Using San Pedro as your base, there is much to explore and experience in the surrounding desert. We’ll organise private excursions, with your own transport and local guide – these aren’t places you can access yourself. However, do remember to include some free time to simply relax in the town.
Valley of the Moon
Valle de la Luna is aptly named for its seemingly lunar landscape. Unique rock and salt formations carved over millions of years by floods and wind appear as though sculpted by man. Perhaps the most interesting of these salt depositions is Tres Marías - three female figures rising out of the vast landscape. Be sure to have your camera on hand to capture the changing colors of the mountains and breathtaking sunset over the Cordillera de la Sal from your perch atop the massive sand dunes.
Only 12 miles outside of San Pedro, this lagoon sits in the middle of the Atacama Salt Flat, surrounded by salt crystals. Due to the large concentration of salt in its water, you float effortlessly in the refreshing water. Nearby, you can also take a tip in the Ojos del Salar (Eyes of the Salt Flat), which are two smaller freshwater pools. It’s worth timing your visit to experience the spectacular sunset over the Tebinquinche Lagoon.
The Salar de Atacama can be either a morning or afternoon excursion. The first stop is the National Flamingo Reserve, which we will enter through the Chaxa Lagoon. This National Reserve is formed by a gigantic depression of more than 2,100 square miles. The Salar de Atacama is the biggest salt field in Chile and its large quantities of salt make the surface white and rough. The dryness and altitude of the salt field allow an excellent panoramic view of the area. The bottom of the salt field is composed of an enormous lake, which receives water from mountain, rivers and melting snow. As it has no runoff, several small lagoons have formed, where you can observe the three types of flamingos living in the area, the James, the Andean and the Chilean.
On the way back to San Pedro you’ll pass through the small town of Toconao, with only about 600 inhabitants who make their living through agriculture and artisan handcrafts (llama wool, cactus wood, volcanic rock, and alpaca wool). Here you will also see the Tower of Saint Lucas, which is a national monument and symbol of the town, and houses constructed of liparita, a white volcanic stone extracted from the nearby quarry.
Star Gazing & Geysers
Thousands of stars and the vivid brushstroke of the Milky Way across the sky will still be visible as you begin your day with a 4am pickup, to set out to meet the sunrise at 4,300m above sea level as dozens of geysers burst forth from the ground in spectacular form. On the way back, you will see the majestic Andes mountain range, whose peaks seem close enough to touch, and stop briefly at Machuca, a small llama herder settlement. The village is filled with adobe houses with thatched roofs, and the green wetlands lend a special charm.