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The Best Of Camping In The San Pedro De Atacama Desert, Chile


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Bernadine Cofield



Welcome to San Pedro de Atacama, a picturesque oasis nestled in the heart of the Atacama Desert in Chile. Known for its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and vibrant culture, it is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of this region is by camping.


With its clear skies, mesmerizing sunsets, and incredible geological formations, San Pedro de Atacama offers a unique camping experience like no other. Whether you are a seasoned camper or new to the world of outdoor adventures, this destination has something to offer for everyone.


From star-filled nights to breathtaking natural attractions, this article will provide you with all the information you need to make the most out of your camping trip in San Pedro de Atacama. We will guide you through the best campgrounds, recommended trails, must-visit attractions, local culture, and outdoor activities. So pack your camping gear, grab a tent, and let’s explore the wonders of the Atacama Desert.


Getting to San Pedro de Atacama

Located in the northern part of Chile, getting to San Pedro de Atacama may require some planning, but the journey is well worth it. The town is easily accessible by various means of transportation:

  • By Air: If you are traveling from outside of Chile, the closest airport is El Loa Airport (CJC) in Calama. Several domestic airlines operate regular flights from Santiago and other major cities to Calama. From Calama, you can take a bus or hire a private transfer to reach San Pedro de Atacama, which is approximately an hour’s drive away.
  • By Bus: San Pedro de Atacama is well connected to major cities in Chile, including Santiago, Antofagasta, and La Serena. There are several bus companies that provide comfortable and affordable transportation options. The journey from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama can take around 22 hours, but the scenic views along the way make it a worthwhile experience.
  • By Car: If you prefer to drive, you can rent a car in Calama and make your way to San Pedro de Atacama. The road conditions are generally good, making it a convenient option for those seeking flexibility and the opportunity to explore other attractions along the way.

Once you arrive in San Pedro de Atacama, it is advisable to have your own mode of transportation for exploring the surrounding areas. Renting a car or booking guided tours are popular choices, as public transportation options within the town are limited.


It’s important to note that San Pedro de Atacama is located in a remote and arid region, so it’s crucial to be prepared with supplies such as food, water, and camping equipment before you arrive. The town itself has several supermarkets and stores where you can stock up on essentials, but prices can be higher than in larger cities.


Now that you know how to get there, let’s move on to the next section to discover essential camping equipment and safety tips for your adventure in San Pedro de Atacama.


Camping Equipment and Safety Tips

When embarking on a camping trip in San Pedro de Atacama, it’s important to be well-prepared with the right camping equipment and adhere to safety guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


Here are some essential camping equipment and safety tips to consider:

  • Tent: Choose a sturdy and waterproof tent that can withstand the desert climate. Make sure it is large enough to accommodate your group and gear comfortably.
  • Sleeping Gear: Bring sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and pillows to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. The desert temperatures can drop significantly at night, so choosing gear suitable for cold weather is essential.
  • Water and Food: Carry an ample supply of water, as the desert climate can lead to dehydration. It’s also important to bring non-perishable food items, as well as cooking equipment, if you plan on preparing your meals at the campground.
  • Clothing and Protection: Pack appropriate clothing for both hot and cold weather. Opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics for daytime and warm layers for nighttime. Don’t forget to pack a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and insect repellent to protect yourself from the intense sun and potential bugs.
  • Camping Stove and Utensils: If you wish to cook your meals, bring a camping stove and necessary cooking utensils. Check if the campground provides grilling facilities or if you need to bring your own.
  • First Aid Kit: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit that includes essential medications, bandages, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medications you may need. The nearest medical facilities may be in San Pedro de Atacama, so it’s important to be prepared for any minor injuries or illnesses.

Additionally, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Weather and Climate: The desert climate can be extreme, with hot days and cold nights. Monitor weather conditions and be prepared for sudden changes in temperature. Seek shelter immediately if there is a threat of severe weather.
  • Water Conservation: Water is a precious resource in the desert. Use it sparingly and follow the campground’s guidelines for water usage and waste disposal.
  • Fire Safety: Check if campfires are allowed in the campground. If permitted, ensure fires are properly extinguished before leaving the site. Follow all fire safety precautions and regulations.
  • Wildlife Interaction: Be respectful of the local wildlife and keep a safe distance. Do not feed or disturb the animals. Also, be cautious of snakes and scorpions, as they may be present in the desert environment.
  • Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and leaving the campground as you found it. Respect the natural environment and minimize your impact on the ecosystem.

By following these equipment guidelines and safety tips, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable camping experience in San Pedro de Atacama.


Best Campgrounds in San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama offers a range of campgrounds that cater to different preferences and budgets. Here are some of the best campgrounds in the area:

  • Camping Atacama: Located just a short distance from the town center, Camping Atacama is a popular choice among campers. It offers spacious campsites with access to clean bathrooms, hot showers, and a communal kitchen. The campground provides a peaceful and serene environment, allowing you to truly disconnect and immerse yourself in nature.
  • Camping Juriques: Situated in a quiet and secluded area, Camping Juriques provides a tranquil setting for campers. The campground offers various amenities, including clean facilities, hot showers, and a cozy communal area. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking a more peaceful camping experience away from the bustling town.
  • Camping Ckunna: Known for its stunning views of the Licancabur Volcano, Camping Ckunna provides a unique camping experience. The campground offers spacious sites, clean bathrooms, and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s located closer to the Valley of the Moon, allowing convenient access to the popular attraction.
  • Camping Los Petroleros: Nestled amidst picturesque landscapes, Camping Los Petroleros offers a serene and peaceful environment for camping. The campground provides basic amenities, including showers and toilets. The highlight of this campground is its proximity to iconic attractions such as the Tatio Geysers and the Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques.
  • Camping Tierra Mistica: Situated near the Salt Mountain Range, Camping Tierra Mistica offers a unique and eco-friendly camping experience. The site features eco-domes, which provide comfortable accommodation without compromising on the outdoor camping experience. The campground also offers facilities such as hot showers, a communal kitchen, and a dining area.

It’s important to note that camping regulations and availability may vary depending on the season and demand. It is recommended to make reservations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.


Each of these campgrounds provides a distinct experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the captivating landscapes and natural wonders of San Pedro de Atacama.


Recommended Camping Trails and Routes

San Pedro de Atacama offers a variety of enchanting trails and routes that are perfect for camping enthusiasts. Here are some recommended camping trails and routes to explore:

  • Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna): This otherworldly destination is a must-visit for campers. The Valley of the Moon showcases unique rock formations, salt caves, and sand dunes. Many campers choose to spend the night here to witness the mesmerizing sunset and sunrise over the lunar-like landscape. Please note that camping in the actual valley is not permitted, but there are nearby campgrounds where you can stay.
  • Quebrada de Guatin: Located east of San Pedro de Atacama, this stunning gorge offers a unique camping experience. The area is renowned for its hot springs and canyons, creating a tranquil setting for camping. You can enjoy hiking, birdwatching, and stargazing in this picturesque natural paradise.
  • High-Altitude Lakes: The region surrounding San Pedro de Atacama is home to several high-altitude lakes, such as Laguna Chaxa, Laguna Miscanti, and Laguna Cejar. Camping near these lakes allows you to admire the breathtaking beauty of the crystal-clear waters and surrounding landscapes. It’s important to note that the temperature can drop significantly at these higher altitudes, so be prepared with proper camping gear suitable for cold weather.
  • Tatio Geysers: The Tatio Geysers are one of the main attractions in the region, attracting visitors with their impressive steam vents and bubbling mud pools. Camping near the geysers is a unique experience, allowing you to witness the geothermal activity up close. However, it’s important to follow safety precautions and stay within designated camping areas due to the geothermal hazards.
  • Quebrada de Kari: Also known as the Moon Valley Dunes, Quebrada de Kari is a stunning desert canyon with unique sand formations. Camping in this area offers the opportunity to witness breathtaking views of the sand dunes at sunset and sunrise. It’s advisable to camp in designated areas and respect the fragile desert ecosystem.

Before embarking on any camping trail or route, it’s essential to gather information on permits, trail conditions, and safety guidelines. It’s also recommended to consult with local authorities or tour operators for the most up-to-date information and guidance.


By immersing yourself in the remarkable natural landscapes along these camping trails and routes, you can create unforgettable memories and truly connect with the beauty of San Pedro de Atacama.


Must-Visit Natural Attractions for Campers

San Pedro de Atacama is a treasure trove of natural wonders, offering a plethora of attractions that will leave campers in awe. Here are some must-visit natural attractions for an unforgettable camping experience:

  • Salar de Atacama: The largest salt flat in Chile, Salar de Atacama, is a mesmerizing sight to behold. The vast expanse of white salt crystals against the backdrop of surrounding mountains creates a surreal atmosphere. Campers can enjoy the stunning views, explore the unique ecosystem, and even take a dip in the salt lagoons.
  • El Tatio Geysers: The El Tatio Geysers are one of the Earth’s highest geyser fields and offer a captivating display of steaming geothermal activity. Campers can wake up early to witness the dramatic eruption of the geysers against the backdrop of the Andean mountains. It’s an unforgettable sight that truly highlights the natural wonders of the region.
  • Lagunas Altiplánicas: Situated at high altitudes, the Lagunas Altiplánicas are a series of stunning highland lakes. Campers can marvel at the crystal-clear turquoise waters surrounded by colorful mountains and volcanic peaks. Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miñiques are particularly popular, offering breathtaking views and a peaceful ambiance.
  • Valle de la Muerte: Also known as the Valley of Death, this mesmerizing desert landscape is perfect for campers seeking adventure. The unique rock formations, vast sand dunes, and rugged canyons create a surreal and otherworldly atmosphere. Consider taking a guided hike, sandboarding, or simply basking in the extraordinary beauty of the valley.
  • Licancabur Volcano: This majestic volcano stands tall on the border between Chile and Bolivia, offering a challenging but rewarding experience for campers. Adventurous campers can embark on a trek to reach the summit of the volcano and witness panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and neighboring countries. It’s a truly awe-inspiring adventure for those seeking a more ambitious camping experience.

These are just a few of the remarkable natural attractions that San Pedro de Atacama has to offer. As you explore these breathtaking landscapes, take the time to appreciate the unique geological formations, diverse flora and fauna, and the awe-inspiring beauty of nature.


Remember to always adhere to guidelines and regulations to protect the fragile ecosystems and preserve these natural wonders for generations to come.


Night Sky Viewing and Stargazing

San Pedro de Atacama is renowned for its incredibly clear and unpolluted skies, making it one of the best places in the world for stargazing and night sky viewing. As a camper, you have the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the universe like never before.


Here are some tips to enhance your night sky viewing and stargazing experience in San Pedro de Atacama:

  • Visit an Observatory: Consider joining a guided tour to one of the many observatories in the area. Knowledgeable guides will provide you with fascinating insights into the stars, planets, and galaxies, using powerful telescopes to observe celestial objects up close.
  • Find a Dark Campsite: Choose a campsite located away from any light pollution to get the best view of the night sky. The remote locations and high altitude of San Pedro de Atacama make it ideal for clear and unobstructed views of the stars.
  • Learn the Constellations: Familiarize yourself with the constellations visible in the Southern Hemisphere. The Milky Way is particularly prominent in this part of the world, with its vivid display of stars stretching across the sky. Apps and star charts can assist you in identifying various constellations, planets, and other astronomical phenomena.
  • Stargaze During New Moon: Plan your camping trip during the new moon phase when the night sky is at its darkest. This allows for optimal visibility of stars, galaxies, and even the elusive Southern Cross.
  • Bring Binoculars or a Telescope: Consider bringing a pair of binoculars or a portable telescope to enhance your stargazing experience. The additional magnification will allow you to observe celestial objects with greater detail and clarity.
  • Capture the Night Sky: If you’re interested in astrophotography, San Pedro de Atacama offers magnificent opportunities. Bring a DSLR camera and a tripod to capture long exposure shots of the starry night sky. Experiment with different settings to capture stunning images of the Milky Way, constellations, and even meteor showers if you’re lucky.

Remember to dress warmly as temperatures can drop significantly during the night. Bring a comfortable chair or a blanket to lay back and fully immerse yourself in the celestial wonders above.


Whether you’re a seasoned stargazer or a novice enthusiast, the night sky of San Pedro de Atacama will leave you in awe with its breathtaking display of stars and cosmic beauty. So, find a cozy spot, look up, and prepare to be amazed by the wonders of the universe.


Experiencing the Local Culture and Cuisine

While camping in San Pedro de Atacama, it’s not just the natural wonders that you should explore; immersing yourself in the local culture and cuisine can enhance your overall experience. Here are some ways to indulge in the rich cultural heritage and delicious cuisine of the region:

  • Visit San Pedro de Atacama Town: Take the time to explore the charming town of San Pedro de Atacama itself. Wander through its narrow streets, visit local handicraft markets, and admire the unique adobe architecture. The town is also home to several museums, such as the Archaeological Museum Gustavo Le Paige, where you can learn about the fascinating history and culture of the Atacama region.
  • Attend Cultural Performances: Look out for traditional music and dance performances that showcase the cultural heritage of the indigenous people of the Atacama Desert. These performances often take place in the town or at cultural centers, allowing you to experience the vibrant rhythms and colorful costumes firsthand.
  • Try Local Cuisine: Sample the unique flavors of Atacama cuisine by indulging in traditional dishes. Some local favorites include llama or alpaca meat dishes, such as charqui (dried llama meat) and charquicán (a stew with dried meat and vegetables). Make sure to also try the delicious varieties of quinoa-based dishes, empanadas filled with regional ingredients, and the refreshing pisco sour cocktail.
  • Take a Cooking Class: To truly immerse yourself in the local cuisine, consider taking a cooking class where you can learn to prepare traditional dishes under the guidance of a local chef. This hands-on experience allows you to not only discover new flavors but also appreciate the culinary techniques and ingredients unique to the region.
  • Engage with Indigenous Communities: Expand your cultural horizons by visiting nearby indigenous communities, such as the Atacameño, Aymara, or Lickanantay communities. These communities offer an opportunity to learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life. Respect their cultural practices and engage in a respectful and meaningful manner when interacting with community members.

By embracing the local culture and cuisine, you can gain a deeper understanding of the people who have lived in harmony with the Atacama Desert for centuries. It’s a chance to appreciate their traditions, indulge in delicious flavors, and create lasting memories of your time in San Pedro de Atacama.


Wildlife Spotting and Nature Photography

The diverse ecosystems of San Pedro de Atacama offer a unique opportunity to spot a variety of wildlife and capture stunning nature photographs. Here are some tips for wildlife spotting and nature photography during your camping adventure:

  • Research Wildlife Hotspots: Before setting out on your camping trip, research the best locations for wildlife sightings in the region. Chilean flamingos, vicuñas, llamas, and foxes are some of the animals commonly found in the area. Laguna Chaxa and the Salar de Atacama are popular spots for observing flamingos, while the altiplanic lagoons are known for vicuña sightings.
  • Be Respectful and Observant: When observing wildlife, maintain a respectful distance, especially with sensitive or endangered species. Use binoculars or zoom lenses to get a closer look without disturbing their natural behavior. Remember that you are a guest in their habitat and should not interfere with their activities.
  • Patience is Key: Wildlife sightings can require patience and timing. Take the time to observe their natural behavior and wait for the perfect moment to capture a photograph. Be prepared to spend hours in one location, as animals may appear sporadically.
  • Use Telephoto Lenses and Tripods: To capture detailed and sharp wildlife photographs, a telephoto lens is essential. This will allow you to zoom in on animals from a distance while maintaining high image quality. Using a tripod will help stabilize the camera and prevent blur caused by hand movements during longer exposures.
  • Golden Hour and Sunrise/Sunset: The golden hour, occurring during sunrise and sunset, provides the most favorable lighting for nature photography. The soft, warm hues of the sun can enhance the beauty of the landscapes and bring out the natural colors in wildlife. Plan your photography expeditions during these times for the best results.
  • Pay Attention to Composition: Consider the composition of your photographs, keeping in mind the rule of thirds, leading lines, and symmetry. Incorporate elements of the surrounding environment to tell a story through your images. Be creative and experiment with different angles and perspectives to capture unique and captivating shots.
  • Respect Nature and Leave No Trace: It is vital to respect the environment and wildlife while taking photographs. Avoid disturbing habitats, such as nesting areas or burrows, and refrain from using flash photography as it can startle animals or harm their sensitive eyes. Additionally, make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles by leaving the location as you found it and avoiding any damage to the natural surroundings.

Wildlife spotting and nature photography in San Pedro de Atacama provide incredible opportunities to capture the beauty of the natural world. Remember to prioritize the well-being of the animals and their habitats while creating stunning photographs and memories to cherish.


Outdoor Activities and Adventure Sports

For the adventurous souls, San Pedro de Atacama offers a wide range of outdoor activities and thrilling adventure sports amidst its breathtaking landscapes. Here are some must-try activities to add an adrenaline rush to your camping trip:

  • Hiking and Trekking: Lace up your hiking boots and explore the numerous hiking trails and trekking routes in and around San Pedro de Atacama. From the challenging climb to the summit of Licancabur Volcano to the scenic hikes in the Moon Valley, there is a trail for every level of experience.
  • Mountain Biking: Rent a mountain bike and experience the thrill of riding through the desert trails and rugged terrains surrounding San Pedro de Atacama. Enjoy the stunning landscapes as you pedal your way through the unique and diverse natural beauty of the region.
  • Sandboarding: Embark on an exhilarating sandboarding adventure down the towering sand dunes of the Atacama Desert. Strap on a board and glide down the steep slopes, feeling the rush of adrenaline as you surf the sand.
  • Rock Climbing: For those seeking a vertical challenge, San Pedro de Atacama offers numerous rock climbing opportunities. Put your skills to the test as you conquer the rugged cliffs and canyons, enjoying breathtaking views along the way.
  • Hot Air Ballooning: Take to the skies in a thrilling hot air balloon ride and marvel at the expansive views of the Atacama Desert from above. It’s a unique and unforgettable way to experience the beauty of the region’s vast landscapes.
  • White-Water Rafting: Experience the rush of adrenaline as you navigate the roaring rapids of Calama River or other nearby rivers. White-water rafting provides an exciting and refreshing adventure, perfect for those seeking a thrilling water-based activity.
  • Horseback Riding: Immerse yourself in the natural splendor of the desert by going on a horseback riding adventure. Explore the unique landscapes, ride through canyons, and discover hidden gems while bonding with these gentle creatures.

It’s important to prioritize safety when partaking in adventure sports and outdoor activities. Take necessary precautions, wear appropriate gear, and consider hiring experienced guides or joining organized tours to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


No matter which outdoor activity or adventure sport you choose, be sure to savor every moment and embrace the thrill of exploring the remarkable landscapes of San Pedro de Atacama.



San Pedro de Atacama is a paradise for camping enthusiasts, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and thrilling outdoor adventures. From the awe-inspiring landscapes to the vibrant local culture, this destination provides an unforgettable experience for campers of all levels.


Whether you’re stargazing under the crystal-clear night skies, exploring the breathtaking natural attractions, or immersing yourself in the rich local culture and cuisine, San Pedro de Atacama has something to offer for everyone.


By following the tips and recommendations in this guide, you can make the most out of your camping adventure in San Pedro de Atacama. Remember to come prepared with the necessary camping equipment, respect the environment and wildlife, and prioritize safety in outdoor activities and adventure sports.


As you embark on your camping journey, allow yourself to be captivated by the stunning landscapes, indulge in the local flavors, connect with the local culture, and immerse yourself in the wonders of the Atacama Desert.


Whether you’re gazing at the star-studded night sky, marveling at the unique rock formations, or engaging in thrilling outdoor activities, San Pedro de Atacama is sure to leave you with treasured memories that will last a lifetime.