WHERE TO GO IN SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
San Pedro de Atacama is famous for a great number of places that you can visit to see the surroundings, culture or enjoy the landscapes of this oasis in the desert.
Valle de la Luna: (Valley of the Sun)
This Sanctuary of Nature is located 13 kilometers west of San Pedro de Atacama and is part of the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos (National Flamingo Reserve).
It forms in a depression surrounding the Orbate sierra, which is part of the Cordillera de la Sal. It was produced by erosion from wind and water that over thousands of years has molded its soils and forests with interesting shapes like spikes, craters, mounds and hollows, which gives it the resemblence of a lunar landscape.
Some of the most famous formations of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) are the Tres Marias, the Amphitheatre, the Gran Duna (Great Dune) and the Cavernas de Sal (Salt Caverns), among others.
It is located at 2500 meters above sea level, it has a desert climate with great temperature difference between day and night, and so, warm clothing is recommended if the tour extends beyond the sunset.
In the geography of these unique landscapes, activities such as hiking, horse riding and cycling are performed, among others.
Valle de la Muerte: (Death Valley)
It is located in the Cordillera de la Sal and has huge sand mountains, where sand boarding and trekking are practiced.
Besides this, it allows you to observe strange stone shapes, shaped by the desert wind erosion over thousands of years.
Salar de Atacama: (Salt Flats of Atacama)
It is located at 2305 meters above sea level, 55 kilometers north of San Pedro de Atacama. It is the third largest salt flat in the world, with more than 3000 km2.
Inside you will find the Chaxa lagoon, habitat of various species of water birds like flamingos, Andean seagulls, harriers and (parinas), among others. In its surroundings you can also find animals like the red fox, the tuco tuco rat and other species of reptiles of the area.
Géiseres del Tatio: (Tatio Geysers)
It corresponds to the highest geomagnetic field in the world, located at an altitude of 4200 meters, with 80 geysers where water boils at a temperature of 86° C and lets off fumeroles of over 70 centimeters.
The ideal time to observe them is during the morning between 6 A.M. and 7 A.M. which is the time that the highest number of fumarolic activity occurs. Also, it allows you to observe the large quantity of wildlife inhabiting this territory such as rheas, (vicuñas) and (vizcachas), among others.
Together with the Tatio Geysers, you can enjoy hot springs directly in nature, allowing you to submerge into the pleasant pools and recover from the cold environment. It is therefore recommended to do this tour with proper warm clothing, good hydration and to not eat too much in order to avoid the symptoms of altitude.
Termas de Puritama: (Puritama Springs)
These hot spring pools are found surrounded by mountains with beautiful natural scenery. They are located just 28 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama and the water temperature does not exceed 33° C.
They feature comfortable wooden walkways to travel and observe the surrounding vegetation.
This small town is located northeast of the Salar de Atacama (Salt Flat of Atacama) and it's an oasis that provides pure water and all kinds of fruit crops, which stand out for their high content of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), because of the close presence of minerals of the flats.
Among its attractions we find the national monuments Iglesia y Campanario de San Lucas (the Church and Bell Tower of St. Lucas), which were built in the eighteenth century.
Its buildings are all of stone liparite, which maintains its buildings at good inside temperature and as well as the making of crafts carved from volcanic stones.
Ruinas de Tulor: (Tulor Ruins)
These correspond to the concentric ruins of an ancient town of Atacama of over 3000 years that was found buried in the desert sands.
Pukará de Quitor:
It is found 3 kilometers away from San Pedro de Atacama, on the Cerro de Quitor (Quitor Hill). It is a fort built by the ancient inhabitants in the twelfth century, and reused by the Incas following their occupancy. It was used as a fortress to defend themselves from other towns.
Lagunas Altiplánicas: (Highland Lagoons)
The altiplanic lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques are located more than 4000 meters above sea level. They provide wonderful colors reflecting the sky of the highlands. They are located on the edge of the Salar de Atacama (Salt Flats of Atacama), about 6 hours away from San Pedro de Atacama.
Museo Arqueológico Padre Gustavo Le Paige: (Archeological Museum Padre Gustavo Le Paige)
This museum contains the collection of the Jesuit Belgian priest who after years of studies managed to get a sample of objects showing the evolution and development of the life of the Atacama towns during its 11 thousand years of development.