At an elevation of 2,400 meters, San Pedro de Atacama is a small village in the desert in northern Chile. Because of the spectacular sights in close proximity to the town, it has been transformed into a tourist haven. It is a short ride to Chileâ€™s largest salt flat that is home to flamingos and geyser fields, along with beautiful landscapes and rock formations.
As one would expect, the charm of narrow dirt streets and adobe houses is beginning to wear thin as overpriced hotels spring up and try to take advantage of gringos on vacation. Still, the highlights of the town far outweigh the annoyance of the growth spurred by the tourism industry. There is no better place on the planet to learn to sand-surf, speed down dunes on a mountain bike or ascend a volcano. The hot springs at Termas de Puritama will soothe the bones, the Salar de Atacama is an incredible sight and the Geysers del Tatio should not be missed. In town, the Museo Gustavo le Paige has an extensive display of local artifacts and Iglesia de San Pedro at the Plaza de Armas is a welcoming Andean church.
There is plenty of accommodation available for budget travelers as long as you are fine with sharing a room. Hotel La Ruca and Casa Adobe are good, reasonably priced options. As is common with tourist towns, some trendy hotels cost more than they are worth. Don RaĂşl Hotel is a pleasant option for travelers in need of a nicer place with amenities. There is no shortage on restaurants in San Pedro de Atacama and the prices are relatively affordable even at nicer locations. A lot of establishments lure guests in with a decently priced meal and keep them there with happy hours and late-night live music - La Casona is one such place.
Telephone code: 55, Population: 5,000.
Also read Michelle Hopey's poetic article about San Pedro de Atacama.