The Top Things to See and Do in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

With vibrant scenes like these, the desert town of San Pedro de Atacama is a must-visit
With vibrant scenes like these, the desert town of San Pedro de Atacama is a must-visit | © Jesse Kraft / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Will Lees
30 July 2021

Many travelers are attracted to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, for the tours and trekking, but if you’ve got some time take a look at these fun things to do in this dusty little town.

Visit the Meteorite Museum

Museum
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Museo del Meteorite in San Pedro de Atacama has a fascinating display of meteorites collected from the local Atacama Desert and catalogued in detail.
© eileen wholihane shaw / Alamy Stock Photo
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 sits right in the middle of San Pedro, giving you the ability to see – and even touch – meteorites, along with a look 4.6bn years into the past.

Take in the Views of Mirador de Kari

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2BN82AT single person looks out at the view over the Valley of the Moon from Mirador de Kari, Piedra del Coyote , San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagusta, Chile
© Russell Millner / Alamy Stock Photo
Mirador de Kari is an outcrop of land that hovers over a cliff; from certain angles it resembles Pride Rock from The Lion King (1994), especially as the sun sets. It’s a terrific place to get a tremendous view over the topography, valleys, mountains and ever-changing colors of the landscape.

See the Church of San Pedro de Atacama

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The bell tower of San Lucas in the oasis town of Toconao near San Pedro de Atacama in the Atacama Desert, northern Chile, dates back to 1750 and is se
© Wolfgang Kaehler / Alamy Stock Photo
Head to any Latin American town and you are almost as guaranteed to find a central plaza with a beautiful church – including in the heart of the Atacama Desert. San Pedro has the Church of Saint Peter in the center of town, along with the Toconao Bell Tower – both adding a much-needed touch of color in an otherwise dusty setting.

Trek the Aldea de Tulor

Natural Feature
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Chile, Atacama Desert, San Pedro de Atacama, Aldea de Tulor, ruins of ancient city of Tulor
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Just outside San Pedro, in the middle of the Atacama Desert, is Aldea de Tulor, the remains of an ancient settlement. Visit to see bubble-like structures – the result of the inhabitants digging into the ground to find water sources more than a thousand years ago.

Moongaze at Valle de la Luna

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The Anfiteatro, Valle de la Luna, Atacama Desert, Chile, South America
© mauritius images / Alamy Stock Photo
Welcome to a crumbling valley of salt and dust-dry clay, lined with rocky escarpments and sprinkled with brown sand. It lies 8mi (13km) from central San Pedro and can be reached by cab, rental bike or on organized tours. This is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset, fading from orange to lilac over the desert, deepening into inky blue streaked with billions of stars. A cycle ride back to San Pedro in the still of the starry night? Magical.

Climb the Lascar Volcano

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Andean Flamingoes Flying by the Lascar Volcano in the Atacama Desert, Chile
© infocusphotos.com / Alamy Stock Photo
San Pedro is ringed with volcanoes. There’s the perfectly conical Licancabur, with an ancient Inca crypt on its flanks, the snow-dusted Cerro Pili and Mordor-red Sairecabur. Most are too challenging to climb without preparation, but Lascar, to the south of San Pedro, can be tackled in a day – with a drive to 16,076ft (4,900m) by car, followed by a challenging hike to the summit at 18,346ft (5,592m). Altitude sickness is common: acclimatize for at least a week before making the trip.

Stargaze in the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma)

Architectural Landmark
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DRF9EA Antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes.
© Luc Novovitch / Alamy Stock Photo
The largest observatory in the world – the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma) – is based in the desert near San Pedro. The region has some of the clearest skies in the world and the stars are mesmerizing when viewed at Alma – or even when seen with the naked eye. Agencies in town offer designated stargazing tours, or you could drive to the darkest spots in the vicinity and set up portable telescopes. Alternatively use the powerful mirror telescopes at the tourist observation center.
These recommendations were updated on July 30, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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