Northern Chile is a place of contrasts, where the coast is miles away from the Cordillera to present a magical place, a place that you must visit to be closer to nature and the glorious universe. At the same time, turquoise colored water can be found mere miles away from the dryest desert in the world, a group of irrepetible postcards.
San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the middle of the desert, where people have been able to take advantage of their surroundings to attract thousands of tourists all year, every year, people who travel to this town to travel through the desert, see the purest starry sky and be surrounded by the wonders that nature offers in a wonderful oasis.
There have been people living in San Pedro for over eleven thousand years ago, according to settlements and tools found by archeological expeditiones made to the area, to get to know more about its past. The aborigins of the place, descendants of the Inca Empire, became the first sedentary people in the country, staying in just one place, which was the Loa River, the main source of water in the area.
To cover San Pedro and its surroundings you should be able to have a couple of days available in a San Pedro Tour. The distances to cover are not big, but there are a lot of things to see and places to visit.
In the town itself you can see several cultural attractions, such as the San Pedro Church, the most recognizable face of the town. It is by the main square of the town and it is a Historical National Monument. Next to it, you can find and visit the Padre le Peige Archeological Museum and the Municipality building.
The streets in San Pedro are covered in white dirt, they are narrow, like passageways to a different era, a place in the middle of a deserted land. All the houses are white as well, a crystal clear effect that is never broken as you walk through the town, reaching the commercial center of the city, where social life seems to happen.
Around town you can find other amazing places to visit, like Valle de la Luna or Valley of the Moon. It is about two hours away from San Pedro, near the Salt Cordillera and, as its name tells you, it looks like the geography found on the moon. Its formations are made of rock and sand, formed by thousands of years of water and sand that goes through, dying it of different colors and giving them unique colors.
Another surprising place is only eight hours away from San Pedro: Tatio Geyser. In the middle of the Andes Mountain Range, at 4200 meters of altitude, you can travel really early in the morning to see the explosion of hot water that goes through the ground and into the air, a simply marvelous espectacle. It is recommended that you wear warm clothes, due to the altitude, and sunscreen.
Sixty miles from the town you can find the Puritama thermal waters, where you can bathe in one of the pools filled with water of the Puritama River, water that is kept at 33ºC. Although the pools are under the administration of an hotel, anybody can go in and take a bath in the water.
For those who are interested in doing archeological tourism and want to visit the settlements found in the area, in San Pedro there are important ones and you can get to them easily. Ruinas de Tulor (Tulor Ruins), for example, is a place where you can see an entire town that got buried under the sand and that, thanks to archeological expeditions, has been recovered.Tools, houses and weapons made by the old inhabitants of the are can be seen in the desert.
Another important place is Pucara de Quitor. Six miles away from San Pedro, the Pucara is the fort built by the aborigins to protect themselves form other tribes or groups of people; they made a big fort to defend their families and the fort was called Pucará. These constructions can be found all over South America.
Finally, while you visit San Pedro, you can also travel to the Atacama Salt Mine, a huge lagoon covered by salt. It is over four thousand meters of altitude, where you can also visit a couple of altiplanic lagoons, the highest lagoons in the world, in a trip that takes about five hours from San Pedro.
So there you have it. In Atacama you can see the desert and big mountains, but also a town that is almost fairytale-like, surrounded by ancient history, settlements and natural wonders. They're awaiting, so what are you waiting for to visit already?