Wednesday, 28 November 2007
San Pedro de Atacama
This is a particularly photo-heavy post. San Pedro de Atacama and the surrounding desert is a spectacular place and i took so many photos-the landscapes just lend themselves to pretty picture taking.
This was our first stop from Valparaiso. We flew from Santiago to Calama and then took a mini-bus to San Pedro. It was my first visit to the town since January 2004...i can't believe it was so long ago. I think i was expecting it to be completely different, too over-developed these days but it's not at all. There are more hotels and a few more restaurants but it's not OTT, with the exception of the huge ENTEL signs in the main square. Muppets. Actually, i was expecting not to find a town at all as we got there just a few days after the big earthquake in Tocopillo and Antofagasta. Luckily San Pedro got off with minimal damage although the quake was strongly felt there. We also missed the 2 big after shocks by a day at each end.
Anyway, San Pedro is a stunningly pretty little town, all adobe houses, situated in a little oasis, 2400m above sea-level in the middle of the world's driest desert (it rained last time i was there...). There's so much to do up there-trips to the Andean lakes, little villages around, the Salar de Atacama, geysers and more. We only had a weekend so decided to do a tour to the Salar, a few lakes and a couple of villages. Except i was ill so i couldn't go. I wasn't too annoyed as i did the 4 day tour of the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia a few years ago and that place is way more incredible than anything around San Pedro (you can start that tour in San Pedro, although i did it the other way around, starting in Bolivia and ending in Chile). My mum, her friend and Lore did all do the one day tour and came back happy so i'd probs recommend doing it if you're up there.
There's quite a lot of local craft and stuff to buy in San Pedro-there's a market just off the main square. I thought it was a rip-off last time i was there but prices haven't risen at all in the past 4 years so it's all pretty good value these days. You can get all the gloves, hats, scarves and blankets your little hearts desire in a one-stop superartesaniamarket.
Why, Entel? Why?
One thing that i can't recommend enough it the tour to the El Tatio Geysers. Allegedly the highest geyser field in the world at around 4300m (altitude sickness is a common problem for tourists-take Acetazolamide if you can) but i have my doubts. On the aforementioned tour in Bolivia, we went to a geyser field at 4800m...
The trip starts with a 3 hour drive from San Pedro at 4am. You have to get there early as it's when the sun rises that the temperature changes and triggers the huge gushing geysers that everyone wants to see. The idea is actually to get there before sunrise but we didn't make it in time. Last time we did. It's around minus 8C when you first arrive, so wrap up warm. The drive back is more leisurely and you get to see some incredible scenery. I'll stop waffling now so you can just enjoy the photos. I reckon San Pedro is an essential stop if you're visiting Chile.
As a final note-if you order wine anywhere in San Pedro, make sure you know what you're ordering. I saw in a few restaurants really crappy wine that costs a couple of thousand pesos in the shops being sold for over 20,000. Absurd. Stick to beer.
It's chilly up north
Hot milk for breakfast
That's a Vicuña
Those 2 blobs are ostriches
This little church was so cute i almost became religious
The Salar de Atacama in the distance