ACTIVITIES IN SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
In San Pedro de Atacama the first thing you should do is take a walk around town, where you can see some landmarks such as the Archaeological Museum Padre Le Paige, the Church of San Pedro, the Municipality and Caracoles street, areas in which you can find the highest commerce and craft fair, with products made from local materials such as llama wool, stone carvings, cactus, leather, among others.
After, you can tour around the area by foot or by renting a bicycle. Some nearby places are Pukará Quitor (3 kilometers north) where in addition to appreciating the ancient ruins you can see the Lincancabur volcano and some caverns.
Also, another part of the tourist circuit of San Pedro de Atacama is the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) and Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), which can be travelled by trekking, biking or horseback riding. To enjoy the beauty of the desert landscape, especially when the moon comes out, we recommend visiting both places near dusk and take beautiful pictures of the sunset from the dunes.
Another unforgettable trip is to see the Salar de Atacama (Salt Flats of Atacama), part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. Inside you will find the Chaxa lagoon, an ecosystem of Andean birds, such as flamingos and various kinds of flamingos (parinas), among others.
Within the Salar de Atacama (Salt Flat Atacama), we find the Cejar lagoon, of emerald waters and high salt concentration, allowing a pleasant floating sensation when you submerge in it. You should always wear sandals when entering these waters because of the rocky terrain in the bottom of the lagoon and never open your eyes under water.
After going in the Cejar lagoon, it is possible to remove excess salt by bathing in the Ojos del Salar, two freshwater springs that are found near the lagoon, known as Tebinquinche.
In the northern zone of the Salar de Atacama (Salt Flats of Atacama), we also find la Aldea deTulor, an ancient village built in the years 100 and 300 AD, formed by circular houses that were buried under the desert sand and are now administered by the Atacama community of Ayllu de Coyo, featuring exhibition rooms and interpretation to learn about the flora, fauna and history of the place.
You can also visit the Salar de Tara (Salt Flat of Tara), located towards the border with Argentina, taking the road “Paso Internacional Jama”, within Los Flamencos National Reserve. It provides an impressive spectacle of salt flats, rock formations called "cathedrals", lagoons and rivers, along with a vast diversity of native fauna, migratory birds, llamas and (vicuñas).
One of the most important attractions of San Pedro de Atacama, is to see the Géiseres del Tatio (Tatio Geysers), located more than 4300 meters above sea level, making it the highest geothermal field in the world.
Here you can see the impressive hot water fumaroles and hot steams that can reach 7 meters high and are released by geysers especially in the morning. That is why for this tour you must start at 4 in the morning from the village, where they begin the 90 km climb to the geothermal field. During the trip you can see all kinds of native fauna such as llamas, foxes, rheas and local flora.
The Geysers complex, known as Tatio Mallku, is administered by the indigenous communities of Toconce and Caspana and an entrance fee must be paid. While in this place, it is recommended to bring plenty of warm clothing, walking only on the marked trails and at a slow pace in order to avoid discomfort caused by the altitude.
Another recommendation is to eat light, drink lots of water, get proper rest and take chachacoma infusions (teas), a medicinal herb that is obtained in San Pedro de Atacama, which is drunk to help you get accustomed to the cold and altitude.
Here also you can find thermal pool of Tatio, where visitors who dare to challenge the cold environment will be able to experience a nice bath.
Upon returning from a visit to the geysers, you can visit the village of Machuca, where ancient traditions of the Atacama people such as grazing and agriculture are still conserved. In the surrounding area you can see a swamp (wetland), which is characterized by its huge giant cactus and a habitat for water birds such as Andean seagulls, flamingos, and ducks, among others.
In addition to Machuca, some walking tours allow people to explore the towns of Lasana Chiuchiu and Caspana, which include museums, old buildings, churches and traditions of the people of Atacama.
At the end of the trip, nearly 50 kilometers from San Pedro, we find the Termas de Puritama (Puritama Springs), a nice place to relax in the warm healing waters of its eight natural pools that are connected by wooden walkways to facilitate movement. The water temperature does not exceed 33° C and both have healing and rejuvenation properties.