Classic Destinations

The best places of San Pedro de Atacama

viernes, 31 de julio de 2009  
Puritama Puritama (Photo:Sernatur)

- Not to be missed in San Pedro de Atacama
- San Pedro de Atacama

Padre le Paige Museum: Offers an extraordinary exhibition, which covers 11 thousand years of atacameña culture. Among other interesting pieces, you will find a mummy popularly known as Miss Chile, with well-preserved hair and eyelashes. Over 4,000 skulls, 450,000 archeological objects and 100 ethnographic objects are some of the attractions of this surprising museum.

Tatio Geysers: This is one of the most spectacular sights. Here one can find the largest group of geysers in the southern hemisphere. They are located 95 kilometers from San Pedro and 4,000 meters above sea level. The road is rough and you have to leave San Pedro before sunrise. Nonetheless, it is worth the sacrifice. At daybreak, huge 6 to 8 meter-high jets of steam erupt from the ground. They are emanations from an underground river that originates in the Tatio Volcano.

The best time to visit the area is between 5:00 and 7:00 in the morning, when the intensity of the jets is greatest, reaching heights of up to 10 meters or more. There are also hot spring pools for a refreshing bath at noon.

Atacama Salt Flat: Located 55 kilometers south of San Pedro. The access road provides breathtaking views of the Lascar and Licancabur volcanoes. Along the way, you pass the town of Tocanao, and then arrive at La Laguna Chaxa. The huge salt flat, measuring 100 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide,  is the third largest in the world, after Uyuni in Bolivia and the Great Salt Lake of Utah in the United States. The most visited place is Chaxa, a lagoon that is part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. There you will find splendid birds, such as guallatas, or Andean geese, Andean gulls, puna plovers, austral negritos and flamingos.

Toconao: This is a typical northern colonial town located 39 kilometers from San Pedro. Its handicrafts made from liparita stone of volcanic origin are particularly well-known. The church’s bell tower is made of the same material. Quebrada de Jerez is found in the vicinity of Tocanao, and is characterized by its peculiar petroglyphs and abundant vegetation.  Located in Toconao itself are a restaurant and a lodging house alongside the Plaza de Armas. On the streets you can see llamas and vicunas interacting with children and young people.

Pucará de Quitor: Is located 3 kilometers north of San Pedro. It is an ancient pre-Inca construction that dates back to the 12th century. Declared a national monument in 1982, this construction was, eight centuries ago, a stronghold of the Kunz community. It is built with stones that defy gravity on a steep hill. It has a defensive wall that proved futile before the Spanish invaders who overpowered the defenders and ordered the decapitation of all the chiefs in the area. The ruins are found in a bend of the ravine through which the waters of the San Pedro River, or Río Grande, flow.

Cordillera de la Sal and Valle de la Muerte: The mountain rocks of this formation have a large amount of calcium sulfate and at first glance appear to be splashed with salt. This geographic landmark appears unexpectedly on the road that connects San Pedro to Calama. Millions of years ago, the mountain was at the bottom of a large lake, and was created by movements in the earth’s crust. The rain, wind and strong desert sun carved their current shapes into natural sculptures that impress visitors. On the way to San Pedro, you traverse the Valle de la Muerte, or Death Valley. At dusk or dawn, the scenery is unparalleled.