San Pedro de Atacama: Una pintoresca ciudad de Chile
“Living in Chile”, the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to us (me and my beautiful wife Shreya), unexpectedly!
From the worlds most driest desert on the north – Atacama desert – to massive ancient glacier fields in the extreme south – Patagonia, the Pacific ocean along the west side to rock solid Andes on the east, Chile offers extraordinary natural diversity and wonderful opportunity for the travelers to discover unexplored landscapes.
San Pedro de Atacama: Four full days completely worth it!
How to reach San Pedro de Atacama:
Calama airport to San Pedro de Atacama: Calama is the nearest city (Calama to San Pedro de Atacama – 140 kilometers/2 hours drive, Source: Pasaje Bus) connects San Pedro with airport; you can take taxi or buy a bus ticket beforehand. If you are looking for budget or cost efficient travel and don’t have time constraints, you may want to explore bus service directly from Santiago to Calama to San Pedro, its 28 hours journey and cost between CLP$25000-40000 (US$40-50), for best price, schedule and discount I always recommend PasajeBus.com, Chile’s biggest and most trusted online bus ticket booking platform.
A barren landscape at 7,500 feet sheltered between the Pacific and Andes, the wonderful landscape offers a perfect combination of desert lagoons, wildlife, trekking, white salt flats, and volcano topped horizons.
Enjoy the driest place on Earth
Salt mountains – Cordillera de la sal, (Calama to Cordillera de la sal – 70 kilometers/one hour drive, Source: Pasaje Bus),was formed by the weathering and wind erosion of salt mountains million of year ago and gave origin to the famous Andes Mountain. The name of “Cordillera de la Sal” derived based on the fact that its rock contains a very high quantity of calcium sulphate which makes the mountain look as if it was splashed with salt. Here are the hot spot you can explore at Cordillera de la sal:
1. El Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon): San Pedro de Atacama to Cordillera de la Sal, 15 kilometres, 10 minutes drive (source: Pasaje Bus): Very popular to watch the sunset, visitors climb a 300 foot dune to reach the cliffs; extremely photogenic landscape and can be accessed through trekking or with bicycle. Enjoy the sun set with your love, which paints the Andes pink.
2. Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley): San Pedro de Atacama to Valle de la Muerte, 15 kilometres, 10 minutes drive: Located to the north of the Moon Valley, as per my tourist guide, the valley was originally named as Valle de la Marte – Mars Valley, due its fascinating view similar to Mars, but “Mars” was misspelled into “Muerte” (death). The valley looks stunning red colored and has interesting rock formations. For the best view, start from the northern end of the valley, it gives you panoramic view of San Pedro de Atacama, the Andes Mountains and the Salar de Atacama. You should not miss sand boarding down the giant dunes -100 meters – of Valle de la Muerte.
Treat to your eyes
Altiplanic Lagoons and Salt (San Pedro to Altiplanic Lagoons – 90 kilometers/two hours drive, Source: Pasaje Bus): Laguna Miscanti (Miscanti Lagoon) and Laguna Miñiques (Miñiques Lagoon), two neighboring lagoons at the altitude of 4,200 meter, along with beautiful landscape, these destinations attract a great variety of animals, like the abundance of flamingoes. You can also enjoy excursion, aquatic sports and trekking here. Be careful if you are travelling in winter, these places are super windy; we experienced -9% temperatures.
Enjoy the height and extreme weather
Perhaps one of the most kept secret of the region, highest point of the excursion is almost 4800m and it’s quite common to get altitude sickness especially in such extreme weather condition. We had a wonderful time camping here, be careful if you set up tents under shelter in the little cabins by the lake, these are infested with rats. Don’t miss the volcanic rocks, beautiful lake surrounded with flamincos. I personally won’t suggest Salar de Tara if you are with small kids.
Be early bird and treat yout eyes with million stars
You have to be ready by 04:00 am to explore surreal sight of the geysers at sunrise, but definitely this is well worth the early start and morning drive, most of the tour agent include break-fast. Be well dressed as the weather could turn extremely cold and windy. It’s high altitude 4300 meters makes it the third biggest geothermic location in the world.
Ahlarkapin Observatory: Only if you are interested in stargazing, Shreya’s favorite place.
For me it was a more of a fun exploration since I had already been to La Serene observatory; but my wife Shreya is a big fan of observatories so we decided to explore the place. It’s around two hours exploration, starts with a brief documentary with good basic explanation on the solar system. A must visit place if you are with kids.
Best vegetarian Restaurants in San Pedro de Atacama
We am vegetarian explored at-least 8 different restaurants and bar in the city, these are the two restaurants I found worth recommending:
1. La Estaka: (Good food, not very expensive, average ambiance) Great option for both vegetarians (also customized) and non-vegetarians, great service.
2. Restaurant Adobe: (average food, expensive wine, great ambiance) live band on drums, pipes and guitar makes you feel super relaxed especially if you are sitting beside the fire at the middle of terrace. I loved this place more due to its great gentry, food was okay.
Author: Amit Sodani
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