San Pedro de Atacama, feet on the moon and the head on the stars
We didn’t plan to go to Chili that soon but we make a quick detour after the tour in Uyuni to discover San Pedro de Atacama. This city is the only oasis in the middle of the Atacama desert. The city is made for tourists but we clearly enjoy it. You just need to look a lot to find affordable hostel and food. Apart from that, it’s good to find cute shops where you can buy quality clothes or other, like a microfiber towel because you forget yours in the last hostel (yes, that’s me…).
So, what to visit when you are in San Pedro de Atacama? there is plenty of things, but agencies are expensive. We didn’t want to see similar landscapes that we saw in Uyuni desert, so we only visit with bikes. There are 3 places that you can reach by bike: the moon valley, Catarpe (Quebrada del diablo), and 2 lagoons. I almost did the first two.
The first day, we rent bikes at 8AM to avoid the heat of the sun. 30 minutes later, we are entering the moon valley. The landscape is amazing all red with crazy mountains and dunes. The first stop takes us inside a salt vault, it is better to keep your helmet on because you can hurt your head so many times! The next stops are mirador where you can admire the view.
Depending on your level in biking, you will enjoy more or less the experience. I personally love biking on a good tarmac road but hate when there is rock, salt or stuff like that. So for me, it was a good experience but I was sometimes a bit stressed, especially in the downhills. You just need to be prepared for that.
The second day, we decide to go to Catarpe and the “Quebrada del diablo”. My ass still hurt of the past day, I really didn’t want to go back on the bike. But still, here I was, we start on a good road so it was okay but it didn’t last. The first stop is a tunnel with a point of view, but first, you need to up on a really bad road with everything that I hate (hole, rock, sand,…). My nerves didn’t support it… I’m not traveling to do activities that put me in that state of mind, so I finished the uphill walking next to my bike to see the viewpoint and then I turn back to the village (going to a nice restaurant because food always helps!). So I didn’t see everything that you could in Katarpe valley.
The evening, we planned “star tour”. San Pedro de Atacama is the ideal place to admire the stars, it is dry, in altitude and there is rarely a cloud. We spend 2 hours with a guide talking about stars, planet, black hole and through telescopes. The visit finished with a hot chocolate because it is really cold outside! It was really great, I only miss a deckchair to admire the sky!
How to get there? the transfer was included in our Uyuni tour (70B)
Where to sleep? we stayed in 2 hostels: Sol de Atacama (6000P) they add availability only for one night so it is better to book in advance, and el tren de atacama (8000P)
Where to eat? If you want to eat cheap, there are plenty of restaurant affordable next to the stadium
Where to rent a bike? there are plenty of rentals, it cost 3000P the half day (6 hours).
How to visit? the entrance at the moon valley cost 2000P the morning and Quebrada del diablo 3000P
How to book a star tour? we chose the agency Andes travel, they were really friendly and we enjoy our evening (15000P)