San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

After seeing some photos from the area surrounding San Pedro de Atacama, we almost never bothered coming to. We weren’t too impressed. We’ve seen plenty of deserts before.

I guess we should’ve known that often photos don’t do some places justice. We found ourselves wow-ed by the landscape around this small, adobe lined town with its dusty streets, and surprisingly overpriced cafes.

The desert is not for everyone, of course. San Pedro de Atacama desert’s beauty is one of the understated kind with its muted colors under harsh sunlight. Barren landscape dotted with knee length growths – so skinny and naked it’s not right to call it a bush just yet. Just clumps of sticks, really. And there’s the sand. Miles and miles of grey, boring sand.

But this northern part Chile is all that and more. Much more. Below are the reasons to visit San Pedro Atacama.

Highlights of San Pedro de Atacama

Laguna Miscanti

Jack in front of Lake Miscanti

Jack in front of Lake Miscanti

Laguna Miscanti, Chile

Laguna Miscanti’s water is so blue it looks like a 4 year old has cranked the saturation slider in Photoshop waaay up. This lagoon is blue-er, prettier, and more impressive than we had expected.

Salar de Tara (or Agua Calientes)

Salar de Agua Calientes, Chile

A play of color between the white of the salt and the turquoise water was unlike anything we’d seen before. For us, this salt flat was more interesting than the its more famous neighbor, the Atacama salt flat.

Even better was the fact that we had the place for ourselves since our tour company is the only one that goes here.

Valle de La Luna and Valle del Muerte

Valle de Muerte, Chile

Valle de La Luna, Chile

Valle de La Luna, Chile

Almost all tour companies in San Pedro offer a tour to these two valleys that end with a sunset over Valle de La Luna. The sunset was nice, but it was nothing spectacular. What was more interesting for us was the information we got from our guide on the geology of the area, and a walk through a canyon formed by house-sized blocks of salt.

However, the real highlight was running down the sand dunes in Valle de Muerte. Check out Jack’s happy jump over the sand dunes in the photo.

Visiting San Pedro de Atacama

We’re so glad we didn’t give the desert around San Pedro a miss. If your travel takes you to northern Chile, definitely give San Pedro de Atacama a peek and a look. Between the lagoons and the salt flats, the mountains and the desert…

It’s one of those places where pictures can’t seem to do them justice.

Related: Other places to visit in Chile

San Pedro de Atacama


Many tour agencies in town can arrange trips to these destinations. We went with Cosmo Andino for two reasons:
– They’re the only company that goes to an extra salt flat (that turned out to be our favorite) as part of their Laguna Altiplano tour.
– They use re-usable plates and cups for their meals (as opposed to styrofoam cups like the other agencies). Definitely scored major points with us.