Chile – Part 4 – San Pedro de Atacama, the North

San Pedro de Atacama

Beating out bucket list places like Patagonia and Easter Island, the Atacama region is Chile’s #1 tourist destination. A complete contrast from the southern area of the country, San Pedro de Atacama envelops its visitors with everything from star-gazing to natural hot springs. The commonly found minerals in the area are said to bring out high levels of positive energy in the locals. Here you will find the nation’s largest salt flat, the driest desert in the world and scenery that takes you completely off the planet.

Our Top Tips in San Pedro de Atacama

  1. Be mindful of your altitude! – San Pedro is 7,900 ft above sea level and it can take time for your body to adjust. Stay hydrated and take it easy for as long as you need to adjust. Cacao leaves and staying hydrated are helpful if you’re feeling altitude sickness.
  2. Dress in layers – just like Patagonia, the weather can vary drastically throughout the day. Mornings can hover near 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun heats things up throughout the day. You’ll need to bring ample sunscreen as clouds are rare in this region.
  3. Tatio Geysers – one of the region’s highlights is the geothermal field with natural hot springs for visitors to soak in. Bring your bathing suit and plenty of wintertime layers – the morning can start off below 20 degrees Fahrenheit before sunrise. If you have bathrobes at your hotel, bring them with an extra towel.
  4. National Reserve of Los Flamencos – this is a MUST DO for visitors of all ages and physical abilities. The surreal landscape leaves you feeling that you’ve left Earth and landed somewhere else in our galaxy among sleeping flamingos. Visits are generally planned around sunset so you can watch the colors of the setting sun melt over the bordering Andes mountains. Bring your camera and bring it fully charged!
  5. Valley of the Moon – an easy and awe-inspiring trek through a terrain that is aptly named. Natural salt manifests here both on the ground and in the salt caves you can walk through. Feel free to take a taste!
  6. Astronomy – San Pedro de Atacama is renowned around the world for being one of the best places to observe astronomy. Plan the timing of your visit carefully depending on what you wish to see the most: a full moon or more stars than your eyes can hardly believe.
  7. Roadside graves – throughout San Pedro, you can’t help but notice a large amount of roadside shrines. Fatal accidents are unfortunately common for tourists that aren’t familiar with how to navigate the difficult roads and locals who aren’t paying close enough attention. The graves often have sitting areas for relatives to come visit and talk with their loved ones souls.
  8. San Pedro town – be sure to make time to wander around the town of San Pedro. The area is popular with both tourists and locals. There’s plenty of shopping, dining, and nightlife to enjoy for budget and luxury travelers alike.

Where We Stayed in San Pedro de Atacama

Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa

  • Located about an hour from the Calama airport, this is one of the top lodges to stay in the area. The resort is tucked into the surrounding mountains and landscape and within short driving distance to area highlights such as Moon Valley and San Pedro town.
  • Be sure to check out the astronomy center at the lodge. The stargazing in the area can be appreciated by astrology amateurs and experts alike. The lodge has helpful staff to guide you in your search of the night sky.
  • Excursions are included as part of the full board program. You can opt for full-day excursions or half-day excursions suited for all ability levels and interests. Be mindful that some excursions require you to be acclimated for a certain amount of time before you can do them!

Kathryn’s Entire Chile Trip Reviews

Chile – Part 1 – Kathryn’s Overview

Chile – Part 2 – Santiago, the Capital

Chile – Part 3 – Patagonia, the South

Chile – Part 4 – San Pedro de Atacama, the North

Chile – Part 5 – Easter Island

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