There are so many things to do in Chile like visiting the ancient Easter Island heads, skiing among the Andes mountain range in Valle Nevado or discovering the beach life in Valparaiso. But in the 2 years we lived in Chile, there was one place in particular that really made our experience in Chile. It was the small town of San Pedro De Atacama located in the Atacama desert.
We visited San Pedro De Atacama in the northeastern of Chile during our honeymoon stint and it was well worth the journey. After crossing the boarder from our salt flats tour in Bolivia, we arrived in the small town of San Pedro De Atacama. San Pedro De Atacama is nestled around the Andes mountains and is one of the most popular tourist attractions for travelers coming to Chile.
The town itself is small but there’s plenty of things to do including tours, eateries, extreme sports and markets. Walking around you’ll notice that the town is very organized and clean. Unlike other parts of Chile, San Pedro De Atacama was well planned out and a lot of government funding has been used to make San Pedro De Atacama one of the top tourist attractions of Chile. We were pleasantly surprised how carefully thought out the town was. Each shop had uniformed wooden signs, the buildings were well kept and the streets were clean. It truly is a little piece of haven in Chile.
Accommodation in San Pedro De Atacama
Arriving in San Pedro De Atacama at about 12pm, we booked 2 nights in a private room at the local hostel called Mama Tierra for $20 per night. We would definitely recommend staying in this hostel as it was pretty affordable and very clean. Since we booked the private room, we had access to the much larger bathroom and shower, which was never used by other guests. There was also a shared kitchen and the price also included breakfast everyday. The reviews online have been positive and the staff are friendly, particularly the owner who was very helpful arranging tours and other activities for us.
Rocking up without a reservation, we managed to get a small discount on our double bed private room as appose to booking online beforehand. It can be risky to do this as Mama Tierra is a popular hostel, but we made sure that this was the first thing we did when we arrived in San Pedro De Atacama. If you are interested in booking the dorm, we suggest booking beforehand as the dorm rooms were totally booked out when we arrived.
We did look at a few other places but found that they were very expensive or had awful reviews online. By far, Mama Tierra was a great choice if you are looking for accommodation that will exceed your expectations. Since we had a tour booked early morning on our last day in San Pedro De Atacama, the manager allowed us to store our bags in the admin office after the usual check-out time of 11am. She also welcomed us to using the kitchen, internet and shower rooms as we waited for our 8pm bus to Arica.
Eating in San Pedro De Atacama
The food in San Pedro De Atacama was the best that we’ve had in the entire country during our 2 years we lived in Chile. The serving size was always generous, the food was delicious and there were plenty of vegetarian food options to select from. Though the menu prices were more on the pricey end, we felt that it was money well spent. The food was really gourmet compared to some of the restaurants in Santiago that serve very basic dishes for hefty prices.
One of our favorite places to eat in San Pedro De Atacama was a restaurant called Adobe, located on the main street called Caracoles. Although we didn’t do any research beforehand about this restaurant, we knew it was going to be good as we had noticed it was packed with tourists and travelers throughout the night. Not only does it mean the food is great, but it also means that you will least likely get food poisoning from the place.
The restaurant is entirely made from adobe, a clay-mud substance which is commonly used to build houses. It added an earthy and rustic vibe to the restaurant. There was a fire place in the center of the restaurant, keeping customers warm in the chilly nights. Live music, candles, the outdoor ambiance and rustic decor made Adobe a romantic and relaxing place to be. We decided to order our favorite Chilean drink pisco sour along with the vegetarian quesadillas starters. We also ordered a vegetarian stone-oven pizza and grilled Salmon with salad for our mains. Since the serving was big, we didn’t have room for desert.
On a separate evening back after our first experience in Adobe, we decided to order a few other things off the menu. This included the Spanish omelet made vegetarian, the mushroom pizza and grilled Salmon again. It’s important to note that many restaurants add additional tax and surcharges as well as ask for a tip on top. The tip is optional but we found that the service was really good that we gave them a small tip.
Another restaurant that we couldn’t get enough of was Emiliana. Emiliana is an all organic and rustic restaurant that often does not get as much love being located off the main road of the town.
On our first visit there, we enjoyed a three cheese lasagna, the chile sauce and fresh bread appetizers, which were free and their take on the grilled salmon. We also went back for a light lunch and shared a vegetarian pesto pasta together after our half day tour.
Overall the food in San Pedro De Atacama was amazing. We recommend indulging at these restaurants as it’s a great way to refuel your body and unwind from your adventures in San Pedro De Atacama. There are also a few small corner stores where you can purchase fresh ingredients and veggies to make packed lunches if you are out of the town the whole day. We found that bringing light snacks such as sandwiches on the day trips helped tame the munchies.
Day 1: Walking on the moon at Moon Valley
We booked an afternoon tour on our first day in San Pedro De Atacama for $12.00 to Moon Valley and Death Valley through Mama Terria. There are plenty of tour companies and most provide almost the same activities and schedules. Because of this, we decided to book with our hostel. It was a super easy tour to book and we managed to book it when we arrived at the hostel on the first day without a problem. There was also a discount if you paid in cash, which we did. The bus arrived and picked us up at the hostel. We drove to Moon Valley, stopping at the entrance to collect our ticket.
When we arrived to Moon Valley, we were in awe of the beauty. It literally looked like we were on the moon. We have never seen anything like this before in our lives and it was truly worth the money and time to witness it.
The tour continued onward to various sections of the Moon valley, where you were able to explore rock formations and caves that surrounded the area.
Afterwards, we made our way back on the bus to Death Valley. The tour was very affordable and we would recommend going with Mama Terria’s recommendation on this one. Our tour guide was very friendly, professional and knowledgeable.
Day 1: Watching the sunset at Death Valley
Named originally as the Mars Valley for it’s red and earthy valleys, our tour guide told us that it was later renamed to Death Valley due to an error in translation. The name Death Valley was also more appealing for tourists the new name just stuck instead. When we arrived, we were informed that there was maintenance being completed. However, this did not effect our experience at all.
Arriving at Death Valley, it was very windy and cold. Although it’s quite sunny, we suggest bringing a warm jacket as it can get pretty cold. We spent the afternoon here before all the other tour groups came. Our tour guide mentioned that they start their tour earlier intentional in order to allow us experience the tour in private.
Following some free-time to explore the Valley and take awesome photos, we sat down and watched the sunset across the Valley. The sky was so clear and the view was pretty amazing. We were then taken back to the town and dropped off in the center of the town.
For both the Moon Valley and Death Valley, you can skip the tour and go directly there yourself. If you know how to ride a bike, there a plenty of bikes available to rent or you can take a walk there from the town. It might take a few hours but it would be fun to explore the valleys that way too.
Day 2: Walking around San Pedro De Atacama
After packing our first day with tours and food, we decided to take some time to explore the town itself. Although the town is small, we enjoyed walking every street and checking out the boutiques, buildings and markets.
We also found a market selling handicrafts, tea, home goods and textiles. I was in love with the textiles. Since we planned to go to Peru and other South American countries, we found that while the selection of goods was great, the prices were more expensive than what was offered elsewhere.
It’s still worth a look though. We ended up getting a few things anyway because we couldn’t resist. There are a lot of cute vendors selling clothing, handicrafts and other goods, perfect for souvenirs for family and friends.
Day 2: Sandboarding on the desert sand dunes
We booked an afternoon tour for our second day in San Pedro De Atacama to sandboard on the sand dunes. The tour was booked under the hostel we stayed at. We arrived at their office at 4pm to check in and made our way to Death Valley.
When we arrived the instructor laid out the gear and we strapped on the boots, googles and helmet. We then followed our instructor up the sand dune for our first lesson. It was definitely a trek going up the sand dunes with all the gear strapped to us and carrying the board. The wind was incredibly strong and made us feel like we could fly away in any second.
Once we got up the sand dune, we realized just how high we were up. With my fear of heights, I decided to skip this experience and instead, took photos and videos of Albie. Albie did an incredible job of sandboarding. It looked like it came so naturally for him.
We spent 2.5 hours at the sand dunes and were asked to pack our gear up. After hours of boarding down the sand dunes, Albie had so much sand in his boots and clothes. We made our way back to town and were dropped off near the main streets of the town.
Day 2: Stargazing in San Pedro De Atacama
One the first day after dinner, we lined up to book a tour with Space Star Tours for a night of stargazing. Since they have limited spots per tour and only offer English tours on select days of the week, we made sure to book our spot on the tour.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to take photos as it was pitch black, but the tour was definitely a night to remember. On the night of the tour, we met at a designated intersection in the town to hop on the bus. We drove to the Atacama Lodge and were welcomed with blankets to keep us extra cozy throughout the night. Our tour guide was an expert in astronomy and pointed out stars and star constellations using a cool laser beam. It literally looked like it was from Star Wars. The sky was clear that night and we could see so many incredible stars.
The tour also has the largest visual telescopes in all of South America and the largest number of telescopes in one place. We then had time to look in every telescope and saw Saturn and a number of stars. We then went inside for a quick question and answer session with our tour guide while sipping on hot chocolate. If you go online, there are plenty of reviews on Space Star Tours and from our experience, we were super happy with the tour. The tour ran for 2.5 hours and we were dropped off at our hostel afterwards.
Day 3: Half day tour to Miscanti Lake
We decided to take a half day tour known as the Lagunas Altiplanicas tour from the tour company Whipala Expedition. As we had just gone on a 3 day tour through the Bolivian salt flats, we noticed that much of the tours available in San Pedro De Atacama also cover the same places, if not took you around similar landscapes such as lagunas.
The half day tour seemed more fitting and we were glad that we decided on this to make sure we would make it back for our night bus ride to Arica without any stress. All tours that run through the lagunas pretty much do the same set activities, but we found that Whipala Expedition had great reviews and were slightly cheaper than other competitors. It’s important to note that all tours in San Pedro exclude the cost of any entrance fees, which will have to be paid in cash on the day that you take the tour.
The tour began early morning, with a 6:30am start. We were picked up from our hostel and made our way to the first spot, Toconao. Toconao is a small village nearby with loads of culture and beauty. We visited the local tower, church and feed some llamas.
By 8am, we made our way to Laguna Chaxa, where we were able to be up close and personal with pink and white flamingos. This is where we also had breakfast which included, cheese, breads and eggs. Having breakfast with this wonderful view, was pretty incredible.
After spending about an hour at the Laguna Chaxa, we then drove to Miscanti Lake (Lagunas Miscanti y Miñiques in Spanish). This was beautiful as well. Unlike the lagunas we saw at the Salt Flats in bolivia, the Miscanti Lake was a mix of purple, blue and brown tones towered by the Miñiques volcano.
Afterwards, we then made our way back to San Pedro De Atacama. We did stop by another small village called Socaire. Along the way home we were about to spot wild foxes, llamas and deers. By the time we arrived by in town, it was 2.30pm and we were ready to have a late lunch.
Day 3: Photoshoot at the San Pedro De Atacama bus stop
Following lunch and a half day tour on our very last day in San Pedro De Atacama, we had a few hours to wander the streets. We had noticed this amazing bus stop, painted in vibrant colors and patterns located towards Moon Valley and wanted to check it out. We instantly fell in love with it and decided to do a quick photoshoot using our selfie stick and camera.
Afterwards, we indulged in our last meal in San Pedro De Atacama and went back to our hostel to shower. We then made our way to Arica as we had heard of the Lauca National Park was pretty good and wanted to check it out for ourselves.
Looking back, there are so many things to do in Chile but our favorite had to be our time in San Pedro De Atacama. Our experience in San Pedro De Atacama was so amazing. We loved every minute of our time there from the food, the tours and the town itself. We felt that spending 3 days and 2 nights there was enough, considering that we had been to Salt Flats in Bolivia. If we ever get a chance to go yourself, we highly recommend it.