San Pedro de Atacama (pop. 2,800), an hour from Calama Airport, is an oasis located at 8,000 ft. altitude. Once a center of ancient cultures, the village today resembles a cross between a mining and frontier town with narrow streets, adobe houses and an eerie atmosphere. San Pedro is the perfect base for exploring the surrounding Atacama, the world’s driest desert. From here travelers can take fascinating excursions to archaeological sites, ancient villages, colonial towns, salt flats, geysers, oasis, and to the unique Valley of the Moon. Outings range from excursions in especially equipped vehicles to mountain biking, trekking, and horseback riding.
Three to five nights
When to go
The world’s driest desert in the world is a pretty cold place where temperatures fluctuate daily between 32F and 80F. Atacama gets almost no rainfall throughout the year. Temperatures range from 30F to 70F in winter (June-August) and 60F to 90F in summer (January- March), which is the best time to visit.
• Archaeological sites: Learn about the Atacamenos, Aymaras, Quechuas and other civilizations that have populated the area for centuries.
• Colonial villages: Fortresses, churches, adobe buildings…
• Amazing scenery: Volcanoes, high plateaus, salt flats, lakes, geysers, hot springs, moonlike valleys.
• Padre Le Paige’s Museum: Displays rows of mummies – many with original hair still intact because of the rainless desert in which they were buried many thousands of years ago.
• Horseback riding
• Volcano trekking
• Mountain biking