San Pedro de Atacama and Surroundings

San Pedro de Atacama

The town of San Pedro de Atacama located in the Salar de Atacama is the home base for tourism in the region. It offers all sorts of accommodation for tourists from guest houses to 5 stars hotels.

First visit in August 2013

We reached San Pedro on August 23rd after a night spent on a bus from Purmamarca, Argentina. The bus followed Route 27 which comes from Argentina through Paso de Jama and ends at the Customs office. After renting a car, we stayed for 5 days in the splendid Alto Atacama hotel situated on Rio San Pedro just outside the village.

On August 25th in the morning, light snow fell for about 3 hours in the desert. It was the first time in 30 years! In the afternoon we headed towards Socaire at 80 km from San Pedro. Socaire is a village located on Route 23 that leads to Argentina through Paso de Sico.  After Socaire, Route 23 continues to the magnificent lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques at an elevation of 4,300 m. Unfortunately because of the snow we could not drive any further. We ate a warm soup at a small restaurant in Socaire on main street. Because of the snow covering the thatched roof, water was dripping inside the restaurant through the ceiling. We then returned to San Pedro.

Very close to San Pedro lies the Valle de la Luna. It has various stone and sand formations which have been carved by wind and water. It has an impressive range of color and texture, looking somewhat similar to the surface of the moon. The valley is also considered one of the driest places on earth, as some areas have not received a single drop of rain in hundreds of years. Scientists  tested there a prototype for a Mars rover because of the valley’s dry and forbidding terrains. Photos from Valle de la Luna in this post were shot on August 26th just before sunset.

South of San Pedro, in the salar itself, there are many lagunas that we visited on several occasions between August 25th and 27th. Fantastic shots with the volcanoes covered with snow in the background. Check out this post.

Back to San Pedro de Atacama in November 2016

San Pedro was the starting point of my second visit to northern Chile, this time with a group of photographers on a trip organized by Photographes du Monde. We reached San Pedro after a short bus ride from Calama where our flight landed. It was closer to summer and we could enjoy much warmer temperatures. Very much appreciated for early morning trips to various spots on the altiplano.

San Pedro is an excellent place to get accustomed to high altitudes. If you stay for a couple of days, visit spots at 4,000 m and above each day, and with the help of coca leaves, you should avoid mountain sickness.

The start of the program was relaxed with a morning photo session on August 25th in Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) just a few miles outside San Pedro. The view from the top of the valley before sunrise was fantastic with a pinkish light. Then we walked down into the valley during at least two hours until we reached the cars at the opposite end of the pathway and enjoyed a well deserved breakfast.

On the afternoon of that same day, we followed the banks of Rio San Pedro, North of the village, and drove up a steep track to the plateau overlooking Rio San Pedro valley. Great view all the way to Licancabur volcano and colorful sunset on the opposite side.

The next day was dedicated to Geysers del Tatio in the morning and Laguna Tebinquiché in the afternoon. Then on the 29th we took the direction of Salar de Talar and then Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques.

November 30th was our last day in the San Pedro area. We drove towards Paso de Jama to visit Salar de Tara and Monjes de la Pacana in the morning. We then returned to the hotel for a late lunch. Just before leaving Chile, we took care of paperwork at the Customs office and drove back on Route 27. After 20 km we turned left on a paved road towards Bolivia and entered the country, very close to Laguna Blanca.

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Visited in August 2013 and November 2016