San Pedro de Atacama

Chile has a diverse geography and is bordered by the Andes to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country is very long and thin – it is only 350-km at its widest point – and has over 6000-km of coastline. There are several different zones, with radically different climates; from mountains and the lush lake district in the south to the extremely dry high alpine desert of the Atacama to the north.

We arrived in Chile from Bolivia after spending 3-days on the Uyuni Salt Flats tour, which dropped us off at the border and traveled into the Atacama Desert. Traveling to a desert isn’t everyone’s idea of the ideal vacation, but San Pedro was one of the most interesting destinations we visited on our trip and we are excited to share some of our favourite photos. We only had 2-days to explore San Pedro but managed to find some very surreal landscapes and activities to occupy our time.

San Pedro is a small oasis town that today thrives off tourism. This is one of the best places to visit the desert and has many tour operators that can organize tours into the surrounding attractions. The area was once a massive inland sea, and its ancient landscape has been changed over time.  Many people come here to see the Lagoons with Flamingos – which we had just seen in Bolivia – so we explored some different desert landscapes to fill our time.

The first excursion was to the Valley of the Moon, which as you might expect has some of the most surreal landscapes in the area, reminiscent of stepping foot onto another planet. It is located just outside of San Pedro, so it is also one of the easiest things to see. We planned our visit in the evening, which helped to beat the heat a little bit, and also allowed us to visit at sunset, which was beautiful.

The following day we traveled by bus about 40 minutes away, to the Valley of Jere, which is a lush green valley with a small river running through it. The walls of this valley have been carved out over the years, and you can look back in time in the layers of sediment in the walls. This was one of our favourite places to visit, and there were maybe 2-3 other tourists and a few locals here. One thing to keep in mind if you plan to visit here is that the bus schedule isn’t necessarily designed for tourists, so after spending the day here we had to hitch-hike back to San Pedro in order to avoid spending another 4 hours waiting for the evening bus.

 

The Atacama desert is one of the driest places on earth, as it is a large inland desert and gets very little annual rainfall. It is protected from moisture from the Chilean Range to the west and the Andes to the east. It has so little moisture that it is perfect for looking at the stars, with very little atmospheric disturbance and it is home to one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world – the very large telescope.

As we are not scientists, we did not get to view the cosmos with this amazing telescope, but we did do a stargazing tour which included several smaller telescopes that allowed us to look at star clusters and the moon. The late-night adventure was one of the most exciting nights of our trip, as we got to have a tour of the stars – with explanations of how to watch the stars cross the plain of the sky and use of 4 powerful telescopes.

We had so much fun in San Pedro, and can’t wait to go back to explore more next time. We spent a total of 3 days in Chile before crossing over the Andes into Argentina.

 

San Pedro de Atacama:

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Valley of the Moon. 2017.

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Stars! 2017.

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Sunset over the Atacama desert. 2017.

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Wandering the trails at the Valley of Jere. 2017.

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One of the few green places we found in San Pedro, at the Valley of Jere. 2017.

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Sand Dunes at the Valley of the Moon. 2017.

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The Milky Way. 2017.

A picture of the moon we took with an iPhone through a telescope. 2017.

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Long-standing rock formation in the Atacama. 2017.

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A small river that runs through the Valley of Jere. 2017.

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San Pedro volcano at Sunset. 2017.

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Surreal landscapes of the Valley of the Moon. 2017.

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Sunset at the Valley of the Moon. 2017.

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Lush vegetation hidden inside the Valley of Jere. 2017.

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The Valley of Jere, surrounded by the harsh landscape of the Atacama. 2017.

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The harsh desert of the Atacama. 2017. 

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Surreal landscapes are found all over the surrounding areas of San Pedro. 2017.

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Sand dune with blowing sand. 2017.

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You can see the small oasis of San Pedro, surrounded by dry desert landscape. 2017.

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Valley of Jere. 2017.

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Surreal Landscapes. 2017.

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Sand dunes in the Atacama. 2017.

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Norma taking pictures in the Valley of Jere. 2017.

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The small river that runs through the Valley of Jere. 2017.

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Valley of the Moon. 2017.

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Star Photography. 2017.

Our group posing for a picture with the Milky Way in San Pedro. 2017.

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An orchard in the middle of the Valley of Jere. 2017.

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Crawling through caves at the Valley of the Moon. 2017.

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Sunset watchers sitting on a cracked rock… 2017.

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Valley of Jere. 2017.

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The lunar landscape of the Valley of the Moon at sundown. 2017.

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San Pedro Volcano. 2017.

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Valley of Jere. 2017.

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Desert surrounded by Volcanoes of the Andes. 2017.

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The Valley of Jere. 2017.

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