travel

San Pedro de Atacama: Discovering the Driest Desert in the World

San Pedro de Atacama has transformed with the increasing number of tourists in the past years. It was first inhabited by Atacamenos who were renowned for their impressive basket work and pottery. San Pedro is known for its desert landscape, dry climate and below freezing evenings. You are likely to experience mild altitude sickness such as dizziness, being out of breath and lethargic due to being at 2500 feet here.

The town is swamped with tour agencies advertising tours including, astronomy, lagunas, geysers, sand boarding, rock formations and flamingo spotting. If were honest it was quite overwhelming and we had no idea where to start! We always knew we would begin the Uyuni Salt Flat 3 day tour from San Pedro and we were keen not to repeat activities we were going to do on the tour. If you are planning on doing the 3 day Salt Flat Tour from either San Pedro or Uyuni then there isn’t much need to visit lagunas, geysers or flamingos as they are covered on the tour.

San Pedro de Atacama Driest Desert in the World

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Star Gazing
San Pedro de Atacama is known as one of the driest deserts in the world with little rainfall and little light pollution. This makes San Pedro the perfect place to star gaze. The crystal clear skies have made this a great place for astronomical research to be conducted. There are a range of tours on offer that usually are between 2-3 hours and include viewing the naked eye, learning about star charts and then viewing through the telescope. What differs between tours is how many people are on a tour, how many telescopes, the meal provided and whether the focus is on the science or the history.

We were over the moon (get it?!) with our 2 hour tour with Gastro San Pedro. They offer the experience to up to 6 people an evening with one telescope. This is great as I have heard stories of 20 people on a tour with one telescope. On this occasion we were on the tour on our own so we has a great private tour. We were picked up by a taxi from our hostel and driven to the star gazing zone. On our way down to the secluded area we had our picture took with the milky way behind us! This was a fantastic picture that we received by email straight after the tour.

Star gazing with Gastro San Pedro

We were greeted with Mulled Wine to warm us up, because it is so cold in the desert at night! The mulled wine kept flowing throughout the evening. We began by viewing with the naked eye, looking at the constellations and learning their names. At first I thought I have no idea where he is looking but then out came the laser beam!!! Literally pointed to exactly where we needed to look in complete Jedi Style! We learnt about the Andean cosmology and their ancient belief systems on the afterlife and how that tied into the stars. They were very clever people, they knew the earth was circular (no debates here on that haha), they knew when to harvest crops from the stars, the seasons and what the weather would be like that day. There lives revolved around the stars and it was so interesting to learn about.

We put what we learnt into action with the star chart. So now if we ever get lost on the 7th July at 10pm, we will know our way back to safety. I know this will sound daft but I felt like an astrologist! The faraway planets that looked like bright stars with the naked eye we were able to view through the telescope. This was the part where we genuinely lost our minds. We saw Mars ( a big circle), Jupiter with 2 moons surrounding it and then Saturn! We saw Saturn with its rings and we were amazed! After, a fair few mulled wines we were on Cloud 9!

Star gazing with Gastro San Pedro

The glittering galaxies, the nebulas and the globular clusters that looked like a spiders web of stars was amazing to see through the telescope. To the naked eye these looked like black holes in the milky way. When magnified 800 times, it was truly stunning.
After a world class star gazing experience, we retired to the tent for supper. This included; more mulled wine, sushi, skewers, corn, crackers and Chilean Pate, all homemade. I feel like we hit the jackpot with the tour with Gastro San Pedro I recommend contacting Rene to book your Star Gazing Tour for 20,000 CP (approx £23 each).

‘Spend a fun night looking at the stars hile enjoying the personalized service you deserve’

Rene at Gastro San Pedro +569 95048152 or Email at: gastrosanpedro@gmail.com

Pukara de Quitor

We were keen to explore San Pedro  rather than taking one of the many tours out of town. On Maps.Me, Pukara de Quitor was suggested as a sightseeing spot. We were staying at La Florida Hostel on Tocopilla Street and all we need to do was walk north and just keep walking… so off we went.

 


Pukara de Quitor is an archaeological site that became a national monument in 1982. More than 500 years ago there was a battle for the land here between the Atacamenos and the Spanish who defeated them in the end with fire canons. Here lies the ruins of their homes up on the side of the mountain.

From the height of 80 metres you have views of the San Pedro River, Death Valley, Volcanoes and the San Pedro town. The walk is moderately difficult, mainly because of the altitude and sun! Be sure to take plenty of water, suncream and take your time utilising all the rest stops.

The entrance cost 2000 CP (£2.30) for students and I believe 3000 CP (approx. £3.50) for adults.

Eating and Drinking
In San Pedro there is only one establishment with a bar license all the others only have a license to serve alcohol with food. This is why you will find some great offers of a snack and a beer or wine for between 5000 – 7000 CP (approx £6-8). You will also find set menus for 3 coursed for reasonable prices if you want to eat out. Just be warned that ‘Tar Tar’ is raw ground meat that genuinely looked like brains. After eating this and watching Cowspiracy on Netflix we sharply turned to becoming Veggies!


Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
In San Pedro is where we booked our 3 day Uyuni Salt Flat Tour (blog to follow). We were recommended by a couple we met earlier on in the trip to book with Cruz Andina. I’m so glad we followed the recommendation from our friends. The positive comments on Tripadvisor also speak volumes. It is a big spend of 110,000 CP (approx £125). However, this includes your transport, accommodation and food in order to see the best scenery we have encountered in South America.

Uyuni Salt Flats

A detailed blog of our Uyuni Salt Flat Tour will be featured shortly.

Go the Distance in San Pedro,

Chloe

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