How to Spend 1 Day in San Pedro de Atacama
Surrounded by salt flats, volcanoes, and steaming geysers, San Pedro de Atacama is a jumping off point for adventure in northern Chile. Modern infrastructure means that you can easily enjoy its best attractions in a single day. Here’s how to do it.
Morning: El Tatio Geysers
Start with a pre-dawn departure for El Tatio, one of the biggest geothermal fields in the world. Watch the sunrise over the desert and see more than 80 steaming geysers shoot into the air. Afterward, take a dip in a geothermal pool. Guided tours from San Pedro de Atacama typically include hotel transfers, as well as breakfast; some add on a stop at the provincial village of Machuca. If you’re averse to an early start, opt for a tour to Puritana Natural Springs and spend the morning bathing in the rejuvenating waters of a natural thermal bath.
Afternoon: Moon Valley
Morning tours to El Tatio typically get back to town around lunchtime so grab a bite to eat from an eatery on Caracoles Boulevard before visiting the adobe church on Plaza de Armas. Afterwards, embark on a tour to the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) to see a lunar landscape that’s been shaped by wind and water over millions of years. These tours typically continue on to the Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), the driest desert in the world, and are timed so that you can watch the sun cast its glow over the landscape.
Night: Desert Stargazing
In the evening, take advantage of your desert location by doing a spot of stargazing—the Atacama Desert has some of the clearest night skies on earth. Most tours from San Pedro de Atacama take you to the biggest astronomical observatory in South America, where you can gaze at the stars in the company of an astronomer. Through a state-of-the-art telescope, you’ll be able to see planets invisible to the naked eye and the crater-covered surface of the moon.
Back in town, toast your day in San Pedro de Atacama with a drink; Chelacabur Bar on Caracoles is a travelers’ favorite.