San Pedro de Atacama is one of the most interesting towns I’ve visited thus far on my travels. It’s situated in the far north of Chile in the driest desert in the world… We’re talking on average 0mm rainfall per year. While most travelers will find themselves here pre or post salt flats tour, but don’t write this little town off. Here’s what to do in San Pedro de Atacama to keep you entertained for 48 hours.
1. Sunset in The Valley of the moon
One of the best things to do in San Pedro Chile is a tour to The Valley of the Moon (Valle De La Luna). Valle De La Luna is named after its other worldly cratered surface which seriously looks like the moon. You can reach it by tour ($8CP $12USD), car, bicycle or quad bike. If you can manage it, take one of the three latter options to avoid crowds. The sunset from Coyote Rock is something you don’t want to miss.
GETTING THERE: The Valle De La Luna is about a 20 minute drive from the centre of town. and can be reached by tour, car, bike or quad bike. I’d highly recommend hiring a bike and doing it yourself to save yourself a bit of cash and avoid the other tourists. All of the bicycle hire shops offer pretty detailed maps, so follow their instructions.
COST: $12 USD+
2. Take a free walking tour
As you might be able to tell, I’m a big fan of a walking tour. So when I was wondering what to do in San Pedro de Atacama I went straight to my old faithful. Tips For Tours runs excellent tours throughout Chile and it’s no different in San Pedro. The two-hour tour runs twice daily at 10am and 3pm and will give you a great background in the town and some handy insider tips.
GETTING THERE: The walking tour leaves from the centre of town. Just make sure you’re there about 10 minutes before it starts for introductions.
COST: $Free + tip
3. Hit a secret party in the desert
The drinking laws in San Pedro de Atacama are super restrictive – you must order food when you drink and all bars close at 12. But this attempt to avoid San Pedro becoming a party town has created an eclectic culture of secret parties in the desert that are word-of-mouth only. And thus are sometimes shut down by the police. We didn’t make it to one of the weekly parties but if you’re a bit of a party animal this needs to be at the top of your list of things to do in San Pedro De Atacama.
GETTING THERE: It’s a secret. So you won’t know until you buy your tickets.
COST: As much as you want to drink 🙂
4. Cycle to the devil’s gorge
Bicycle hire is one of the easiest and cheapest things to do in San Pedro de Atacama. It will cost you about $4,000CP for 6 hours ($6USD) and you can get to many awesome attractions near by. One of the most incredible is the Devil’s Gorge (Quedabra del Diablo in Spanish). It’s about a 3 hour round trip with a few rivers crossings where you’ll need to remove your shoes. But it’s so worth the effort to explore the overwhelming red arches of the gorge. This was one of my favourite activities in San Pedro De Atacama. Hot tip – get a map and directions from where you hire your bike as it can be a little confusing.
GETTING THERE: The gorge is about an hour and a half’s ride out of the centre of town. And your hire place will give you a pretty detailed hand drawn map. Just follow their instructions and you shouldn’t go wrong.
5. Try artisanal ice cream made with native Chilean plants
There are a number of plants around San Pedro de Atacama that used to make up the diet of the Atacameños native tribes. These days they are still eaten and used as herbal remedies, brewed into beer and infused in ice cream. And while ice cream is not the first thing that pops into your head when thinking about San Pedro De Atacama things to do the flavour combinations are to die for. Rica Rica (a cross between lemon and eucalyptus) and Chanar were my favourites. And Babel Heladeria, just off the main street, is a great place to try them.
GETTING THERE: Babael Heladeria is located at Caracoles 140. It’s one of the main streets in town so it should be pretty easy to track down.
COST: $3 USD
6. Visit the market for all your fruits and veg
If you’re wondering what to do in San Pedro de Atacama about eating as the food is so expensive. Don’t worry! Even though the town doesn’t even have a super market they do have a pretty good fruit and vegetable market (albeit small). So save your pocket-money and buy your fruit and veg from the local market just near the police station. Furthermore, make friends with the stall owners and they might even throw in a few free things.
GETTING THERE: Head towards the police station, which is a 15 minute walk out of town. You should see about 4-5 white tents there. That’s the market!
COST: Depends how hungry you are!
7. Take a tour to PIEdras rojas
Piers Rojas (The Red Rocks) are incredibly photogenic and should definitely be on your list of what to do in San Pedro de Atacama. The rocks were created by volcanic lava and ash and hold a crystal blue lake in the middle. A visit here will turn anyone into a pro-photographer. San Pedro De Atacama Day Tours leave town early in the morning and will set you back about $25,000 Chilean Peso ($40USD) they also visit a number of other amazing locations.
GETTING THERE: The Piedras Rojas are about 3 hours drive away from San Pedro De Atacama. Hence why they need to be done on a tour. Usually, your guide will collect you from your hostel and drop you back there.
COST: $25,000 Chilean Peso ($40USD)
WHERE TO STAY: we stayed in hostal rural, which was a lovely social hostel. And while the rooms were a little hot and the staff who served breakfast were super rude it did the job. if you’re looking something a little nicer booking.com has plenty of options. you can check prices HERE.
DAILY BUDGET: while san pedro de atacama can be pretty expensive if you cook your own meals and don’t go overboard you can get away with spending about $30 – $40 USD per day.
GETTING IN AND AWAY: the best way to get to san pedro de atacama depends on where you’re coming from. if you’re arriving from bolivia i recommend using your salt flats tour as your transport to san pedro (you can read all about how to pick the perfect tour HERE).
if you’re arriving from inside chile i’d definitely recommend taking a flight with sky as the internal flights are super cheap. I flew up from santiago to calama (which is the closest city to san pedro). once you land there are a number of companies offering transfers to san pedro. these should set you back no more than $10 USD per person.
All over what to do in San Pedro De Atacama? check these out!
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