Hidden Gem in Atacama Desert Chile

When you think of the desert the first thing comes to mind is an area that is barren, desolate and miles from anywhere else. That is exactly what we were faced with when we drove through the Atacama desert in Northern Chile.  It is actually the second driest place in the world, with Antarctica claiming the driest place. I had always wanted to go to a desert to see the rolling sand dunes and be in the middle of such an expanse and all alone and surrounded by the great expanse of nothingness. Our destination was a little remote town call San Pedro de Atacama which is a small little town that sits on the Chilean border has a charm and character of itself.

San Pedro de Atacama

Elise at Moon Valley in San Pedro de Atacama

We had been travelling for 3 days across the Atacama Desert on a salt flats tour which started in Uyuni, Bolivia. It was a grewling 3 day drive across the desert with nothing for miles on either side of our 4×4 and after many hours of driving we would stop occasionally to view the salt flats and other natural attractions.

We had finally reached our destination of San Pedro de Atacama and we weren’t expecting much from this desert town and we didn’t want to have high expectations before arriving. Uyuni was nothing to write home about and we were expecting much the same at the tail end of the salt tour.


The main Church in San Pedro de Atacama

We were pleasantly surprised upon arriving, the town was neatly set out in a grid format and there seemed to be a positive vibe in the air from the moment we stepped out from the bus. All the building were made from the same materials and they gave the town a sense of sameness as we walked the streets with our bags

After checking into our hotel we wanted to familiarise ourselves with the surroundings and hired a couple of bicycles and went off riding mapless and wanted to see where our wheels would take us. Of course we ended up getting a little lost but we did end up finding a couple of roads not in use and we rode off into the desert without a car or anyone else in sight. It is a truly free experience when no one else is around and Elise and I were cruising this endless road heading for the horizon.


Bike riding in San Pedro Atacama

We soon realised why the road had been abandoned and as we approached we saw giant hole which looked like the area had been hit by an earth quake. We came to the conclusion that the ground had become so dry from the sun and begun cracking and taken everything in it path including the road that once lied before us. We took it upon ourselves to maneuver across the embankment and up and over to the other side of the road to continue our trip into the great expanse.


The road block in San Pedro Atacama

It was a brilliant riding around into the desert and we soon discovered that this town was smaller than expected and beyond the city walls there was just kilometres of barren desert.. After a few hours of riding we were ready to go exploring throughout the town on foot and we were amazed at how many restaurants that lined the streets, serving a range of different cuisines. After visiting Bolivia, where the food was a definite let down,  San Pedro de Atacama was making up for it in a big way. We were looking forward to wandering the streets and selecting a place to eat some good food and drink some of the best Chilean red wine on offer.


Our Pizza in San Pedro Atacama

We did find that everything was a little more pricey in Chile than Bolivia and it was a bit of a shock to the system to be paying prices that we are used to paying back at home in Australia. You do pay for quality and although our budget was stretched a little bit, it was worth every cent as the food was delicious. We were sick of eating beans, rice and avocado and we ended up eating at a local pizzeria and gorged on pizza, caesar salad and a Northern Chile Cabernet Sauvignon.

After a long day of travelling on a bus from Bolivia and then spending the afternoon riding our bikes, it was the perfect end to an exhausting fun-filled day.

This Article was made possible, thanks to Hotel Atacama in Copiapó.

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10 Responses to Hidden Gem in Atacama Desert Chile

  1. What an awesome place for a bike ride. That hole is intense!!!

    • Anthony Reply

      Yeah that Hole was intense. It was unbelievable to be cycling all by ourselves though. Loved it!

  2. Man, that hole is crazy! However, the desert is beautiful. It’s a little intimidating and the heat can be scary but even in a dry place like this, there is beauty.

    I was just reading about Uyuni yesterday and that looks like a place from another planet! However, Atacama was a pleasant surprise. I guess I think of the Sahara when I think of desert – dry, sand, nothingness. And while there seems to be a lot of that, there is some beauty as well.

    I’ve never been to Chile but have some old ties to the country. I would love to visit one day. Chile is not a wide country but with its length, it’s incredibly diverse!

    • Anthony Reply

      We were running on limited time and were only in Chile for a few days. We were pleasantly surprised at how this little town just got it so “right” and had a thriving tourist economy. Whilst we were there we also visited Moon Valley and watched the sunset which is also a definite must-do as well. We would like to go back to Chile one day to do some more exploring further down south of the country to see what other hidden gems are there.

  3. Sounds like an awesome adventure. The food all looks good particularly the pizza, I probably would have passed on the pizza though.

    • Anthony Reply

      Why would you pass on Pizza? It was soooo delicious!

  4. It looks amazing. Great photos. I badly want to do some star gazing in the Atacama desert or even go to one of the observatories.

    • Anthony Reply

      The stars are amazing at night. We highly recommend it!

  5. What an experience! Cannot wait to get to Chile one day…definitely might have to do this as well.

    • Anthony Reply

      Chile was amazing and we were only there briefly. We will have to definitely go back next year :)

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