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Tours San Pedro de Atacama

Authentic Tours in San Pedro de Atacama

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Overview

San Pedro de Atacama is a small village located in the middle of a 6000 foot tall Plateau in the North of Chile, very close to the Bolivian border. The Atacama region is the driest place on Earth and its natural wonders are countless. No matter if you are in the Altiplano Lagoons or the Salt Flats, it is easy to think that you are not on Planet Earth. At Keteka we connect you with the best activities and tours in San Pedro de Atacama run by local guides and operators. Scroll down to see them all. Also if you want more information about San Pedro de Atacama you can find it here.

USD $43.00 Per Person

Atacama Desert, Chile

El Tatio Geysers Tours

USD $49.00 Per Person
USD $25.00 Per Person
USD $251.00USD $2,100.00 Per Person

Atacama Desert, Bolivia, Chile, Uyuni

San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni 3 Day Tour (One Way to Uyuni)

USD $200.00USD $1,400.00 Per Person
USD $115.00 Per Person
USD $780.00USD $1,040.00 Per Person
USD $35.00USD $80.00 Per Person
USD $49.00USD $97.00 Per Person
USD $75.00 Per Person
USD $390.00 Per Person
USD $488.00 Per Person
USD $25.00 Per Person
USD $75.00 Per Person
USD $43.00 Per Person
USD $554.00 Per Person
USD $50.00 Per Person
USD $399.00 Per Person
USD $121.00 Per Person
USD $325.00 Per Person
USD $30.00 Per Person
USD $124.00USD $179.00 Per Person
USD $387.00 Per Person
USD $41.00USD $101.00 Per Person

Atacama Desert, Chile

Tara Salt Flat (Salar de Tara)

USD $110.00USD $380.00 Per Person

Atacama Desert, Chile, El Valle del Elqui

Road Trip Santiago to Atacama Desert 3 Day Camping Experience

USD $450.00 Per Person

Atacama Desert, Bolivia, Chile, Uyuni

Luxury Uyuni Tour - 3 Days, 2 Nights Round Trip from Uyuni

USD $650.00USD $2,214.00 Per Person

San Pedro de Atacama at a Glance

The Village of San Pedro de Atacama has undergone a profound change in the past 20 years. From being a fertile oasis in the driest desert on earth to becoming a world class tourism destination for both Chileans and foreigners. This has transformed San Pedro de Atacama from being the quiet ancient Andean Settlement it used to be, to the service-oriented village it is nowadays.

Culture

Located in the confluences of the rivers San Pedro and Vilama, at an altitude of 7972 feet, the oasis has very fertile land, surrounded by the driest desert on Earth. With these special characteristics, it is understandable that humans have settled here for thousands of years. The earliest evidence of permanent human life in San Pedro de Atacama is reported in the north-eastern area of the oasis, in Puripica around 2000 BC. From this point on, the human settlements are continuous. From 1000 BC to 400 AC, several settlements were set in the oasis and adjoining areas. During this period these settlers substantially change their way of life and go from being nomads to start Camelid grazing and also the collection of Algarrobo (Ceratonia siliqua) and minor agriculture that led to growing human interaction and exchanging activities.

These pioneer settlers were always in contact with foreigners, specifically with smaller societies from what today is the northwest of Argentina, and also with more advanced societies like the Tiwanaku People in Bolivia. These relationships were as equals, not as colonialists. Right after the fall of the ‘Tiwanaku civilization’, the number of settlers decreased due to the violent invasion of several foreigner groups.

During the XIII century, the Inca Empire started its expansion, taking over not only the San Pedro de Atacama Oasis, but also hundreds of kilometers down south. Even though the Inca’s imperialism wasn’t violent, their interaction with the ‘Atacameños’ (the local people from San Pedro de Atacama) was in an imperialistic way; they built paths with ‘mandatory stops’ and they occupied a settlement north of the oasis and turned it in an administrative district. The Incan occupation was short, because a few years after, the Spanish conquerors arrived and took over the village and the surrounding area. The Spanish weren’t especially interested in Chile, since copper and lithium weren’t valued resources at the time, instead, they were highly interested in Peruvian Gold, so Chile was a strategic settlement to protect this gold from pirates that sailed the southern waters of Chile. In San Pedro de Atacama and other villages of the area, like Toconao, the Spanish Colonialism influence is very palpable. For example, you can see the typical ‘Plaza de Armas’ and the white colonial buildings around it.

Nowadays San Pedro de Atacama is a melting pot of all these different cultures, and you can see that in the architecture, the local gastronomy, and the crafts in the little markets. In San Pedro de Atacama, there is a big Bolivian immigrant population, so their Quechua culture is also very present. At Keteka we offer an array of Tours San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, check them out here.

Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama

As we already mentioned, San Pedro de Atacama is now the base camp that travelers from all over the globe use to visit this beautiful area wonders; Snowcapped Volcanoes in the desert, the Andean High Plateau, Salt Flats, the Death Valley, Geysers…

In terms of lodging or accommodation there is a wide variety to choose from.

There are a lot of hostels and B&B in San Pedro. We recommend to stay closer to the Caracoles street since most restaurants are there and the activities that don’t pick you up usually depart from downtown locations. However, if you want a nicer option, further from ‘caracoles street’ it’s not an issue at all, San Pedro de Atacama is a very quiet place, and you can walk even at night without having any problem. You just have to watch out for the street dogs, they are not dangerous, but they can follow you all over until they find another person or group to follow. Just a piece of advice: don’t feed them.

If you are looking for a luxury stay, you have four main options located in San Pedro de Atacama surrounding area, all of them outside the village: in the north, the Alto Atacama Hotel, near the Pucará de Quito, and in the south, Tierra Atacama, Explora Atacama and Cumbres de San Pedro de Atacama.

If you are looking for a 4 star hotel option, we highly recommend Terrantai Lodge Andino, Altiplanico and Casa Atacama

When is the best time to visit San Pedro

The best moment to Tour San Pedro de Atacama based on our experience is from March to October, since it is less busy, and it’s not going to rain (It only rains 5 days a year, most of them in February) allowing you to do all the activities. When it rains, even if the rain is short, lots of activities are canceled due to floating and mud slides.

Austral Autumn (End of March to mid May) and Summer (October to March) are ideal if you want to check out, and float in the waters of the Cejar Lagoon. In winter the lagoon is too cold to experience it.

We highly recommend to check out the moon calendar in order to be able to stargaze and be able to take an astronomic tour. When the moon is full these kind of tours are not available and stargazing is complicated due to the moonlight.

Gastronomy – Tips and what to expect

The most iconic meal from the ‘Atacameños’ culture is the ‘Pataska’, a spicy stew made of corn, chilli peppers, jerky beef, potatoes, cow intestines, sliced lamb and several spices. However, it isn’t easy to find in the restaurants in San Pedro, where they do offer other typical stews, adapted to the tourists tastes.

Caracoles street is the heart of the life in San Pedro,there are lots of touristy restaurants and little ‘tiendas’ where you can buy ’empanadas’ to go. They are always a good option if you are in a hurry.

At night we recommend ‘Barros’, a local restaurant out of Caracoles touristy hustle, they have sandwiches, pizzas, quesadillas, Chilean traditional Chorrillanas, etc. They usually have live music. Be aware that it starts getting crowded around 9pm, and you may have to wait in line up at the door for more than an hour to get in.

Another local tip for the lunch time is the ‘picadas’ you will find next to the soccer field, very close to the bus station. The Picadas are small, local restaurants where you can eat good amounts of local food for 5 or 6 bucks. You will notice that one has more people eating and that it has a ‘Fanta’ flag on the roof–it is by far the best.

What to do in San Pedro de Atacama

What you can do will depend on the time you will spend in San Pedro. If you are wondering how long should you stay, 5-6 days are enough to see everything around San Pedro. If you also want to go to Uyuni in Bolivia you will have to plan 9-10 days minimum.

As we already mentioned, the main attractions in San Pedro de Atacama are:

  • The Tatio Geysers are the biggest Geysers field in the southern Emisphere, and the third in the globe, behind Yellowstone in the United States and Kronotski Reserve in Russia. The Geysers are located at almost 14,000 ft above the sea level, and reach their full activity point during the sunrise. This is why tours to the Tatio Geysers Field leave San Pedro de Atacama around 5 am and require you to drink lots of liquids (Recommended amount of liquid to drink before you get there: 1 liter per 3000 feet altitude difference from your journey starting point. So, departuring from San Pedro de Atacama, you will have to drink almost 2 liters of liquid per person during the night before and your way there.)
  • The most impressive Altiplano Lagoons near San Pedro de Atacama are Miscanti and Miñique, they are very close to each other and are surrounded by volcanoes that reach 5910 m above the sea level and high plateau landscapes. They represent the diversity on Landscapes of Atacama as a travel destination. The Lagoons are located at the beginning of the Andean high plateau, around 15,000 feet above the sea level and are part of the protected area of ‘Los Flamencos’ National Reserve. Visitors are almost always able to see Flamingos, Vicuñas or Guanacos (Two camelids very close to Alpacas and Llamas, that inhabits in this area), foxes, Andean seagulls, and different species of endemic ducks and birds. Below you can check out a 360 view from one of the Altiplanic Lagoons:

  • The Atacama Salt Flats represent the largest Salt Flat in Chile and also the third largest in the world, right after El Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia and Salinas Grandes in Argentina, both located in this Andean area, just 200 mi and 100 mi from the Atacama Salt Flats. Visitors will be able to see Flamingoes and the Brine shrimp that they eat from close. We don’t encourage visitors to take a tour exclusively to this area, instead we recommend you to take a half day tour or a full day tour that includes visits to the other highlights of the Atacama Desert. Below you can check out a 360 view from the lowest area of the Salt Flats:
  • The Tara Salt Flats well worth a visit even though this salt flats are way smaller than the main Atacama Salt Flats. So what makes them interesting? Their location, in the crater of the Vilama Volcano at almost 14,000 ft, gives them a completely different landscape than the Atacama Salt Flats, located in the lowest part of the valley. The Tara Salt Flats are surrounded by altiplano flora, a set of wetlands and the crater walls forming interesting rock towers that protect the salt flats from the wind. Also in your way to the Salt FLats you’ll be able to see this giant rock sitting in the middle of the desert, that nobody knows how it get there (There are many theories, discover them by taking one of our Tours to the Tara Salt Flats):
  • The Cejar Lagoon is located in the Atacama Salt Flats, it is a lagoon with high salinity, 34% salinity to be more specific, (That’s even higher than the Death See between Israel and Jordan, that has 28% salinity). The bath in the Cejar Lagoon is no longer permitted due to the negative effect that the sunscreen chemicals had on the ecosystem, however visitors are allowed to take a bath in the nearby Laguna Piedra, that has a similar % of salt, fact that makes you float no matter what. The ideal time to visit the lagoons in order to be able to take a bath is between December and May. We just have two important advises that you must follow: Put sunscreen on and keep your eyes away from the water and your fingers, the effect of the salty water could cause irreversible damage to your eyes.
  • Another highlight that you can’t miss when visiting this area, is the Red rocks, ‘Cordillera de la sal’ or Salt Mountain range, Death Valley and Moon Valley located at the west of the Valley, and only 13 km from San Pedro de Atacama. If you have enough time, a full day tour on Horseback is an excellent choice to discover hidden corners of this natural area in a more relax way. But if you don’t have that much time, we have good news for you, you can visit this area in half day, preferible in the afternoon, so you can enjoy the sunset there which is in itself a highlight, due to the spectacular colours show that the combination of the soil, the mountains shape and the sun light creates. You can find more info about the Death Valley and the Moon Valley, following the links. Here you can see a 360 view of the sunset from the Salt Mountain Range:
  • Go Sandboarding is definitely something you have to do in the Atacama Desert. Climb the giant dunes and go down snowboarding! If you can pick a Sandboarding Trip, you will be taken to the dune on a van, instead if you choose a Sandboarding + Horseback adventure you will ride a horse to the dune.
  • Stargazing is another activity you can’t miss on your visit to San Pedro de Atacama. Atacama is perfect for astronomers since the skies there are rarely covered by clouds (it is the driest desert on earth) and there is no light pollution nearby. However it is very important that you check the Moon calendar before you decide your travel dates, because when the Moon is to high and big, Stargazing activities can’t run, and we have to refund travellers.
  • An excursion to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, is a highly recommended add on to your trip if you are in San Pedro de Atacama, the Bolivian border is only 21 miles from San Pedro, Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, it is truly breathtaking when you are in an island the middle of the Salt Flat. You can choose between round trips from San pedro de Atacama or one way trips from both, San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and Uyuni in Bolivia. More info about the Tours to Uyuni Salt Flats aquí. The 7 hour drive through the High Plateau, will take you to different famous spots like the White, Colored and Green Lagoons, the Dali Desert, Geyser fields, the Ollague Volcano and the Train cemetery among others. Visitors enjoy this Tour no matter the season they visit Uyuni, but if you want to see the unique mirror effect is better to visit it after it rains, when the water stays on top of thick layer of salt and creates this mirror effect you might have seen on pictures. The month that receives more rain is February. The salt flats are spectacular in their natural state as well, when due to its size, the Salt Horizon makes perspective disappear. Following you can see a 360 view from Incahuasi Island in the middle of the Uyuni Salt Flat:

Information Sources we used in addition to our own experience: Universidad Católica Library and Scientific Electronic Library Online Chile