San Pedro de Atacama
The door to the desert
San Pedro is a settlement in the Antofagasta region in northern Chile. It counts less than 6.000 inhabitants and spreads over several small villages with San Pedro as its capital. The settlement is located northern to the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat of Chile and receives more than 50.000 tourists annually.
Around San Pedro there are incredible places with several nature phenomenons to see, enjoy and relax. For example el Tatio, the 3rd biggest geyser field worldwide, together with a huge volcano, more than 80 geysers and hot springs it is definitely worth it for a day trip. Besides that there are several lagoons like the Altiplanic Lagoons or Laguna Tebinquinche and salt flats like Salar de Tara or Salar de Aguas Calientes, as the name suggests, with lots of hot springs, which are quiet common in the region. Another mayor attraction is the Valle de la Luna, similar to its neighbor the Valle de la Muerte it gives a pretty good impression how life on the moon could look like. No vegetation, only surreal landscapes of rocks, small salt flats and an amazing sunset. Very beautiful are also las Piedras Rojas, a huge, clear lagoon with red stone formations of lava and ash. The surroundings offering a beautiful view on the Andes, several volcanos and a stunning fauna with different species of llamas and flamingos.
San Pedro itself is pretty unspectacular, overpriced and full of tourists. Everything is located around the main road called Caracoles. So basically it takes you around 2 hours to explore the whole village. It is occupied by tour operators, hostels and restaurants. The food is good and the most restaurants are offering good alternatives for vegetarians or vegans. There are no supermarkets, only small shops with a poor variety and four ATMs which charge you a lot for cashing out. The prices in general are kind of insane, everything is around 30% more expensive compared to lets say Santiago de Chile. Especially water, a 1,5 liter bottle is available from 2 euros, which is caused by the contaminated tap water. Because of the high arsenic concentrations around San Pedro it is not possible to drink the tap water, even after boiling it is not recommended to drink it or even brush your teeth with it. A night in a hostel starts from 8.000 CLP (11€) if you want a kitchen and a hot shower you're more likely to pay 12.000 CLP (17€). A main course in a cheap restaurant will start from 6000 CLP (8,50€) and snacks are available from 3000 CLP (4€).
The most common way to reach San Pedro is from Calama, which is located around 200km north western from Antofagasta. In Calama is an airport and a good bus connection to all mayor cities of Chile and the surrounding countries. Besides that there are several supermarkets, other shopping possibilities and banks. We can really recommend you to buy your groceries, take enough cash and get everything else for your stay in San Pedro over there. The bus to San Pedro is 5000CLP (7€) but hitchhiking works quiet well since lots of people are driving between the two cities.
Another reason, as well as ours to come to San Pedro is the desert tour to Uyuni . Besides Uyuni itself, Tupiza and Villazon in the south of Bolivia are one of the places from where you can cross the Atacama Desert and visit Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. It is an unbelievable three day trip to different hidden places in the desert which ends up in the small Bolivian town of Uyuni. If you are interested in the tour, you should have a look at this article, to find out more about destinations on the way and how to prepare for that.
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