San Pedro de Atacama
Chile’s high desert
The Atacama Desert
Picturesque San Pedro de Atacama stands as an oasis in the midst of the world’s driest desert, where geological evidence suggests that certain areas have never experienced rainfall. A rich pre-Colombian history dating back thousands of years lives on today in traditional artisan crafts and a renowned archaeological museum, while the looming presence of the Licancabur Volcano, expansive salt flats dotted with pink flamingoes, majestic purple and orange sunsets over the jagged horizon, and second-to-none stargazing bring new meaning to the phrase “natural wonder.”
The colors of the desert
Sunrises and sunsets bring the desert’s colors to life – reds, browns, oranges, yellows. Get up early and watch the blazing sun rise over the jagged ridges at Valle de la Muerta; it’s spectacular and you won’t regret it.
Don’t forget to try a Rica Rica Sour (or Rica Rica flavored ice cream), made from the aromatic medicinal herb, Rica Rica, native to the altiplano region. It’s a local specialty and quite delicious.
Clear skies for miles
You’ve never seen the night skies like this. No trip to Atacama is complete without a night of relaxed star gazing. Go to an observatory or just lay down outside and look up. This is the spectacular view from Alto Atacama’s private observatory.
When to Visit
March to December for the clearest skies.
We recommend against visiting in January and February due to the ‘Bolivian Winter’ that produces cloudy days and rain.
HOW TO ARRIVE
Direct flight from Santiago (SCL) to Calama (CJC): 2 hrs
Drive from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama: 1.5 hrs
Good to know
Language: Spanish Currency: Chilean Peso (CLP) Visas/fees: Travel to Chile does not require a visa for US/US/EU/CAN/AUS travelers. AUS citizens must pay a reciprocity fee.
What to do in San Pedro de Atacama
Ready to go? Here’s what to pack
The Atacama Desert has one of the driest climates in the world and is at elevation, both things you should consider in packing for your trip.
- Hiking footwear
- A jacket for nights
- Chapstick and moisturizer
- Convertible hiking pants/shorts
- Sunblock and protection, including sunglasses
Travel tunes: Playlists for Chile’s Desert
Where to stay: Overnight Recommendations
The vibe: 1920’s glam The location: Historic and charming Barrio (neighborhood) Lastarria Good for: History buffs and those who appreciate architecture
The vibe: Stylish, avant-garde decor The location: Historic and charming Barrio (neighborhood) Lastarria Good for: Those who appreciate design and great cocktails
The vibe: Elegant, tranquil retreat The location: Historic and charming Barrio (neighborhood) Lastarria Good for: Those looking for all of the amenities, including a luxe spa
The vibe: Peaceful and private The location: Historic and charming Barrio (neighborhood) Lastarria Good for: Those looking for a tranquil retreat and small-hotel vibes
Tips from our Team
- The beauty of the Atacama Desert is that due to its climate, it is a great destination all year long. We recommend against January and February due to the “Bolivian winter”, which produces cloudy days and rain.
- Be mindful of altitude and the time you need to aclimatize