View some of the most fascinating natural elements you will ever see in this salty desert landscape reminiscent of a sci-fi film.
San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in the center of one of the world’s most spectacular geological landscapes. In the arid Atacama Desert, where rain has not touched much of the terrain for centuries, find all sorts of otherworldly features, from gurgling geysers and hot springs to moon-like valleys and salty lagoons full of flamingos.
Make the town a stopping point on the way to the National Flamingo Reserve. Here, find the remarkable Chaxa Lagoon and take photographs of flamingos and other colorful birds around the salty water.
Take a short trip to a terrain that looks like the harsh environment of space at the Valle de la Luna. Hike through its eerie lands full of natural statues, caves and white dry lakes. For a more colorful walk with fewer crowds, head to the Arco Iris Valley, which takes its name from the Spanish for “rainbow.”
Perhaps the most memorable experience is at sunrise in El Tatio Geyser Field, where jets of steam rise from volcanic openings in the crust. Enjoy a hot bath in a spring with a dreamlike backdrop of volcanoes forming a ring around the field.
Learn about humankind’s presence in the region at the elegant San Pedro Church and the Petroglifos de Hierbas Buenas. See the artistic imprints from Atacameño people.
The climate varies with the elevation of the attractions around the town, although the weather is always extremely dry. Prepare for mild altitude sickness, as the town rests at 7,900 feet (2,400 meters) above sea level.
This area is in northeastern Chile near the borders with Bolivia and Argentina. Fly to the small airport of Calama from Santiago, Antofagasta or Iquique. The airport is about 1 hour west of the town by bus. Many buses also travel here from cities across Argentina and Chile.
Viewing the sights of San Pedro de Atacama is like seeing the world through a kaleidoscope.