I flew from Santiago to Calama and then an hour transfer which cost 12,000 Chilean pesos so £14 to San Pedro. The Atacama Desert is the the driest desert in the world. During the day it is pretty warm and then gets cold at night so wrap up warm especially if you go stargazing. San Pedro itself is really cute with lots of little artisan shops, restaurants and a hell of a lot of travels agencies. With all of the agencies to choose from it can be a little overwhelming. I would go and speak to a few and get a feel for price and quality of tour. There are lots of tours and activities that go from San Pedro and here are the few I chose.
Valle de la Luna – the moon valley tour. It takes you through the caves, across the valley, where the old mines were and then out to watch the sunset. Its about 3-4hours in total and about 20,000 pesos so £22 plus park entrance fee. It is also possible to hire bikes and just pay the entrance fee of 3,000 pesos to get into the park. I hadn’t realised that was an option and would have loved to cycle around. Bare in mind it can be very warm and it hilly within the park so keep yourself hydrated. In my tour I was the only English speaking person and the guide got me to sit in the front of the bus so he could explain things to me before everyone else. He also kept me at the front for the same reason to make things easier. It was a very personalised service and he really took care of everyone on the tour. Helping scramble across the rocks and where to place our feet etc, very kind and thoughtful.
Astronomical Tour – The Atacama Desert is one of the best places in the world to go star gazing. Keep in mind that when there is a full moon, because of its brightness it is not the best time to see the stars however a good tour agency should tell you that. If that is your only time I kind of feel like the stars are still better than what we get at home! I went with Una Nocha Con Las Estrellas on the 10pm tour. They took us by bus about 15mins away from Sand Pedro and split us into English and Spanish speaking groups. We had a presentation which was really informative and explained the different things we would see once we were outside. We then got snacks, tea and wine before we headed outside. We were given blankets that had rockets and stars on them, brilliant. The star gazing was in two parts, one with telescopes and the other with the names eye. On the six telescopes we got to see saturn and its rings, it was mind blowing. Then a dead star, galaxies, Mars and more. With the naked eyes these were also pointed out as well as constellations and astrology signs and how to find them. We then had a group photo which they posted on their Facebook as a souvenir.
Salar de Uyuni – I will be writing a post about this tour and will update the link once it is completed.
Sandboarding – It cost the same as the Valle de la Luna with an extra 3,000 to enter the park. There are a fair few agencies but I went with Sandboarding San Pedro. For the price you get a transfer to and from San Pedro, a board, boots, helmet and a video from your lesson. I have never snowboarded but have skied and surfed which I think helped but even if you have no experience with those things it is definitely accessible to all. The sand is super soft so it doesn’t hurt if you fall. I found it easy to slow down. According to the instructor it is similar to powder skiing and snowboarding more than regular runs if that helps you to understand. I have never really skied powder so I cannot confirm that. It is also possible to sand ski with other agencies but I think the sandboarding is easier. I had a lot of fun the tour started at 9am and finished around 12pm. The other times are 4pm until 7pm when the weather is a bit cooler.