I’ve been twice to San Pedro de Atacama. After my first visit I’ve decided it just wasn’t enough as the oasis and surroundings have so much to offer. It’s one of the most touristic regions in Chile and definitely one of the most expensive ones. And why is it so? It’s in the middle of the desert, there shouldn’t be anything in there, right? Wrong. There’s plenty.
The hostile location of this small town was (and still is ) its biggest advantage. Located in the middle of the driest deserts in the world, San Pedro served as an outpost for caravans already centuries ago. Nowadays it’s a very popular stop for tourists, offering tours to local as well a bit remote attractions. Locals are very much aware of the potential that lies within the walls of the town, as the closest city lies about an hour drive from San Pedro. So without any competition the prices went very high. It wasn’t what we’ve heard though in Argentina. We’ve been told Chile was one of best countries to live in South America because the salaries are high and life expenses low. It wasn’t really the case in here. After few long hours of hitching from Argentina we have reached San Pedro at 11.30 pm and we didn’t have anything booked yet. We never really needed to do it before and from our experience we could say that online prices were always higher. “Lucky” us we have met a Polish family who we have asked for advice where to stay over the night. As we were going to the place they wanted to show us it sounded very promising as according to the mother, they have been travelling already for couple of months so me and Elena thought the price of the hotel would be appropiate for travellers like us as well.
We couldn’t be more wrong. The price was about 60Euro per person for a night. We thanked the “mother” for her “help” and walked away very fast. Here’s the difference between rich tourists and not-so-rich travellers. We’ve browsed the internet at one of the restaurants and finally found a hostel with free beds for 12Euro a night. The conditions were decent and we were happy to stay there and rest before we continued our trip to the west coast on the following day. One month later as we came back to San Pedro we were were luckier as we’ve found host on Couchsurfing. We stayed in the hood also for almost a week because that time we wanted to see it all!
And there was plenty to see. Apart from the town itself which has this touristic but charming atmosphere there are places you can go alone or with a tour. Best way how to see them all is to hire a car as some of them are really remote. I haven’t seen them all due to lack of money, but I was pretty happy with what I’ve done.The most spectacular place I’ve been to was the ALMA observatory, which I will talk about in the next post. It’s the biggest radiotelescope in the world, located at 5000m above the sea level. Damn impressing!
Next in row is the magnificent Moon Valley (3-6k chilenos) with all its caves and dune hills which make you feel you are really walking on the moon! You can organise yourself a great day trip by hiring a bike in San Pedro (about 3-4k chilenos) and cycling to the valley (about 6km away from the oasis). Remember to take lots of water!
Just opposite to the Moon Valley is the Death Valley with the Pucara de Quitor (6k chilenos) fortress ruins overlooking it. The fortress was built by indigenous people from the Atacama Desert – Atacameños – and was unconquered for centuries.
Apart from these 3 places to see there are few more worth going (yet out of reach for me this time) and it would be El Tatio geysers (80-90km north from San Pedro). If you’d like to see them blow you should be there already at 5 am! Another extraordinary place is Piedras Rojas, which literally means Red Rocks. Never underestimate the power or the red rocks in Atacama! They are gorgeus!