The Atacama desert sits at the very northern tip of Chile, stretching 1000km into the southern tip of Peru. Its claim to fame is that it is the driest desert in the world; some parts of the desert have never even received a drop of rain since record keeping first started! But the Chileans are pretty nifty, they figured out how to thrive off this barren ground. In the past, water had to be driven into the various towns scattered across the Atacama, a severely expensive and inefficient process. Now, their water source includes innovations such as collecting fog as a source of local water supply. These nifty fog catchers collect enough water to supply the residents of the Chungungo village. Pretty cool for the world’s driest desert isn’t it?
San Pedro de Atacama sits in this said desert, close to the border of Bolivia. With the combination of salt lakes, dizzying altitudes and volcanic structures, this oasis attracts a flood of tourists with its unbelievable landscapes of monumental sand dunes, multi-coloured mountainscapes and surreal terrain. Because of this, it is also easily a tourist trap. A visit to San Pedro leaves some weary of tour rip offs and tired of orange dust stuck inbetween their toes.
But don’t let the naysayers deter you. It’s a vibrant place with the constant ebb and flow of visitors. A few quick tips to make your life easier in San Pedro:
- Bring enough cash for your stay – their cash machines often run out of money and card facilities are not generally available.
- Shop around for tours – the town center consists of only two roads, it doesn’t take long to ask around before you embark on a tour.
- Book accommodation before you get there – rooms close to the town center are limited and book out quickly. Leaving it late will result in accommodation a bit far from town, which is a pain in the butt.
- Alcohol stops being sold at 1am. If the sunny weather has put you in the mood to party, keep your ears pricked for the ensuing ‘secret’ parties that spread via word of mouth once the bars shut.
Anyway, onto the food. If you like pizza, you’re in luck. San Pedro is full of pizza. But for something a little more interesting, we found a little eatery called Tierra Todo Naturale, translated to mean ‘All Natural Ground’. Their aim is to serve up fresh and healthy food – which is a rarity in South America. They have fresh smoothies, nice soups, light salads and amazingly nothing’s battered and deep fried. It is expensive compared to its surrounding competitors, but the food is so refreshing amidst the heat of the desert and perfect after a big night of drinking Chile’s national cocktail of pisco sours.
Info: Caracoles 271, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Ph: (56)(55) 851585
[Vegetarian?] ok [Vegan?] ok [Gluten free?] ok [Dairy free?] ok
How much money to bring: $US10-15 (CH$5000-8000)
OK to bring a date? yes
It’s closed on: Open breakfast, lunch and dinner
Sounds like: Velouria – The Pixies