top of page

San Pedro de Atacama | a travel guide

Updated: May 26, 2023

In 2017, I moved to Santiago de Chile to do a seven-month internship as part of my studies. I planned to return home to Germany in the spring but not before traveling through South America for a month. Once I arrived in Chile, I quickly realized that I would never be able to see even a fraction of South America in a month so I decided to stick to traveling Chile.

Besides Patagonia, the Lake District, and Easter Island, I wanted to see the Atacama Desert. From what I had heard from my Chilean friends and host family as well as other Travelers, it was a must-see on any Chilean Bucket List.

So on Easter weekend 2018, I boarded a plane to Calama.

Altiplanic Lagoons Atacama

How to get around

There are two ways of exploring the Atacama desert. You can book the tours or you can rent a car and go see it yourself. If you are a solo traveler, I would recommend the tours. If you travel with a group of friends or can spend a little bit more, rent a car.

The pros of taking a tour are that you won't have to worry about the bad conditions of the streets, you'll meet new people and your tour guide can tell you everything about all the places. The cons are the crowds since most of the tours take their groups to the locations at the same time of day.

I took the tours but regretted it a bit. I could not afford to rent a car at the time but visiting all the beautiful places in the desert, I felt as though the crowds of people took away a bit of the experience.

If you are traveling alone or with just one friend, I suggest making friends at the hostels and renting a car with a couple of other people.

Deep River Canyon Atacama

What to see

There are a couple of places that you cannot miss when you are traveling to Atacama. The most popular are the following four:

  • Altiplanic Lagoons, Piedras Rojas

  • Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)

  • Geysers del Tatio

  • Los Flamencos National Reserves (Flamingos)

Another must-do is the Astronomical Tour at Night to see the incredible desert night sky. Unfortunately, I visited Atacama during the full moon so all night tours were canceled. One day, I would love to return just for this experience alone.

If you have more than just 3 days, I highly recommend taking the tour from the Atacama desert to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia (or vice versa). I did not have the time but we talked to people who had the best time. You can book tours and go with a group, it is usually a three-day tour incl. food and accommodation.

Geysers del Tatio Atacama

Valle de la Luna, Atacama

Alpaca Atacama

Geysers del Tatio

Altiplanic Lagoons

Where to Eat

San Pedro de Atacama is a small town yet there is a good amount of food options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here are my recommendations:

Ckunna (Chilean)

Mal de Puna (Chilean)

Café Peregrino

Las Delicias de Carmen (Chilean)

Barros Cafe

El Toconar

Estrella Negra (Vegetarian)

Salon De Té O2

Adobe (Chilean)

Heladería Babalú (Icecream)

Franchuteria (bakery, great breakfast)

Vicuñas in Atacama

Los Flamencos National Reserve

Where to stay

We stayed at the Airbnb that unfortunately is not available to be booked anymore. I still recommend looking into Airbnb rentals or Hostels. San Pedro is a hotspot for backpackers so if you're looking for some Travel buddies or people to share a jeep with, a hostel is probably your best bet.

Room and board are very affordable in San Pedro, with a night at a hostel starting at about 20 EUR/USD.

Valle de la Luna

I suggest taking at least three full days to see the Atacama desert, adding the tour to Uyuni if you have the time. Chile is more expensive than Peru and Bolivia but still affordable in comparison to prices in Europe or North America.

Don't skip this place if you are exploring South America, it is truly special.

Safe travels!

Love, Lena

28 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page