San Pedro de Atacama
5 Things to do in San Pedro de Atacama
Dates Visited: November 2018
Located in northern Chile, the San Pedro de Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world. The terrain is home to Chile's famous San Pedro de Atacama Salt Flats, which are the result the extreme atmosphere. In fact, NASA even does Mars rover testing in this region due to its similar conditions to the red planet.
If you're not too keen on the desert, we would only recommend a couple days in the area. Nonetheless there are plenty of things to do in San Pedro de Atacama. The most popular of course are the Atacama Salt Flats, or Salar de Atacama. However, the town of San Pedro has a friendly vibe with plenty of markets, and even live music in the main square.
1. Atacama Salt Flats
Cost: 24,000 CLP ($35 USD) - Cheaper if you pay cash and book in person!
Length: 7 hours (2:00pm - 9:00pm)
Hands down one of the best things to do in San Pedro de Atacama is visit the Atacama Salt Flats. These salt flats formed as a result of extreme dryness and shifting tectonic plates. We visited the Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache, which are about a two hour drive from the main town of San Pedro de Atacama.
Tours can easily be purchased/arranged if you walk along Tocopilla St, near the main square. We booked ours through Tourismo Layana, on the corner of Gustavo Le Paige and Tocopilla. Learn more about how to get a cheaper price in person here!
2. Sunset at Moon Valley
Cost: 13,000 CLP ($19 USD) - Cheaper if you pay cash and book in person!
Length: 5 hours (4:00pm - 8:00pm)
Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley, is actually quick drive (roughly 15-30 minutes) from the main drag of San Pedro. The desert is one of our favorite places to watch a sunset because of the spectacular color array.
Our tour of Atacama Salt Flats actually included a stop at Moon Valley for sunset. Nonetheless, individual tours of Moon Valley can be found in town starting at roughly 13,000 CLP for a 4 hour tour. Most of them begin in the late afternoon.
3. Browse the Markets
If you're looking for cheap things to do in San Pedro de Atacama, then window shopping is a great way to spend your time. The streets of San Pedro are full of shops selling clothing, artisan crafts, souvenirs, and even salt from the Atacama Salt Flats! Be sure to haggle on the prices, knowing some Spanish will go a long way with this.
A couple women were speaking in Spanish trying to decide whether or not to give Molly correct change to see if she would notice. Uhh Yea, we were listening and understood what they were trying to do. It didn't work - but always be sure to count your change!
4. Explore the Main Square
One of the best free things to do in San Pedro de Atacama is visiting the main square of town. When we visited there were live music performances and some stalls set up selling food, drink, and souvenirs. It felt like quite a lively vibe for such a small city smack dab in the middle of the desert.
5. Walk the Desert Landscape
The desert is one of our favorite environments, so maybe this is just our bias. But, another one of the great free things to do in San Pedro de Atacama is just walk out and marvel at the desert landscape.
Where to stay in San Pedro
From our experience, we like to use Hostel World to check out potential hostels, then check other booking websites like Booking.com to make our reservations. Sometimes we also message hostels directly to get a better price. We also like to use Airbnb to book accommodations if its a better deal than hostels. Clicking on either of the icons will give you a deal with either of the sites, but are affiliate links so we earn a small commission.
We ended up staying at Hostal Iquisa, the staff are amazingly friendly and accommodating. After doing nearly 24 hours of travel through combination of bus/plane travel from Patagonia we were exhausted. They offered free pickup from the San Pedro bus station, and even dropped us again off on our way our.
Dorms: $20.00+ USD
Private: $60.00+ USD
Amenities: Free wifi, Free Breakfast, Spanish/English speaking, Excellent Location
Dorms: $11.91+ USD
Private: $35.57+ USD
Amenities: Free wifi, Kitchen, Tour/Travel Desk, Luggage Storage, Laundry, 24 Hr Security/Reception
Private: $41.50+ USD
Amenities: Free wifi, Free Breakfast, Spanish/English, Tour Planning, Free Airport/Bus Transfers