Hello everyone! I’ve been offline for a short while. Sometimes it’s important to take a break from being online, and actually getting out to explore. So that’s exactly what I’ve done, and I now have new, exciting experiences to share with you all!
A couple of weeks ago, my parents visited Chile (miss you guys already!) and we headed up to San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world, and famous worldwide for its moon-like appearance. I was almost at a point of worry before travelling here, because I had heard so many great things that I didn’t want to be disappointed. But once I arrived, I didn’t want to leave. Here’s how to explore San Pedro de Atacama and hit all the main spots in just a long weekend.
Saturday: Getting our bearings and astronomy tour
We booked a flight from Santiago through LATAM Airlines and hopped on a two hour flight to Calama. Arriving in Calama, we booked a round trip bus to San Pedro, the main town of the Atacama desert, around one hour away. On arrival, we checked in to our apartment that a local woman was subletting around the back of her home, and began the search around town for the best tour company and itinerary for the weekend.
Note: Entering San Pedro may be a shock of your senses and you will likely get side tracked with all of the cute dogs, ancient architecture, delicious and fancy looking restaurants, and above all – the natural alpaca wool sweaters that are the trademark souvenir of visiting here.
We had pre-booked a tour with SPACE: San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations (I advise this as it fills up quickly), and in the evening we met in town to hop on a bus for the tour. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip and definitely set us up for a good weekend. We learned all about the night sky, I took a photo of Saturn through one of the amazingly powerful telescopes (one of the most powerful telescopes with public access in the world – see photo below) and ended the night asking all of our nerdy questions over hot chocolate. Definitely recommend.
Sunday: Half day tour to Valle de la Luna with Flamingo Tours
What to bring: water, sunscreen, warm clothing layer, a hat and good walking shoes (some small crevices and caves to explore).
Starting at 3pm, we met at the Flamingo office on the main street and hopped into the bus on our way to Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley. On arrival we explored crevices and caves around the entrance to the park which had beautiful salt formations all around. From there, we visited the Three Marias, three vertical rocks representing three women (photo below). We also visited the Amphitheatre and completed another mini hike before watching the sunset and heading back to town.
Monday: Full day tour to Piedras Rojas
This is the ultimate tour we found. Leaving at 7am and returning at 6pm, this is the ultimate tour to see amazing spots in San Pedro de Atacama. We were picked up by the bus around 7:30am and made our way to our first stop, a small historical town named. This town has a beautiful church and bell tower with a door made from a now protected species of cactus native to the area. We also stopped to meet the town’s resident llama who stole the show.
We then hopped back on the bus and arrived at Los Flamencos National Reserve. I had never seen flamingos in the wild before, and we were told it was nearing the end of the season (start of May, going into winter) and that we may see maximum 10 flamingos. We were very pleasantly surprised by the turnout of over 50!
Following this, we arrived at Piedras Rojas and explored the area, and saw a lot of wildlife including Suri which are related to an ostrich, vicuña, and a desert fox. Following this, we ended our trip at Laguna Miscanti and Miniques at an elevation of 4,300 metres (photos below)! On Tuesday we hopped on a flight back to Santiago and my (current) real world life – and work.
Have you ever been to The Atacama Desert or planning to go? Let me know below and I can help with even more suggestions.
x – Jenn, The Redhead Abroad