There are some places you go where you don’t expect much from them. But that’s when they blow you out of the water.
San Pedro de Atacama was one of those places for me. I had heard it was a desert that got less than 1mm of rain per year. So how beautiful could it really be? The answer was, it was nothing like I’d ever seen before! And gorgeous!
Yes it was super dry, we were scraping dust off ourselves every night and all our clothes were stained (I don’t recommended white shoes or clothes!)
But holy crap it was beautiful! I can’t even describe how it looked, again you’ll have to look at the pics!
San Pedro was easy to get to from the border of Chile, we had to do a slow border crossing but the drive from the end of tour of the salt flats to San Pedro was maybe an hour or just a bit more.
We got another hostel room in San Pedro, there were heaps of options but they were all a lot more expensive than other places in South America. But everything was more expensive than usual! It’s a tourist town, and also Chile has a better economy than the other countries so everything is just that little bit more.
Something we had to get used to in Chile was that everyone eats super late! Breakfast starts around 9am, lunch at 2-3pm and restaurants don’t open for dinner until around 8pm. I think this is common in other countries like Argentina and some places in Europe. It allows for ‘siesta’ which is around midday where nothing is open! Needless to say I was hungry a lot!
Three days in San Pedro de Atacama
After getting through the long border crossing (standing behind a cringey American family who were ‘vlogging’) we made it in to Chile!
We went to our hostel and checked in. Then had a wander through the little town, first thing we noticed was all the Chilean flags flying everywhere! We learnt later that there was a national holiday on, but initially we thought they were just super patriotic! It was like being back in the USA.
We spent the rest of the day figuring out what we wanted to do there, because we quickly realized that there is a LOT of stuff to see in the area. And also chilling and recovering from our 3 days on the salt flats.
The top thing that people said to do was to visit ‘Valle de la Luna’ – Valley of the Moon.
Annoyingly, we had an issue with transport. Tour guides seem to have a monopoly in San Pedro, which I was not keen on. Car hire is ridiculously expensive. And that leaves bike hire. So I swallowed my pride and ‘got back on the bike’. Sorry to all you keen cyclists but I just bloody hate bike riding, for me it’s uncomfortable and scary!
We explored the cave first, a weaving little tunnel underground that led into a beautiful rocky valley. I felt tiny walking through there! The colours and the size were just beautiful.
Then we biked up further, after meeting the only other cyclists, a couple from Aussie. Of course only kiwis and aussies were the ones attempting this!
We got to the ‘lookout’ which was omg-pinch-me stunning! We didn’t get to see the view until we got right to then end of the mountain, because we walked on the path just below the top. We then walked up to the top and both our jaws dropped. I couldn’t even speak it was incredible! Jagged mountain ranges, massive sand dunes and views as far as we could see. We were also sitting at the very top, at the very end and on the edge. So again, I felt tiny. Added to that, we were the only ones at that end of the mountain, the crowds were at the other end closer to the car park. I really can’t do it justice with words!
After marveling for a few hours and watching the sun go down, we decided to head back before it got too dark. Well, it got dark quickly and was pretty much black when we got to main road. We didn’t have lights on our bikes but we did have high visibility vests. The cars gave zero effs about us, they hurtled past at like 100kms and gave us very little room. I was kinda freaking that we would get hit. Added to that, once we got to the intersection back to town, we saw that one of the Aussies had come off their bike. They were okay, but it was enough for me to push my bike the next kilometer back to town instead of risk it. Danny even said after we had gotten back, ‘that was probably the most dangerous thing we’ve done on this trip’ so I was justified in my fear!
As a reward to myself, I got a bottle of wine at dinner.
Our final day in San Pedro, we jumped on another tour. I was annoyed because I hate being forced to do tours to see things, but as I said they don’t make it easy there!
We were keen to see the Peiras Rojas or ‘Red Rocks’.
They took us to a salt flat lagoon, a few other lagoons on the way, before ultimately getting to the Red Rocks.
The guide told us not to wander too far because the sand in some places is actually mud. So what did we do? We ended up hip deep in quick sand/mud. It was one of those moments where at the time it was quite freaky because we instantly started sinking. But we made it out alive! I honestly thought quick sand was a made up thing before that. I was covered in mud and I was wearing jeans! Luckily Danny was in shorts so we could wash him down and I had a change of clothes in my bag. Tip, always take a change of clothes everywhere in South America!
Other than the hilarious drama, the Red Rocks were freaking stunning! The colours made us feel like we’d stepped into an oil painting. Red rocks, crystal sky blue water, green & yellow fauna, and snow capped mountains. Amazing.
That night, after a shower, we went to do some star gazing.
We were with another group and they gave us telescopes each and asked us to find different things in the sky. We looked at the moon, Saturn, a butterfly constellation and loads more. I was the fastest at configuring my telescope to find the different things. Just saying. The guide was like ‘I am very surprised that you are good at this’ … thanks?
We also took some night pics of the moon through the telescopes which turned out great!
And that was our time in San Pedro de Atacama! An amazing surprise, I highly recommend going.
Next stop; Salta, Argentina!