So many people are attracted to San Pedro de Atacama for the tours and days of trekking but if you are waiting for your tour to begin, or you have just returned from your trek, don’t be so rushed to leave this dusty little town. There are many interesting things to do within the town or within close proximity that will make you leave feeling even fonder of San Pedro de Atacama.
Being so far away from the city lights in an enormous expanse of empty land, the Atacama Desert provides incredible stargazing opportunities and attracts meteorologists to study the depths of the universe. The Meteorite Museum right in the middle of San Pedro gives you the ability to see – and even touch – some meteorites, and gives you a look back 4.6 billion years into the past.
Meteorite Museum, Tocopilla 101, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile +56 9 8360 3086
Pukara de Quitor
This ancient fortress is located 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) north of San Pedro de Atacama and is not only a very interesting piece of history, but also affords a beautiful view of the surrounding area. This archaeological site dates back to pre-Columbian times, back to the 12th century, and was constructed by carving away at the existing hillside.
Mirador de Kari
An outcrop of land that hovers over a cliff that, from certain angles, very closely resembles Pride Rock from the Lion King, especially as the sun sets over the surrounding red landscape. Another terrific place to get a tremendous view of the change in topography, valleys, mountains and the changing colours of the compressed layers of rock.
Not located within the town of San Pedro de Atacama but only an hour’s drive southwest, and completely worth the journey no matter what you have just seen on your incredible days of trekking. This gorgeous unique natural pool, when caught with the correct sunlight, can look like the crystals inside an open rock, with a lining of different colours, as if it were a Caribbean pool.
Church of San Pedro & Toconao Bell Tower
The size of the towns in Latin America doesn’t matter, you are almost as guaranteed to find a central plaza with a beautiful church as you are to not have rain in the Atacama Desert. San Pedro de Atacama has the Church of Saint Peter in the center of town and the Toconao Bell Tower as well, with both adding a much needed touch of colour in an otherwise very plain, brown setting.
San Pedro de Atacama Church, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile +56 55 285 1077
Aldea de Tulor
Just outside the outskirts of San Pedro de Atacama is the Aldea de Tulor, the remains of an ancient settlement in the middle of the Atacama Desert. The village consists of the remains of bubble like structures that were the result of the native inhabitants digging down into the ground to find water sources over one thousand years ago.
Cycle The Streets
San Pedro de Atacama does not have a very uniform layout in regards to its streets, and if you are on foot, you may end up going between your favourite restaurant, coffee shop, and hostel, and not wander down any other streets. But do yourself the service of renting a bicycle to explore the town, the side streets, and some of the attractions outside of the town as well, as you never know what you might find.
You want your transportation to work for you? Well, there are some companies in town that offer horseback riding so you can trot around the streets and out to the desert to see the sights. Not the fastest, easiest, or most comfortable way to get around, but it will certainly be one of the most memorable, much more so than a bumpy shuttle ride.
Pueblo de Artesanos
To visit the Artisan Town, you do not actually have to leave San Pedro as it is located within the town. It is an area where you can buy unique and special gifts or mementos from your time in the desert. Blankets, sculptures, gloves, art and more, all made by hand in the traditional way are on display here for you to find something truly special to take home with you.
San Pedro, being so remote, has a high price point for basically everything from food, to drinks, to accommodation. If you have a tent and camping gear, take advantage of the number of camping sites in town, or the ‘luxury’ site south of the town, known as Alberto Terrazas. Cool off in their swimming pool by day and enjoy waking up to a brisk morning in the middle of a desert.