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Things to do in San Pedro de Atacama

Things to do in  San Pedro de Atacama

Welcome to San Pedro de Atacama

The small town of San Pedro de Atacama serves as a convenient gateway to the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places in the world. The vast desert covers more than 100,000 kilometers and is home to arid landscapes reminiscent of Mars. For lovers of natural landscapes, day trip options are varied and appealing. Combine a visit to Moon Valley, so-called due to its lunar-like appearance, with the El Tatio Geysers and the Puritama Hot Springs. Other highlights include Rainbow Valley (Valle Arcoiris), the Atacama Salt Lake, and the Ojos del Salar, a salt-saturated lagoon that allows you to float unaided. At Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos), pink flamingos contrast with the vivid blue water of Chaxa Lagoon and the Altiplanic Lagoon, making the park a top draw for nature lovers and photographers. If you’re a history buff, tours to the archaeological site of Pukará de Quitor reveal a pre-Columbian fortress, while in Tulor one finds ruins of the oldest settlement in the area. In the inhabited villages of Toconao and Socaire, a beautiful church tower and agricultural terraces provide a dose of local culture.

Top 10 attractions in San Pedro de Atacama

#1
Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna)

Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna)

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With its parched desert plains and wind-sculpted topography, it’s easy to see how Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) earned its name. The sharp sandstone peaks, glittering salt deposits, and crater-like depressions make for some dramatic photographs, and watching the sunset over the valley is an unforgettable experience.More
#2
El Tatio Geysers

El Tatio Geysers

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Plumes of steam from more than 60 geysers and hundreds of fumaroles erupt several feet into the air at the geyser field of El Tatio, high in the Andes in northern Chile. El Tatio isn’t the largest geyser field in the world, but with a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, it’s perhaps the most picturesque.More
#3
Atacama Desert

Atacama Desert

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As the driest place on earth, you’d expect the Atacama Desert to resemble a barren wasteland. Instead, the vast and arid landscape offers plenty to see and explore, including blue lagoons, salt flats, and active geysers—and also offers some of the world’s best stargazing opportunities.More
#4
Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama)

Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama)

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Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama), a salt deposit–coated lake, lies amid the Atacama Desert plains, framed by distant Andes peaks. Stretching more than 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometers), it’s one of the largest salt flats and the largest lithium reserve in the world.More
#5
Puritama Hot Springs (Termas Baños de Puritama)

Puritama Hot Springs (Termas Baños de Puritama)

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The high Andean starry nights, combined with the cold Atacama winds, can chill the unprepared tourist to the bone. Happily, however, these mountains are volcanic, and pour forth the planet's heat into a series of steaming pools, the Puritama Hot Springs (Termas Baños de Puritama).The name "puritama" simply means "hot water" in an ancient, pre-Inca tongue, suggesting that these medicinal springs have been used for millennia. With high concentrations of relaxing lithium and minerals accorded all sorts of health benefits, they are guaranteed to mellow you out. Temperatures hover around 33°C (91°F), so they aren't ridiculously hot, making daytime visits a treat.Though most pools have been left in a relatively natural state, there are changing rooms, eateries, campsites, trails, handicrafts vendors and other improvements all around.More
#6
Cejar Lagoon (Laguna Cejar)

Cejar Lagoon (Laguna Cejar)

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Located just 20 miles from the town of San Pedro de Atacama, this unusual desert sinkhole attracts many visitors. Filled with water, Cejar Lagoon(Laguna Cejar) is popular for the opportunity it provides to take a dip in the middle of the desert. The water can have salt concentrations up to 30 percent, which makes floating not only easy, but also pretty much impossible to avoid. For this reason, the lake is often compared to the Dead Sea and is sometimes called the “floating lake.” The top few inches of water are often warm from the sun, while there are cold currents down below, making for a mixed swimming experience.Even if you decide not to swim in this “floating lake,” enjoy the view and how the glassy surface reflects the scenery back to you, including the Domeyko mountain range. Flamingos occasionally fly overhead and the lake is ringed white with residual salt, while the blue of the lake contrasts with the yellow tussock grass that grows all around.More
#7
Chaxa Lagoon (Laguna Chaxa)

Chaxa Lagoon (Laguna Chaxa)

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Chaxa Lagoon (Laguna Chaxa) often serves as an introduction to the salt flat for visitors. The ground here is crusted with an inedible salt, and in the morning, a pinkish light comes over the horizon as the sun rises. While the crystalline ground is fascinating and curious, the wild flamingos in the area often turn heads.And the presence of flamingos should be no surprise, as the Chaxa Lagoon(Laguna Chaxa) is one of the easiest entry points to Chile’s National Flamingo Reserve and a great place for photographers with good reflexes (and zoom, as the birds often keep their distance).As the pinkish light dissipates and the air warms up, packs of the birds take flight over the lake. Three different species often reside here: the Chilean, Andean and James' flamingos. A variety of other birds can be seen here as well, including the Andean avocet, the puna plover and a type of sandpiper, a small bird with a long beak that feeds on small organisms in the mineral-rich water. The birds are most active at sunrise and sunset.More
#8
Rainbow Valley (Valle del Arcoiris)

Rainbow Valley (Valle del Arcoiris)

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When you see the stark, bright colors of San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings, you may wonder how much of a standout Rainbow Valley (Valle del Arcoiris) could really be. The valley, however, located 50 miles from town, is home to tremendous variety of things to see and views to gaze upon. Mineral deposits have left vibrant reds, browns, purples, greens and yellows on the rocks in this area over the course of thousands of years, and in addition, the wind and very occasional rain have carved interesting shapes, rocky spires and small canyons into the valley. At 11,500 feet above sea level, this area makes for slow but worthwhile exploring.In addition to the bright photogenic colors, Hierbas Buenas also makes for a popular stopping spot for visitors with its thousands of petroglyphs carved into stone by early Atacama dwellers, some about 11,000 years old.More
#9
Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos)

Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos)

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Covering 286 square miles (740 square kilometres), Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos) is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the Atacama Desert. Between the Andes and Chile’s Pacific coast, the park has glittering salt flats, wind-sculpted moonscapes, and high-altitude lagoons surrounded by wild flamingos.More
#10
Tebenquiche Lagoon

Tebenquiche Lagoon

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This lagoon is often visited on a trip to see Laguna Cejar and Ojos del Salar. One might think that visiting a series of desert lakes would get repetitive, but Tebenquiche erases any thoughts of that kind with its strange, moon-like landscape. It’s a shallow lake, sometimes with as few as five inches of water, and underneath lies a mostly salt lake bed with an otherworldly landscape that is clearly visible from the surface. Since there is so little water and often so little movement, the lake acts as a mirror, reflecting the surrounding mountains and the Lincancabur volcano.In the bright sun, this area is perfect for taking optical illusion photos in which photo subjects go far from the photographer and pretend to interact with something in the foreground, giving the impression that they are standing on something tiny. Late in the afternoon, the slow desert sunset makes for very long shadows as the reds, yellows and pinks of nature take over the sky. Birds are also most active at this time of day, and you may see some flamingos overhead as the sun sets.More

Trip ideas

Top Archaeological Sights in San Pedro de Atacama

Top Archaeological Sights in San Pedro de Atacama

How to Spend 1 Day in San Pedro de Atacama

How to Spend 1 Day in San Pedro de Atacama

How to Spend 2 Days in San Pedro de Atacama

How to Spend 2 Days in San Pedro de Atacama

Recent reviews from experiences in San Pedro de Atacama

star-5
Chiles' best night out!
madeleine_h, Dec 2019
Astronomy Tour in San Pedro de Atacama
Absolutely loved this trip to see the stars.
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