The 20 Best Things To Do Around Awesome San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

by Mark and Kristen Morgan
road running through amphitheater in valle de la luna

You’re heading to the Atacama Desert and the tiny adobe town of San Pedro, but you don’t yet know what to do? We’ve got you covered! This is an in depth guide to the 20 best things to do in San Pedro de Atacama!

Does 20 sound a bit much? Well, that’s because there is SO much to see and do in the expansive desert of the Atacama. Consider this your complete action packed handbook of what to conquer in this extra-terrestrial landscape.

Let’s jump right into it, here are the top 20 things to do in San Pedro de Atacama…

Further Reading: We know – 20 things to do can feel a bit overwhelming. How will you ever fit all of these activities in with just a few days? Should you hire a car or book a bunch of tours? We recommend you read our complete guide to San Pedro de Atacama. The guide includes an individual itinerary for both hiring a car or camper versus taking tours. We also cover all the information you need to know about getting to San Pedro as well as accommodation options in the town.

*Please note this post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one of them, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! We recommend only products we use and as always, all ideas or opinions expressed in this post are entirely ours. Thank you for the support and happy travels!*

20 Best Things to do in San Pedro de Atacama

1 – Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)

things to do in San Pedro de atacama include exploring the deep mud cracks in the salt

Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon, is a landscape that has been likened to the surface of the Moon. A combination of wind, water and dry salt lakes have created an astounding topography; Mother Nature at her most artistic. Rustic red and burnt orange valleys made from dry stone and sand, complimented with a light sprinkling of dry white salt result in this eerily lunar-like appearance.

There are caverns to explore, vista’s to marvel at and sand dunes to climb in Moon Valley. The valley is a part of the Reserva Nacional los Flamencos and declared a nature sanctuary in 1982. For us, visiting Moon Valley was similar to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. It’s one of those few times you can’t believe that what you are looking at belongs to the same world you are accustomed to. One might say the experience is ‘out of this world‘ … Yep, we said it!

one of best things to do in San Pedro de Atacama is stand on top of san dunes at valle de la luna

Valle de la Luna is the perfect arena to explore by mountain bike. Pick a bike up from San Pedro de Atacama and cycle around the celestial landscape. This might be one of the only times you’ll get a chance to exercise in the Atacama. As a double bonus, it’s also a much cheaper way to travel and you can maintain your own schedule. Our top recommendation for things to do in San Pedro is orbit (by mountain bike, not space shuttle!) the Valley of the Moon.

If cycling isn’t for you, no problem! Either drive there yourself or jump on a sunset tour leaving San Pedro at 3pm. Atacama sunset over Valle de la Luna = tick on the bucket list spreadsheet.

Mark and Kristen stood on edge of rock with amazing view of Valle de la luna and volcano

Distance from SPdA: 8.5 miles (14km)
Entrance: 9am – 1pm is $2,500 (US$3) / 1pm – 5pm is $3,000 CLP (US$4)
Tour: Sunset Tour Valle de la Luna

Further Reading: If you’re an active and adventurous traveler who likes to keep fit when traveling, hire a bike and cycle around the Valley of the Moon! Check out our extensive guide Valle de la Luna: Orbit by Apollo Mountain Bike!

2 – Valle de la Muerte or Marte (Death or Mars Valley)

Valle de la Muerte, meaning Death Valley, is the fatal sounding title given to this arid, moisture vacuuming piece of land located close to San Pedro de Atacama. The valleys other name is a little less life-threatening, yet is the more interest piquing: Valle de Marte or Mars Valley.

The local urban legend would have us believe that Valley of Death was coined when a French astronomer believed the small but striking valley brimming with red rocks and sand dunes appeared to have a likeness to Mars. When he suggested ‘Valle de Mart” local Chileans misheard, they thought he said Muerte – Death.

A footpath leads up to a stunning viewpoint from where you have unique views over the distant Cordillera, Licancabur volcano and Valley of the Moon. The tall sand dune is extremely popular with adventure seeking tourists, who pick up sand boards in town and carve out runs through the sand. You can rent some Sandboards in San Pedro if this is up your street.

This is one of the closest, easiest and cheapest things to do on your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary. If you’re short on time or have a little spare time, this is the perfect activity to squeeze in. It’s also an excellent spot for photographers wanting to snap some red planet-like shots!

Arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds of sand boarders and tour groups later in the afternoon. You can pay for tickets at the entrance. This spot is easily within cycling distance or you can walk here in 30 minutes.

Distance from SPdA: 1.4 miles (2.2km)
Entrance: $3,000 CLP (US$4)

3 – Pukara de Quitor (Fort of Quitor)

Hundreds of years before San Pedro de Atacama existed in Northern Chile, a small walled fortress city stood in its place. It’s name? Pukara de Quitor.

The city, which dates back to the 12th century, was well known at the time for its ability to produce masonry, pottery and metalwork. This made the city a potential target for less technologically advanced rival tribes who sought to plunder their neighbors treasure chests. Therefore, Pukara de Quitor was made into a walled fortress city.

Incan’s ruled the land until the 1530’s when the Spanish invaded South America. By the time the Spanish Conquistadores reached Pukara de Quitor, the city had fortified and its inhabitants prepared. The city sat atop a hill overlooking the River San Pedro, providing a commanding geographic position. It took the Spanish years to defeat the city of Pukara de Quitor.

What a fascinating story! The remains of the formidable fortress were designated a national monument in 1982 and can be visited today. If you’re on a tight budget, why not combine this with Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Marte. Hire a bike and spend the day exploring the nearest attractions.

Distance from SPdA: 1.9 miles (3km)
Entrance: $4,000 CLP (US$5)
Tour: Pukara de Quitor

4 – Hot Air Balloon Over The Atacama Desert

Have you ever been in a hot air balloon? Imagine this for a moment …

You lift off into the Andean sunrise as you tower above the Atacama Desert, the sun begins to rise behind 5,900m high Licancabur Volcano as its bright rays begin to illuminate the Cordillera del Sal in painted light. Dawn stretches across the Chilean altiplano as the arid valleys shed their shadows, revealing martian landscapes and lagoons, mountains and volcanoes as far as the horizon…

Yeah, it sounds pretty awesome to us too! If you can afford it, this has to rank as one of the best things to do in San Pedro de Atacama. The company is called Phaway Atacama Ballooning Experience and would have immediately been on our list had it been in the budget! Next time!

5 – El Tatio Geysers

Still water reflecting early morning purple color through steam at el Tatio geysers

The El Tatio Geysers geothermal field is situated at 4,320m (14,170 feet) above sea level in the mighty Andes mountain range, close to the border with Bolivia. It is the third largest geyser field in the world after Yellowstone and Dolina Geizerov in Russia.

However, El Tatio offers a different experience to the likes of Yellowstone because the field is open which means you are in close proximity to the vents. But don’t be alarmed! The height of the geysers on the El Tatio geothermal field are relatively short.

The best time to visit is at sunrise when the sun gently creeps its way over the Andes to the East to illuminate the field and its bus loads of chilled-to-the-bone inhabitants! We must admit, it is quite the spectacle. This is arguably the second most popular thing to do in San Pedro de Atacama (after Valle de la Luna) so be prepared for crowds and busy tours even in the early morning hours!

post sunrise geyser field with range of colors on ground near smoke bellowing

Here are Some Tips for Your Journey:

  • Sections of the B-245 road are not on tarmac. A lot of the journey is just a dirt road. The snaking dirt road gains 2,000m altitude to reach the geyser field and remember it will be pitch black if you want to arrive for sunrise. Drive carefully and don’t worry if there are buses or cars right up your six, just pull over and let them pass.
  • 4,300m altitude is a serious deal. If you haven’t acclimatized at a similar height for a few days prior to visiting, don’t be surprised if you feel a bit lightheaded and/or nauseous. Not ideal if you’re driving and this happens. Drink plenty of water and don’t take unnecessary chances.
  • It will be cold. Freezing cold. Pack warm clothes, then pack some more! Trust us, you need them.

Distance from SPdA: 50 miles (80km)
Entrance: $10,000 CLP (US$ 13) per person, not per vehicle
Tour: El Tatio Geysers

6 – Valle de Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley)

Rainbow Valley was once one of the most underrated and under advertised of all tourist attractions in the region. However, its popularity is increasing and tours are operating more frequently to the area.

With other-worldly rock formations similar to that of the other more famous valleys, but armed with brilliantly colorful hues, Rainbow Valley should be a contender on your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary. Look closely at the detail of the rocks and try to work out the minerals that give the rocks their distinctive colors.

It is likely to be much quieter than Valle de la Luna so expect to have the valley and its hikes to yourself. Couple this with Yerbas Buenas petroglyphs (and maybe even add in Rio Grande, just 10 more minutes drive down the same road).

Distance from SPdA: 38 miles (61km)
Entrance: $3,500 CLP (US$ 4.50)
Tour: Rainbow Valley (and Yerbas Buenas)

7 – Yerbas Buenas Petroglyphs

Yerbas Buenas is the site of famous petroglyphs discovered close to San Pedro. Animal drawings carved into 2 sections of red rock faces are proof of a civilization from long ago dwelling in the harsh arid desert of Northern Chile. The drawings depict many animals, from llamas to foxes and alpacas to guanacos.

Interestingly, it seems as though there is an improvement in the quality of the drawings. Is that due to advancement in knowledge or simply a more proficient artist? You can discover the answers about who the Atacama people were and who lived in the area a long time ago.

The reviews for the petroglyphs are always excellent. There are no services in the area so be sure to fill up with gas before you leave San Pedro and take gallons of spare water with you! Alternatively, make your way over as part of a tour.

Distance from SPdA: 37 miles (60km)
Entrance: $3,000 CLP (US$ 4.50)
Tour: Yerbas Buenas (and Rainbow Valley)

8 – Salar de Tara

Salar de Tara is regarded as one of the best excursions to take in the Atacama. The area is made up of both Salar de Tara and Salar de Agues Calientes. However, it is the only major tourist site to the East of sand baked San Pedro de Atacama, meaning it’s almost impossible to combine with any of the other things to do on this list. It’s a full day tour or a full day self visit near the border with Argentina and Bolivia.

Salar de Tara has had comparisons drawn with the Bolivian Salt flats tour due to the colorful and transformational landscapes around the Caldera la Pacana volcano. The salt flat is nestled in the Andes mountains at a lofty altitude of 4,300m (14,000 feet). Therefore, the same altitude sickness rules apply. You need time to acclimatize. A top-tip would be to save this for your last day as it’s higher than El Tatio, but lower than the Bolivian Altiplano if heading to Uyuni.

At the salt flat you will find cathedral rocks. They are tall and narrow formations jutting out of the ground as a stalagmite would inside a cave. You will look upon extraterrestrial visions of uniquely colorful sands and lakes, with seemingly unimaginable volcanoes colored purple as a backdrop. Yes, purple!

If you travel by your own vehicle, be aware that the last part of the journey will be by dirt road and you will need a 4×4. Don’t be those guys that get stuck in a 4×2! As always in the Atacama, take spare fuel, more water than you can imagine and plenty of warm clothes in case of emergency.

Distance from SPdA: 64 miles (103km)
Entrance: Free, but you will need a 4×4 car and there are no instructions or signs
Tour: Salar de Tara

9 – Termas Banos de Puritama (Puritama Hotsprings)

Tickets to puritama hot spring one of things to do in San Pedro de Atacama

Relaxing at Puritama hot springs will induce a welcome sigh of relief from all the early mornings, late nights and countless steps you will have walked throughout your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary. Your body and mind will be tired. You’ve been breathing thin air more quickly and deeply to enable oxygen to enter your bloodstream at an altitude of 3,475m.

Sodium Sulphate concentrated waters in the outdoor thermal pools will soothe aching muscles and relieve stress. Nearby volcanic activity warms water in the Puritama river to an average of 33 C (91 F). Eight natural pools formed among native vegetation and each pool is temperature controlled. The further downstream you bathe, the colder you will be!  

Kristen holding her nose as a waterfall covers her head puritama hot springs

The hot springs are privately owned. Therefore, they charge a significant amount of money to enter the springs. This is for maintenance of the pools and upkeep of the changing room/toilet facilities provided. Road quality is terrible once you leave the main B-245 road. So, drive slowly! The scenery in this general area is stunning so even if you don’t go in, it’s worth the drive up.

Distance from SPdA: 17 miles (28km)
Entrance: $15,000 CLP (US$ 20)
Tour: Puritama Hot Springs

10 – Laguna Baltinache

Is that a mirage you see? No, it’s Lagunas Escondidas and Baltinache. An oasis in the arid Atacama Desert. Laguna Baltinache is the lesser known (not as much as it once was!) sister of the wildly popular Laguna Cejar. They are two of the Lagunas in the region that you are allowed to swim in. Well, float in.

No intentions of floating in the super salty Dead Sea? Well, this is the next best thing. Except, the laguna here offers scenery from another planet as your backdrop. There are 7 pools displaying vibrant colors, not too dissimilar to those at Yellowstone. The salt content is so high that you simply float. However, the water will feel ice cold so don’t be surprised if you gasp upon entry! You are allowed to float in the first and last of the pools.

Once you’re done, there’s a shower on site. Just don’t forget to take a decent towel to rub off all the salt. Let the exfoliation commence! Laguna Baltinache is much quieter than Cejar, you might even get the place to yourself.

Top-tip: If you go without a tour, head down earlier in the day to avoid any tour groups. It’s also a third of the price of Cejar. However, it is more difficult to get to.

We heard that it can take up to an hour and a half along bumpy and rocky roads to reach. You probably don’t need a 4×4, but you’d definitely have peace of mind if you did have a beast!

Distance from SPdA: 35 miles (57km)
Entrance: $5,000 CLP (US$ 6.50)

11 – Laguna Cejar

And onto the big sister! Cejar is the more popular, easier to get to but most expensive of the Lagunas in the region. The surroundings mountains, native vegetation to one side and beach to the other are why this spot is so sought after. 

There are three lakes, but only one you can swim in. Depending on your budget and idea of value for money, you may agree with us that a US$ 20 entrance fee in the afternoon is a bit steep. If budget or crowds aren’t a concern, the convenience factor could tip the balance in Cejar’s favor for you.

It’s much easier to book tours to Laguna Cejar if you’re visiting San Pedro without your own vehicle. Tours are frequent and can include multiple stops before / after you float in the salty lagoon. 

But the major benefit if you have your own transport is that it’s South of San Pedro de Atacama, which means you can get here early and then carry on South to many of the others places on the itinerary.

The entrance fee includes use of showers in private changing rooms. Here are some things to remember:

1- The water will be colder than you expect in the middle of a desert, you’ll need to man up!
2 – Don’t forget your towel and warm clothes for afterwards!
3 – Don’t forget your bug spray (seasonal), we all know how annoying bug bites are!
4 – Take flip-flops for walking around the pools if you value your feet!

Distance from SPdA: 17.5 miles (28.5km) by Car/Camper, quicker down road 23 then turn right
12 miles (19.5km) by mountain bike on back roads.

Entrance: 9am – 1pm $10,000 CLP (US$ 13) / After 1pm $15,000 CLP (US$ 20)
Tour: Laguna Cejar / Laguna Tebinquiche

12 – Laguna Tebinquiche

Laguna Tebinquiche is a further 20-30 minute drive from Laguna Cejar. However, this is not a swimming/floating laguna. This is a tranquil and visually stunning laguna, where you have a chance to see wildlife. If you’re lucky, you might even see a flamboyance of plush pink flamingoes feeding on tiny sea monkeys (shrimp)!

Sunlight illuminates Laguna Tebinquiche’s turquoise water and sporadic white salt crystals poke out from below the waterline. High salt concentration and evaporation result in a white, reflective and clear shimmer effect.

If the wind is calm and the lagoon is deep enough, you will be in for a treat. Still surface water will produce a magnificent reflection of Licancabur Volcano, with deep hues in between. However, when the water levels are low, the laguna dries up and brilliant white salt flats dominates the landscape. You won’t get the Licancabur reflection, but you will have a miniature version of the world famous salt flats near Uyuni, Bolivia.

Laguna Tebinquiche has one final trick up its sleeve: it has one of the best sunsets in the Atacama. Most tours will arrive here after Laguna Cejar in time to watch the burning red and orange ball of hot gas set over the rugged horizon. However, that means the crowds will appear!

Pro-tip: Don’t miss the two small pools nearby called Ojos del Salar. And yes, you can jump in!

Distance from SPdA: 26 miles (46km) / 9 miles (15km) from Laguna Cejar
Entrance: $2,000 CLP (US$ 2.50)
Tour: Laguna Cejar / Laguna Tebinquiche

13 – Laguna Chaxa

lots of flamingoes wading and feeding on shrimp in laguna near San Pedro de atacama

Your visit to the Atacama would be incomplete without observing flamingos elegantly gliding just feet from the reflective surface of Laguna Chaxa.

Laguna Chaxa is a lake found within Salar de Atacama and is one of the best places to discover the three species of flamingo found around San Pedro:

1 – The Chilean flamingo
2 – The Andean flamingo
3 – James’s Flamingo

Optimal visiting times giving you a better change of glimpsing these species are in the morning and evening before sunset. It’s around these times that the wading birds are most active.

The Atacama salt flat provides a stunning backdrop and once again this is a place that only gets better as the sun is setting. Now, they just need to hurry up building a teleportation device so you can teleport yourself from one laguna to another during a single sun set phase!

Distance from SPdA: 35 miles (56km)
Entrance: $2,500 CLP (US$ 3)
Tour: Laguna Chaxa (plus Salar de Atacama & Altiplanic Lagoons)

14 – SPACE Stargazing Tour

You’ve just witnessed a show worthy of a nature award. Sunset in the Atacama; the entirety of the color spectrum intricately transitioning from red to purple before you. But it’s not time to head home yet! What could beat that sunset over alien valleys and snowcapped volcanoes? Tilt your head up once it gets dark, et voila.

You’re in the Atacama Desert, arguably the best place on Earth to open your eyes to the night sky. Don’t you even dream of visiting the Atacama without making time for its ‘star’ attraction! The Atacama is an astronomer’s paradise. High altitude combined with extremely low relative humidity and almost zero light pollution create a black canvas from which innumerable sparkling stars emerge.

There are various stargazing tours in town and some luxury eco-lodges even run their own stargazing evenings on site, which would be awesome! However, if you can’t afford those, our recommendation is to go on SPACE stargazing tour.

A short minibus ride into nearby countryside will drop you at a ranch where several high grade telescopes can be seen pointing up into various parts of the crystal clear sky. Next, you receive a brief introduction to the tour by (genuinely hilarious!) Frenchman Alain Maury, the pioneer who first realized the potential for stargazing lectures in the Atacama.

Watching powerful lasers you will explore Alpha Centauri; the closest solar system to our Sun, constellations such as the Southern Cross and of course, the Milky Way in unrivaled clarity. Finally, it’s time to have your mind blown by the powerful telescopes and what they each reveal.

Beware of falling into a temperature trap. At 2,500m (8,000 feet), when darkness overshadows daylight, a spine tingling coldness descends upon the desert.

Distance from SPdA: A few miles into darkness
Tour: SPACE

15 – Salar de Atacama

salt flat with volcano backdrop best things to do in San Pedro de atacama

Technically, this isn’t a single place to visit. The 3,000 sq km area encompasses Lagunas Chaxa, Cejar and Tebinquiche, which forms a part of the massive Salar de Atacama. However, due to its significance to the region we would suggest exploring further into the salt flat where possible.

Chile’s largest salt flat is the third largest in the world after Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia and Salinas Grandes in Argentina. In addition, it is our planets largest and purest active source of lithium, containing 27% of the worlds reserves.

The sprawling Atacama salt flat’s Eastern horizon is dominated by impressive snow peaked volcanoes including Lascar, one of the most active in Chile. The Salar has a rugged landscape, making it distinctively different to that of Uyuni. Incessant sunshine, high levels of evaporation and very little groundwater unite like a sustained three pronged attack, causing the roughness in the topography.

A visitor center provides information about the geology and ecology of the salt flat. Be prepared for crowds marveling at the great salt basin around sunset.

Distance from SPdA: 35 miles (56km)
Entrance: $5,500 CLP (US$ 7) to enter the salt flats
Tour: Salar de Atacama (plus Laguna Chaxa and the Altiplanic Lagoons)

16 – Lagunas Miscanti & Miniques

Breathtaking Lagunas Minscanti and Miniques located in the Altiplano are one of the most highly rated day trips in the region. They are a little further to reach and have a final 5km on rough terrain but they are worth the time and effort. Why? Because the 4,400m (14,400 feet) high views over turquoise lakes and sequences of colorful volcanoes are spectacular. The lakes lie in the shadows of soaring Cerro Miscanti and mighty Miniques Volcano.

Once a single body of water, the two lakes were split by a volcanic lava flow. With no wind, you will find perfectly reflective mirror like surfaces. There’s not a huge amount to do here except soak up the scenery, take your camera out, and snap until your fingers hurt!

As you walk between the two lakes, look out for wildlife such as vicunas, waterfowl, burros, flamingoes and a variety of birds in the wild. Along with Laguna Chaxa, Lagunas Minscanti and Miniques make up the trifecta of the Lagunas Altiplánicas Tours from San Pedro.

Distance from SPdA: 73 miles (117km)
Entrance: $3,000 CLP (US$ 4)
Tour: Altiplanic Lagoons (plus Salar de Atacama and Laguna Chaxa)

17 – Taste the Best Empanadas at Emporio Andino

things to do in San Pedro de atacama include eating the best empanadas in the world

Do you need to take a break from your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary and the preposterous amount of tour agencies in town? We hear you. And we have the perfect place for you to take your break. Emporio Andino. They serve excellent coffee in intriguing mugs with square tops. Oh, and they just happen to make the BEST empanadas on the planet. Ranked by us.

If you don’t like the empanadas, send us a DM with your address and we will send you the money! Not really, but we’ve illustrated our point. We ate there every single day for lunch. Were it not for humans requiring a varied diet and preferably a healthy one, we would have also eaten dinner there!

best things to do emporio andino in San Pedro de atacama signature empanada

You’ve probably already heard of Emporio Andino and if not, you will once you arrive. Meat and potato, chicken and vegetable, caprese, vegetarian options … sandwiches, cheesecake. And if it’s too hot for coffee, they make amazing fruit smoothies. Check tripadvisor and read the rave reviews.

Emporio Andino is located to the far West of the main pedestrian street – Caracoles. Each empanada is priced at $2,300 CLP (US$ 3), which seems a bit steep, but remember you’re in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Everything is expensive.

18 – Piedras Rojas

The Red Rocks, or Piedras Rojas, are another contender for most popular day trip as part of a San Pedro de Atacama itinerary. However, at time of writing (Feb 2020) the actual red rocks area is closed. Apparently, some tourists can’t contain their excitement. Let’s not ruin it for everyone else, yeah!

There are alternate viewpoints looking over the Salar de Talar and red rocks but you can’t currently access Piedras Rojas. Guards will prevent rule breaking rebels from making it down to the rocks to grab the awesome photo that those lucky enough to have visited before its closure have snapped.

Piedras Rojas covers just a very small area, with the Salar de Talar providing the backdrop. The vistas are similar to those of the other salt flats, with an artists paint pot full of colors in the lakes, marshland, mountains and volcanoes. But the red rocks offer something just a little different. They are unique to the region. The contrasting iron rich red rocks naturally break the local geological formation.

Pro-tip: If you don’t mind driving another 6 miles (10km), you can also stop at Laguna Tuyajto, a hot spot for flamingoes feeding early in the day.

Distance from SPdA: 93 miles (150km)
Entrance: Free (but closed as of Feb 2020)
Tour: Red Rocks (plus Salar de Talar, Altiplanic Lagoons, Salar de Atacama & Laguna Chaxa)

19 – Salar de Talar

Finishing off the enormous list of salt flat areas to add to your list of things to do in San Pedro de Atacama is Salar de Talar. This more compact and perhaps more polished salt flat is just 46 sq km but is situated at a soaring altitude of 3,950m (13,000 feet).

What sets this salt flat apart? Its views over Cerro Medano and the surrounding Caichinique volcanic complex. Moreover, the landscape in front of you appears as though you are looking at an oil painting created by an artist at the top of his game.

Cerro Medano is renowned for its distinct shades of brown and grey, which contrast beautifully with the other colors in the foreground. This is the location of Piedras Rojas, which unfortunately can’t be accessed currently, but let’s hope they open it back up soon. You can still see the rocks from Salar de Talar and it’s definitely worth the longer drive down.

Distance from SPdA: 93 miles (150km)
Entrance: Free
Tour: Salar de Talar (plus Red Rocks, Altiplanic Lagoons, Salar de Atacama and Laguna Chaxa)

20 – ALMA

Are you seriously interested in astronomy? Like, way more complex astronomy than the stargazing tour? If the answer is yes, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit the Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) Operations Support Facility (OSF).

ALMA is an astronomical interferometer of 66 radio telescopes. In Lehmans terms that means 66 separate radio telescopes (called an array) work together in one single telescope to provide higher resolution images capable of observing planet and star formation. How cool is that?!

ALMA is the most expensive ground operated telescope in the world, costing US$ 1.4 billion. The array is located at 5,000m (16,400 feet) on the Chajnantor Plateau, close to the APEX (Atacama Pathfinder Experiment) telescope.

And they just happen to offer FREE tours of the OSF (not the actual interferometer site, just the operations facility – but still awesome!) on Saturday and Sunday mornings only. They book up fast and you have to book in advance.

So, to summarize:

1 – You get to learn about some of the best deep space and origins of galaxies stories on the planet.
2 – It’s completely free. Not much in San Pedro comes for free!
3 – You get picked up in San Pedro and dropped off afterwards, at no cost.
4 – It’s about as close to Star Trek as you’re likely to get in your lifetime!

Distance from SPdA: 20.5 miles (33km)
Entrance: Free
Information: ALMA

Interactive Map Things To Do In San Pedro de Atacama

Look at all those icons below … there’s A LOT to do, right?! Use the interactive map to help you get to grips with the geography and the logistics of planning your itinerary for your trip to San Pedro de Atacama. Click anywhere on the map and you can zoom/move around to get your bearings.

Here’s a key for you:

Burgundy = sites North of SPdA

Blue = lagunas and salt flats south of SPdA

Yellow = an amazing salt flat but way out by itself

Black = night activities with stargazing

Green = hot air balloon option

Orange = famous valleys & historic archaeological site near town

Purple = the best empanada you’re likely to taste, ever

And that’s the run down of the top 20 things to do in San Pedro de Atacama. We hope you found this useful and have more of an idea about what you would like to do when you arrive to the Atacama Desert. Is there anything else you would have included in this list? Let us know in the comments below!


If you would like help planning your itinerary in San Pedro, don’t forget to head over to our Perfect San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary article. If you’d like any personalized help, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to get back to you!

-Happy Travels!-

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