Corrugated City

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


Anonymous said...

Hey! Signage Nazi here again...The Entel signs are not great but not that bad either in my opinion...The colour chosen at least blends in with the earthy rustic feel of San Pedro...In that context, they could have done a worse job....the only thing is that they probably set a precedent for the other shops within that row to place signs along the outer wall of the collinade...great pics though....It hasn't changed much since I was there in 94 either by the looks of things. Would love to get back there again one time.



Matt said...

true..they could have done a worse job...but then again, they could have done no job whatsoever...! san pedro is tiny, there's no competition for entel so why put up such huge signs that just encourage other businesses to do the same?

I reckon SP's probably changed a lot since 94, it's changed a fair bit in terms of hotels and restaurants in the last 4-it's a major tourist hub now but not as ruined as you'd expect.

Anonymous said...

...very good point. why put up unnecessary signage? Another thing that came to me overnight is that San Pedro comprises of narrow streets mostly used by pedestrians and with the odd vehicle travelling at fairly slow speeds (this may have changed since '94 also!)...In this context I agree that the signage is unnecessarily large and they don't need two on each facade. I do note in your photo that along that collinade some of the other shops in that row are already displaying timber signs there. They probably look OK and maybe, if anything, Entel should have done something similar and at a similar scale.

Sounds like SPdA is really booming at the moment. It was quite a tourist drawcard even back in 94. Its good to know that apperance wise at least, it still looks pretty much the same.


Matt said...

it's still the same-low rise adobe houses, dusty streets, slow moving cars on the streets they're still allowed to drive on. despite the fact it's clearly backpacker heaven it's still really pretty and one of the nicest places i've visited in chile.