San Pedro de Atacama is a desert. Landing in Calama nearby was eerie, like landing on the moon. The desert landscape is sparse and extends in every direction. The roads, the houses and the surrounding mountains all appear the same reddish, dusty colour. It’s high. Over 2200 metres above sea level, it served as our acclimatisation spot before Bolivia. And it’s hot. A dry, burning heat that had me instantly reaching for my water bottle.
We took a shuttle from Calama airport to San Pedro de Atacama. On the way we passed through a series of rock formations that cut across the hill. The roads were uneven and bumpy. It was a relief to get to our hostel – El Casa de Matilde.
The town of San Pedro de Atacama is built for tourists. Souvenir shops and markets, restaurants and tour operators flood the main street. There is one pharmacy and the local ATM resides inside that pharmacy. Gorgeous strays linger, seeking out the shaded spots and moving with the sun. It’s dusty, colourful and vibrant.
San Pedro’s biggest attraction is its landscape. The most common way to get around is through the gazillion tours that are on offer. There are tours through rock formations (aka the valley of the moon), to volcanoes, astronomy tours, geysers, hot springs and also the one we did – Laguna Cejar. If we weren’t restricted to a budget (which we are already struggling to meet) we would have done more, but circumstances were such that we could only do one.
Our minivan took us to Laguna Cejar. There are actually three lagoons there but only one to swim in. The lagoon is seven times saltier than the ocean, meaning that when we got in the water we could float without any effort whatsoever. It was a lot of fun. We washed the salt off and visited the other lagoons for some cute snaps before moving on.
Second we went to Lagoon Tebinquiche, with beautiful reflections and where I saw my first flamingoes! After this we headed to the Ojos del Salar where our group watched the sun set with a pisco sour in hand. The excursion was a really fun and interesting experience that I was so glad we chose to do that particular one.
Although we didn’t have long in San Pedro, it was small enough to get a real taste of the town, even without doing the tours. We managed to find some delicious food at Cafe Barros, going so far as to eat there twice – ensuring we were well energised before beginning our three day tour that would soon take us to Bolivia.