Go Trekking in the Atacama Desert, San Pedro, Chile

by on 5th July, 2019


San Pedro de Atacama, in the heart of Chile’s Atacama Desert is a great place from which to enjoy half day or full day hikes or set off on a desert trek adventure over several days camping in the high Altiplano.


Where is and how to get to San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro is set in an oasis at 2,408 metres (7,700 feet) above sea level 100 Km (62 miles) south east of Calama airport.

To get there you can fly to Calama, a 2 hour flight from Santiago followed by a 90 minute transfer.

Some people come in overland from Bolivia after a tour of the Uyuni salt flats or by bus from Salta in Argentina. This is a journey of approximately 11 hours over the Andes Mountains and in parts unpaved roads.


Streets of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama


When to go and climate

San Pedro is a destination that can be visited all year round and that applies for trekking too.

Skies are generally clear but between December and March there is the possibility of cloud cover and even some rain.

Due to the altitude, the daily temperature difference can be very large going from a near freezing or even below at night to day time temperatures which could reach the mid 20s Celsius (70-80 Fahrenheit).


Valle de La Luna, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Valley of the Moon / Valle de la Luna


Day hikes

In San Pedro there is a large variety of accommodation from hostels, through boutique hotels to all inclusive luxury hotels. There is something for every taste.

There are a series of treks which can be done in a half or full day from your hotel. Some of these are:


Cornisas trek: 3 hours with 1.5 to 2.5 walking, easy

Start the trek at a viewpoint at 2,600 metres and then head down into Valle de La Muerte (Death Valley) with incredible landscapes.


Cordillera de la Sal, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Cordillera de la Sal


Guatin trek: 3 hours with 1.5 to 2.5 walking, moderate/challenging

After a 30 minute drive, set off on foot from near Guatin at 3,500 metres. Walk through clumps of cardones (giant cacti) to the Purifica River where you will continue downstream, flanked by the cacti on a scrambly, rocky path dotted with small waterfalls.


Guatin trek, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Setting off on Guatin trek


Kari trek: 4 hours with 2 walking, moderate

From the Kari lookout at 2,500 metres, with its impressive panorama of the Cordillera de la Sal, set off down a large dune into the canyon crossing dry rivers and the chance to explore caves and incredible rock formations finishing in the Valle de La Luna (Moon Valley).


Kari look out, Coyote Rock, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Kari look out point


Machuca / Río Grande: 5-6 hours with 4 to 5 walking, moderate/challenging

Set off from the village of Machuca at 4,000 metres following a riverbed and spotting llamas, alpacas and many local birds. Continue through cactus filled terraces before finally reaching the town of Rio Grande.


Andean Goose and Puna Teal, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Andean Goose and Puna Teals


Copa Coya : 6 hours with 3 walking, challenging

This trek starts at 4,300 metres near the Tatio Geysers. Set off from the incredible rock formations walking at high altitude and opportunities to spot fauna such as vizcachas and vicuñas. You will also see yareta, one of the longest-living plants in the world, capable of enduring the extreme climate of the high plains.


Tatio Geysers, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Tatio Geyser Field



Trekking programme

For the more die hard you could have a guided small group trekking programme with camping such as Andean Trails’ 7 day / 6 night Trek in the Atacama Desert programme.

Here you have the opportunity to trek through majestic scenery, spotting the local flora and fauna, and camping under some of the clearest skies in the world.

Day 1-Mon: Arrive Calama. Transfer to San Pedro. Moon Valley hike, walking 2-3 hrs , hotel.

Day 2-Tue: Drive to Quitor. Trek Yerbas Buenas to Rainbow Valley, walking 6-8 hrs, camp.

Day 3-Wed: Trek to Rio Grande, walking 7-9 hrs, camp.

Day 4-Thu: Trek to Machuca, walking 6-8 hrs, camp.

Day 5-Fri: Drive to Tatio Geyser field.  Copa Coya Trek, walking time: 4-6 hrs, hotel.

Day 6-Sat: Full day tour to the Atacama Salt Flat and Meñiques/Miscanti  lakes, hotel.

Day 7-Sun: Transfer to Calama airport.


Valle de La Luna panorama, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Valle de la Luna / Valley of the Moon


Whether you prefer some day hikes or a fully supported trek, the Atacama Desert from San Pedro de Atacama offers unique prospects in an incredibly captivating setting .

Get in touch with us at Andean Trails to plan your Atacama Adventure.






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