences for nature lovers and adventure seekers.


With its dry climate and clear skies, San Pedro De Atacama is also renowned as one of the best places on Earth for stargazing and astronomy. The town is home to several world-class observatories, astronomic tours, and astronomical hotels that allow visitors to marvel at the wonders of the universe.


In this comprehensive guide, we will take you on a virtual tour of San Pedro De Atacama, highlighting the best tours and things to do in this fascinating region. Whether you are interested in exploring ancient civilizations, experiencing adrenaline-pumping adventures, or immersing yourself in the local culture, San Pedro De Atacama has something for everyone.


So, let’s dive into the vibrant and diverse world of San Pedro De Atacama and discover the secrets and wonders that await you in this breathtaking corner of Chile.


Getting to San Pedro De Atacama

Located in northern Chile, getting to San Pedro De Atacama is an adventure in itself. While the town may seem remote, there are several transportation options available to reach this hidden gem.


If you are flying in from international destinations, the closest airport is the Calama El Loa Airport (CJC). Many domestic airlines operate regular flights to Calama from major cities in Chile, including Santiago. From the airport, you can take a transfer or a taxi for the roughly 1-hour journey to San Pedro De Atacama. Some hotels also offer a shuttle service for their guests.


If you prefer overland travel, you can reach San Pedro De Atacama by bus. There are direct bus connections from cities like Calama, La Serena, and Antofagasta. The journey times can vary depending on the origin, but expect a scenic and comfortable ride through the desert landscapes.


Another option is to take a tour from other parts of Chile or neighboring countries. Many tour operators offer guided tours that include transportation to San Pedro De Atacama as part of the package. This can be a convenient and hassle-free way to explore the region, especially if you plan on visiting multiple destinations in Chile.


Once you arrive in San Pedro De Atacama, the town is small enough to explore on foot. Most of the main attractions, restaurants, and accommodations are within walking distance of each other. However, keep in mind that many of the natural wonders around San Pedro De Atacama are located outside the town, and you may need transportation or guided tours to access them.


In the next sections, we will delve into the incredible sights and activities that await you in San Pedro De Atacama. From archaeological wonders to adrenaline-pumping adventures, there is no shortage of things to do and see in this captivating destination.


Exploring the Town

The town of San Pedro De Atacama itself is a charming and picturesque destination worth exploring. Despite its small size, it offers a variety of attractions, shops, and restaurants that showcase the region’s rich cultural heritage.


Start your exploration with a visit to the main square, Plaza de San Pedro. This bustling plaza is the heart of the town and is surrounded by adobe buildings, cafes, and shops. Take a moment to relax in the shade of a tree and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.


San Pedro De Atacama is also home to several fascinating museums that give insight into the region’s history and culture. The Museo Arqueológico R.P. Gustavo Le Paige is a must-visit, showcasing an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits from the pre-Columbian cultures that once thrived in the area.


As you wander through the town’s streets, you will also come across various handicraft stores where you can find unique souvenirs and locally-made products. Look out for beautiful handwoven textiles, pottery, and silver jewelry that showcase the traditional craftsmanship of the local indigenous communities.


When it comes to dining, San Pedro De Atacama offers a diverse range of culinary experiences. From casual street food stalls offering delicious empanadas and traditional Chilean dishes to upscale restaurants serving gourmet cuisine, there is something to satisfy every palate.


Don’t miss the opportunity to try some of the local specialties, such as llama or alpaca meat dishes. And of course, pair your meal with a glass of Chilean wine or try the famous pisco sour, a traditional Chilean cocktail.


To immerse yourself further in the local culture, consider attending a traditional dance performance or music show. These cultural events often take place in the town’s plaza or in local community centers and provide a glimpse into the vibrant traditions and customs of the indigenous communities.


Exploring the town of San Pedro De Atacama is a delightful experience that allows you to connect with the authentic charm and culture of the region. Take your time to wander the streets, savor the local cuisine, and indulge in the artistic heritage of the town before venturing out to the incredible natural wonders that await you.


Archaeological Sites

San Pedro De Atacama and its surrounding areas are home to some of the most fascinating archaeological sites in Chile. These ancient ruins and preserved remnants provide a glimpse into the rich history and civilizations that once thrived in this region.


One of the most iconic archaeological sites near San Pedro De Atacama is the Pukará de Quitor. This pre-Columbian fortress sits atop a hill overlooking the town and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Explore the ruins and learn about the indigenous Atacameño culture that inhabited the area centuries ago.


Another significant site is the Tulor Village, believed to be one of the oldest archaeological sites in northern Chile. Explore the well-preserved circular adobe structures and gain insights into the daily life and traditions of the ancient Atacameño people.


You should also visit the nearby archaeological complex of Catarpe. Discover the ruins of an ancient irrigation system, terraces, and adobe structures that showcase the advanced agricultural practices of the pre-Columbian civilizations in this arid region.


If you’re interested in ancient rock art, head to the Yerbas Buenas Petroglyphs. Located a short distance from San Pedro De Atacama, this site boasts thousands of petroglyphs carved into huge boulders, depicting scenes of hunting, animals, and everyday life.


For a truly awe-inspiring experience, don’t miss a trip to the Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) and the Death Valley (Valle de la Muerte). These stunning natural landmarks also feature archaeological sites, including ancient caves and rock formations that hold historical and cultural significance.


When visiting these archaeological sites, it is recommended to hire a knowledgeable guide who can provide detailed explanations and insights into the history and significance of each location. This will ensure that you make the most of your visit and gain a deeper appreciation for the ancient civilizations that once called this place home.


Exploring the archaeological sites in and around San Pedro De Atacama is a fascinating journey through time. Marvel at the intricate architecture, decipher the mysterious petroglyphs, and connect with the ancient heritage that continues to shape the cultural identity of the region.


Geysers, Hot Springs, and Volcanoes

San Pedro De Atacama is a region of natural wonders, and one of the highlights is its geothermal activity. Explore the geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes that make this area truly unique.


One of the must-visit attractions is the El Tatio Geysers, located about 90 kilometers from San Pedro De Atacama. This geothermal field sits at an altitude of over 4,000 meters and boasts impressive steam eruptions that shoot high into the sky. Visit early in the morning to witness the dramatic display of geysers against the backdrop of the rising sun.


After the geysers, you can unwind and relax in one of the many hot springs scattered throughout the region. The Puritama Hot Springs, nestled in a picturesque canyon, offer a tranquil and rejuvenating experience. Soak in the warm thermal waters surrounded by stunning natural beauty.


If you want to challenge yourself and explore a volcano, the Lascar Volcano is a popular choice. Though reaching its summit requires physical fitness and proper planning, the reward is a surreal experience and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.


For a more accessible volcanic experience, visit the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons. These two stunning high-altitude lagoons are located at the foot of the volcanoes of the same name. Marvel at the brilliant blue waters and the contrasting landscapes of snow-capped peaks and desert plains.


The geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes of San Pedro De Atacama offer a unique opportunity to witness the raw power and beauty of nature. Whether you choose to relax in the soothing thermal waters, marvel at the steam eruptions of the geysers, or challenge yourself with a volcano ascent, these natural wonders will leave you in awe.


Salt Flats and Lagoons

San Pedro De Atacama is blessed with stunning salt flats and lagoons that showcase the surreal beauty of the desert landscape. These natural wonders are a must-see for any visitor to the region.


Salar de Atacama is the largest salt flat in Chile and one of the most spectacular in the world. This vast expanse of blinding white salt stretches as far as the eye can see, creating a mesmerizing and otherworldly landscape. Take a guided tour and walk on the crunchy salt crust, capturing incredible photos of the unique surroundings.


Within the Salar de Atacama, you can visit the beautiful Chaxa Lagoon. This lagoon is part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve and is home to stunning flamingos. Watch these graceful birds as they wade through the shallow waters, adding a pop of color to the stark salt flat backdrop.


Another picturesque lagoon to explore is Laguna Miscanti. Surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains, this high-altitude lagoon offers a breathtaking sight. Take a leisurely stroll along the shores or hike to the nearby viewpoints for panoramic vistas of the azure waters contrasting with the barren landscape.


For an ethereal and surreal experience, make sure to visit the otherworldly Piedras Rojas (Red Stones). This natural masterpiece features red-hued rocks contrasting against crystal-clear turquoise waters, creating a visual spectacle that is truly unforgettable. It’s an ideal spot for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


Exploring the salt flats and lagoons of San Pedro De Atacama is like stepping into a different world. The barren yet stunning landscapes, vibrant flamingos, and the mesmerizing play of colors will leave you in awe of the magnificence of nature.


Stargazing and Astronomy Tours

San Pedro De Atacama is globally renowned as one of the best places on Earth for stargazing and astronomy. With its high altitude, clear skies, and minimal light pollution, this region provides a perfect environment for observing the wonders of the universe.


One of the top activities to do in San Pedro De Atacama is joining a stargazing tour. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who will educate you about the different constellations, planets, and celestial phenomena visible in the southern hemisphere skies. They will also provide you with telescopes and other equipment to enhance your stargazing experience.


The best time to indulge in stargazing is during the dry season, from May to September, when the nights are longer and the skies are usually clear. Imagine marveling at the Milky Way stretching across the sky, witnessing shooting stars streaking their way through the darkness, and spotting distant galaxies millions of light-years away.


If you’re truly passionate about astronomy, consider visiting one of the world-class observatories in the area. These cutting-edge facilities offer guided tours and provide access to powerful telescopes. Attend a star party, where visitors can observe celestial objects while learning from expert astronomers.


Some hotels in San Pedro De Atacama are also astronomy-themed, offering guests the opportunity to stargaze right from their own rooms or on-site observatories. These accommodation options often provide telescopes in each room or have dedicated stargazing platforms for an immersive stargazing experience.


Regardless of whether you join a tour, visit an observatory, or simply gaze at the stars from the comfort of your hotel, stargazing in San Pedro De Atacama is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. It allows you to connect with the vastness of the universe and gain a deeper understanding of our place within it.


Adventure Activities

San Pedro De Atacama offers an array of thrilling adventure activities that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the dramatic landscapes and experience an adrenaline rush like no other. From exploring remote desert canyons to conquering towering sand dunes, this region is a playground for adventure enthusiasts.


One of the most popular activities is sandboarding. Head to the Death Valley or the nearby dunes of the Moon Valley and slide down the sandy slopes on a sandboard or sand sled. Feel the rush of the wind in your face as you glide through the desert terrain.


To explore the rugged canyons and rocky formations, embark on a trekking or hiking adventure. The Quebrada de Guatin and Quebrada del Diablo are stunning desert canyons that beckon explorers to navigate their winding paths and discover hidden oases and breathtaking views along the way.


If you’re up for a more challenging adventure, consider taking a mountain biking tour. Ride through the breathtaking altiplano landscapes, passing by salt flats, lagoons, and volcanic landscapes. The varying terrain and dramatic vistas will make for an unforgettable biking experience.


For an unparalleled adrenaline rush, why not try paragliding? Soar high above the desert landscapes and take in unparalleled views of the Atacama Desert. The freedom and exhilaration of flying over this unique terrain will leave you in awe.


Another thrilling activity is horseback riding. Explore the desert on horseback, galloping across vast plains, and traversing canyons. This traditional mode of transport offers a unique perspective on the breathtaking landscape surrounding San Pedro De Atacama.


In addition to these adventurous activities, San Pedro De Atacama also offers opportunities for rock climbing, off-roading in 4×4 vehicles, and even helicopter tours for a bird’s-eye view of the stunning landscapes.


Whether you seek an adrenaline rush, a chance to conquer challenging terrains, or simply a thrilling experience in the heart of nature, the adventure activities in San Pedro De Atacama offer something for everyone. Get ready to push your limits and create unforgettable memories in this captivating destination.


Local Culture and Handicrafts

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry of San Pedro De Atacama by exploring its local traditions, customs, and handicrafts. The region is home to indigenous communities that have preserved their vibrant culture and craftsmanship for generations.


One of the best ways to experience the local culture is by interacting with the Atacameño people. Visit local communities and engage in cultural exchanges, learning about their traditional ways of life, agriculture, and rituals. You may have the opportunity to witness traditional ceremonies or participate in workshops where you can learn skills such as weaving or pottery making.


San Pedro De Atacama is renowned for its high-quality handicrafts, showcasing the skills and creativity of the local artisans. Explore the numerous craft markets in town to find beautifully handcrafted textiles, ceramics, jewelry, and woodwork. These unique pieces make for perfect souvenirs or gifts that reflect the vibrant culture and artistic traditions of the Atacameño people.


Textiles play a significant role in the cultural heritage of the region. The local weavers use traditional techniques and natural materials to create intricate patterns and designs. Look out for colorful ponchos, scarves, and blankets, each telling a story through its unique motifs and symbols.


Another iconic craft of San Pedro De Atacama is the pottery. The artisans mold clay into intricate shapes and patterns, often depicting scenes from daily life or incorporating cultural symbols. Visit the local pottery studios to witness the process firsthand and to purchase one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces to adorn your home.


In addition to textiles and pottery, you can also find beautiful silver jewelry featuring traditional designs and symbols. These pieces are often handmade by skilled local artisans and make for exquisite accessories to complement any outfit.


By supporting the local artisans and their crafts, you not only acquire unique and meaningful souvenirs but also contribute to the preservation of the cultural heritage of San Pedro De Atacama. Take the time to explore the local markets, engage with the artisans, and appreciate the beauty and skill that goes into each handcrafted piece.


Dining and Nightlife Options

San Pedro De Atacama offers a diverse range of dining and nightlife options that cater to different tastes and preferences. After a day of exploring the natural wonders of the region, unwind and indulge in the local culinary delights and vibrant nightlife scene.


When it comes to dining, you’ll find a variety of options to satisfy your taste buds. From traditional Chilean cuisine to international flavors, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Sample local delicacies such as empanadas, a savory pastry filled with meat or cheese, or try grilled meats and fresh seafood dishes.


There are also vegetarian and vegan-friendly options available, ensuring that everyone can find something delicious to enjoy. Don’t miss the chance to taste traditional Chilean products such as organic quinoa, native potatoes, and locally sourced ingredients.


In addition to the diverse dining scene, San Pedro De Atacama offers a vibrant nightlife experience. Start your evening by enjoying a drink at one of the local bars or lounges, where you can mingle with fellow travelers and locals alike. Sip on a refreshing pisco sour, a traditional Chilean cocktail, or try local craft beers.


For those seeking a livelier atmosphere, there are several clubs and discos where you can dance the night away to a mix of local and international music. While the nightlife scene may not be as bustling as in larger cities, San Pedro De Atacama still offers a lively and enjoyable experience.


In addition to dining and nightlife venues in town, some hotels and lodges in the area also offer on-site restaurants and bars. These establishments often feature a cozy and intimate atmosphere, allowing guests to relax while enjoying a delicious meal or a refreshing cocktail.


It’s important to note that San Pedro De Atacama is a destination where you can find tranquility and elegance rather than a bustling party scene. The focus is on enjoying good food, great company, and immersing yourself in the relaxed ambiance of the town.


Whether you’re looking for a quiet dinner with traditional flavors or a lively evening of music and dancing, San Pedro De Atacama has a dining and nightlife scene that caters to all tastes. Indulge in the delicious cuisine, sip on delightful drinks, and make lasting memories in this vibrant and welcoming destination.



San Pedro De Atacama is a destination that captivates the senses and leaves a lasting impression on visitors. From its enchanting landscapes and ancient archaeological sites to its rich cultural heritage and thrilling adventure activities, this corner of Chile offers an unforgettable experience for every traveler.


As you explore the town, immerse yourself in the local culture, and discover the traditional handicrafts, you will gain a deeper appreciation for the vibrant customs and artistic traditions of the Atacameño people.


Embarking on tours to the geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes, you will be in awe of the raw power and beauty of nature. The salt flats and lagoons will transport you to another world, with their surreal landscapes and vibrant colors.


No trip to San Pedro De Atacama would be complete without attuning yourself to the wonders of the night sky. Stargazing and astronomy tours will provide you with a newfound appreciation for the majesty and vastness of the universe.


With a wide range of dining options and a vibrant nightlife scene, San Pedro De Atacama ensures that you have a memorable culinary experience and opportunities for enjoyment after the sun sets.


So, whether you seek adventure, cultural immersion, or simply a chance to connect with nature, San Pedro De Atacama is a destination that promises to exceed your expectations. From ancient civilizations to awe-inspiring natural wonders, this enchanting region will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.