Backpacking across the Andes Chile San Pedro de Atacama

Backpacking across the Andes – #4: San Pedro, a haven of peace in the Atacama desert (Chile)

 We arrived in San Pedro de Atacama pretty exhausted after a long bus ride, at one in the morning, but we were ready to spend four incredible days in this little haven of peace, famous for its spectacular landscapes as well as for the positive energy floating in its air.



San Pedro is a little hippie town in the North of Chile, about an hour away from the Bolivian border, at the center of incredible natural sceneries (moon valley, geysers, lakes, etc) that we would soon explore.

We really enjoyed San Pedro’s laid-back and positive atmosphere. It is said that the lithium mines from the nearby Atacama Salt Flat create good vibes in the air that make the inhabitants from San Pedro relaxed and happy than in other places!

I don’t know if this was true or not, but we did feel a relaxed and positive energy during our stay and we only keep good memories about San Pedro. If I had the chance to go back to only one place I visited during our trip that would be San Pedro.


We stayed at a lovely hotel called Tatais Lodge, located at a 10-minute walking distance from the center of San Pedro. After spending 12 hours on the bus from Copiapo to San Pedro, we were very happy to open the door to this lovely and cozy room. It was nice and warm as we had a little electrical heater and we were ready for a good night of sleep!



We woke up to this incredible view over the Licancábur volcano, which peaks at about 5900 meters. We had no words. The sky was blue, there was not a single cloud, the sun was nicely warming us. We were feeling good!

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What more can we ask for than an amazing view on the volcanoes to have breakfast?


We quickly acclimated to the relaxed atmosphere we felt in San Pedro 😉



After regaining some energy, we took this little beaten path to the center of San Pedro. It was also possible to go by bike as we could borrow bikes from the hotel. On our way we met the coolest dog of the world !

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We discovered a lovely tiny town, with beaten paths flanked by small houses made of earth bricks. We found many restaurants, souvenir shops, travel agencies, hostels, banks, launderies, supermakets, Internet cafés, etc. in the main street.

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San Pedro is the starting point of many incredible excursions in the Atacama Desert. You will find many travel agencies downtown, all offering the exact same excursions for more or less the same price. We found that everything was very well organized for backpackers. There are excursions every day, some last a whole day, some only a half day and they usually include meals or snacks, depending on the hour, so even if you have not planned anything, you can easily go on an excursion as soon as you arrive.

After comparing prices, we decided to book all our excursions with our hotel as we found it more convenient. We were happy with our choice because during our excursions we got to meet some amazing people who were staying at our hotel too and who did the same excursions as we did.

However we did book our excursion in Bolivia from a travel agency from the center and they gave us a discount for booking at the last minute. When their tours are not full, they will usually give you a discount.

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We tried a national specialty for lunch: “sandwich de lomo a la pobre”, a delicious sandwich with beef, onions and a fried egg. It was very good! Of course we had to try the national beers too and really enjoyed the cerveza Austral and the Kunstmann (with a slight taste of honey for me!).

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On our way back to the hotel, we made friends with this little dog. He followed us to our hotel with his little stick in his mouth and made us understand that he wanted us to play with him. Even the dogs seem to be more relaxed in San Pedro! Once he had played enough, he just left.


Our time in San Pedro ended with a barbecue with all the hosts of the hotel. It was a lot of fun and we realized that Chilean people are experts at the art of barbecue!


 Where to stay?

Most hostels are located on the main street (Calle Caracoles) and you should easily find an option corresponding to your budget.

But though San Pedro is a very small town, it is very touristic. So if you are looking for a cozy place away from the – relative – agitation of the center.

 Facing temperature changes

During the day, the sun is very strong in the Atacama Desert. Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses, sun screen, and drink a lot of water!

When the sun goes down, temperatures drop drastically. Don’t forget to bring thermic clothes and a warm coat.

Booking your excursions

Book all your excursions with the same company and you will have a discount. If this agency does not offer you a discount, feel free to ask for it as many agencies do it. What’s more, it will be a good way to meet people

San Pedro is the starting point of many excursions. We went to the Moon Valley, El Tatio geyser, Cejar lagoon and the Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia. I will talk about these excursions in the next articles.

The entrance fees are not included in the price of the excursions and you can sometimes have bad surprises so make sure you ask about the entrance fees before booking a tour.


Continue reading

  • Next stop: the beautiful Moon Valley. Click here to read the article.
  • All articles about this country: click here to see all articles about Chile.
  • All articles about this trip: click here to read see all articles about this backpacking trip across the Andes (Chile – Bolivia – Peru).

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