San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile is one of the driest places on Earth. It is about a 2 hour flight from Santiago airport. I talked about wayfinding, accommodation and some other key things that would be helpful to know about San Pedro here. The area is very tourist-oriented and I can understand why. The rest of Chile at the tail end of the tourist season was fairly quiet but San Pedro was still full of tourists from all over the world.
If you have more than a few days in San Pedro, you’ll likely have the chance to relax in the sun, read a book, and walk around town leisurely, while also going out of town to visit some of the key sightseeing destinations. However, if like me, you only have a few days (for me, few = 2.5), then you might need to jam-pack that time with excursions to get the most out of your visit. Because I have no interest in driving outside of North America, I opted to do excursions, which are set tours that come with a guide, sometimes a meal, and a set itinerary. Depending on how many people are in your group, it may be cheaper and more flexible to rent a car at Calama airport and drive to the tourist sites…but again, for ease, I wanted to sit on a bus and leisurely watch the landscape while we were shuttled from place to place.
If you’re going to San Pedro, there is absolutely no need to book excursions ahead of arrival. When you arrive on Caracoles, which is the main street, and streets running off of it, you will see many tourism companies. Because of the sheer number of them, I asked the proprietor of my hostel to recommend companies. He suggested that I go with either Cactus or Desert Adventures. The latter had cheaper prices – which is what I was told would be the case by the hostel proprietor – so we decided to go with them for all of our excursions. Better bargaining power that way! And yes, we did bargain down the price.
The run-down on the excursions is to come. In the meantime, guess what this is: