An Epic 2 Days: San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary

I’ll be upfront with you…2 days for your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary is not enough. If you can swing a few more, I’d recommend it, but if you can only fit 2 full days (3 nights), it’s still totally 100% worth the trip. I saw some of the most amazing sights of my life there, and that’s not an exaggeration.

San Pedro de Atacama is surrounded by breathtaking vistas, arid valleys, and some of the most stunning altiplanic lagoons I’ve ever seen. The town is located about 8,000 feet above sea level and serves as the jumping off point for Atacama Desert adventures. No matter what you intend to explore in the Atacama Desert, you will find yourself staying in the adobe village of San Pedro de Atacama.

A quick note on my 2 day San Pedro in Atacama itinerary – neither my sister nor I felt comfortable driving around the Atacama Desert, so we opted to go with guides and/ or group tours, so this itinerary is for those without a car, though you could easily adapt this as a self-drive itinerary. The desert roads are pretty bumpy and we didn’t have cell service, so we were more comfortable going with guides that knew the area.

Let’s dive into how to make the most of your 2 days in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile – explore your perfect San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary.

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Overview: San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary

  • Day 0: Arrive & Check-In to Accommodations
  • Day 1: Tatio Geysers Sunrise, Machuca, Valle de La Luna, Valle de La Muerte, & Andes Sunset
  • Day 2: Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos, Altiplanic Lakes, & Piedras Rojas
  • Day 3: Check Out and Fly to Santiago

Day 1 of San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary

Tatio Geysers

On day one, your first stop will be the Tatio Geysers. My sister and I took this particular tour, which included pickup from our accommodations, as well as a fantastic guide.

Mark my words when I say it’s a super early day (picture a 4:00 AM pickup), but an absolutely gorgeous sunrise over the steaming geysers makes it so worth it. You’re going to want to bring all the jackets you own because it’s seriously cold, especially for us ill prepared Florida girls. Also, check into picking up a nice fuzzy pair of socks in town…we didn’t do this, but definitely should have.

You’ll have some time to explore the geysers, enjoy breakfast as the sun rises over the mountains, and if you’re brave enough, swim in the hot springs! I wasn’t nearly brave enough…the changing rooms had no heat and it was 20 degrees! However, it 100% must be in your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary.

An important note here is that the Tatio Geysers are at over 14,000 feet of elevation. If you’re prone to altitude sickness or have never traveled to such a high elevation before, I’d recommend checking out the CDC’s guidelines on avoiding altitude sickness.

Recommended Tour: Tatio Geysers Sunrise Tour

Tatio Geysers at sunrise

Machuca

On our El Tatio Geyser tour (by far the easiest way to see the geysers without driving), you next stop will be the ancient town of Machuca. Check out the traditional houses, and if you’re up for it, taste a llama kebab! I may or may not have accidentally eaten one…but in my defense, I thought it was cow!

Machuca village outside of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon)

After your Tatio Geyser tour wraps up, you’ll make it back to downtown San Pedro in the early afternoon in time for a tour to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon.) Unlike the Tatio Geysers in the morning, the Valley of the Moon is super hot in the afternoon, so my best suggestion is to wear layers. It’s absolutely breathtaking scenery though; if you can make it through the heat stroke, you’ll enjoy the incredible views of salt, clay, and mountains.

Valle de la Luna near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Valle de la Muerte

The first day of your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary isn’t over yet though! This Valle de la Luna tour also brings you to the Valle de la Muerte (Valley of Death), which is one of the driest places on the planet.

Picture plopping down your coffee cup and letting it sit there for 100 years…when those 100 years pass, it will still only have a couple inches of water in it (not taking into account evaporation.)

Valle de la Muerte near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Andes Sunset

Last but not least, round out your day with a breathtaking sunset over the Andes. Living in Florida, I’ve been spoiled by sunsets my entire life, but this was something totally different. You have to experience a desert sunset! Now, head on back to your accommodations and rest up, because day 2 in your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary will be another busy day!

sunset over the Andes Mountains near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Day 2 of San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary

Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos

Begin your day at the Flamingo Reserve, a breathtaking area within the Atacama Salt Flats. You’ll have time to explore the area and watch the flamingos; I ended up loving the salt flats themselves. You get such beautiful colors there!

Flamingo Reserve near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Laguna Miniques

Next up, head to the beautiful Miniques Lagoon on the Lagunas Altiplanicas tour. Here and the rest of the lagoons, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a postcard…it seriously does not look real.

Laguna Miniques on a day trip from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Laguna Miscanti

The next altiplanic lake is Miscanti, a larger, even more picturesque version of Miniques. Cue taking approximately 500 photos, I’m not even sorry for it.

Laguna Miscanti on a day trip from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Laguna Tuyajto

Our group was cruising quickly through the day, so as a reward, our guide gave us an extra stop at Laguna Tuyajto, and it was incredible. It was completely empty aside from the 6 of us in our van, and the color of the water was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Our guide encouraged all our goofiness, and did mini photo shoots with each traveling pair…my sister and I obviously killed it.

Laguna Tuyajto on a day trip from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Piedras Rojas

The last stop of your day is the Piedras Rojas. Be forewarned that this area can be incredibly cold and windy, even in the middle of the afternoon. Come prepared with all your clothes, you’ll thank me later. There was one poor guy in the group wearing shorts, and I thought he was about to get frostbite.

Piedras Rojas provides a unique view of salt flats, red clay formations, mountains, and just unbelievable colors. That about wraps up your full 2 days in San Pedro de Atacama itinerary, so head back to your hotel for the night and rest up. Our next stop was 4 days in Santiago for some more fun!

For the tours I listed above, I included options both with and without the Flamingo Reserve. I personally enjoyed visiting the Flamingo Reserve – not only did I love the flamingos, but the endless salt flats were absolutely stunning. However, if you’re looking for a shorter tour on day 2 of your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary, you may opt to cut the Flamingo Reserve.

Piedras Rojas from above on a day trip from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama FAQs

How many days do you need in San Pedro de Atacama?

At an absolute minimum, you need 2 full days in San Pedro de Atacama, not including your arrival or departure days. Though your 2 days in San Pedro de Atacama itinerary will be packed, you’ll be able to get a good feel for the area and experience the geysers, altiplanic lagoons, flamingo reserve, and more.

Is San Pedro de Atacama worth visiting?

Absolutely yes! San Pedro de Atacama and the Atacama Desert remain so high on my list of unique places to visit. Some spots in the Atacama Desert have never received rain, so you really cannot find another place like it in the world. Even if you only have the weekend to explore for your San Pedro de Atacama itinerary, I promise that you will not regret it.

When should I go to Atacama Desert?

High season to visit the Atacama Desert is December through February and is the best time to visit for star-gazing. However, if you’re not visiting for star-gazing or astronomy, I’d recommend looking into shoulder season (March-April or October-November). We opted to go in March, which is fall in the Atacama Desert, and we enjoyed cool temps in the evening, low crowds, and reasonable prices for accomodations.

How to Get to San Pedro de Atacama

 I’d recommend searching through eDreams for cheap flights into Calama (you’ll likely have to connect through Santiago.) They scan tons of different travel discount sites and let you filter by cheapest, best, and shortest. Make sure you check carry-on and checked bag requirements in advance, as some of the smaller domestic carriers have different regulations.

Pro Tip: Book a transfer from Calama Airport to San Pedro de Atacama ahead of time, it’ll save you a ton of time and headache…just trust me on this one.

Where to Stay in San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is a desert town in the middle of nowhere. However, the town definitely offers a wide range of places to stay from boutique hotels to backpacker hostels.

Hotel Kimal is a great option for your stay—they’re a quick walk into the center of town, have very friendly front desk service, and come equipped with a pool, hot tub, and massage center…what more can you ask for?

Hostal Rural is a great option for backpackers or those traveling on a tight budget. The hostel comes complete with hammocks, a bar, and caves!

I was traveling with my sister for this trip, and we ended up opting for a sweet VRBO vacation rental a couple blocks from downtown…it was made from adobe, and definitely gave us a taste of local life. (Use my link for savings on your first stay!)

Read More

Chile: Top 20 Instagrammable Places In Valparaiso
Chile: 4 day itinerary In Santiago, Chile
Bucket List: 30 Dream Travel Destinations Around the World

And there you go, a completely packed, but totally awesome 2 days in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile! Have you been to Chile? Hit me with some of your favorite spots in the comments or your perfect San Pedro de Atacama itinerary!

P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you.  As always, all opinions are my own. 

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23 Comments

  1. Thanks for that! Much needed. I’ll be heading to Chile in July and the desert is definitely on the list. We’ll have 2 weeks altogether (me and the mrs). Any suggestions?
    Love your sense of humour 🙂
    Greetings from the UK

    1. I’d do a few days in the desert based in San Pedro, a couple in Santiago and/or the Casablanca wine region, over to Valparaiso, and if you have time, do Patagonia! I only had a week in Chile so had to miss out on Patagonia this time. Glad you liked it! And enjoy your trip 🙂

  2. I love places like this. I have not been to Chile and would definitely like to go one day, especially as my friend recently sent me postcards from Casablanca and Patagonia. Love your photos. #feetdotravel

  3. The color of the water is so different. And the landscape is such lovely colors and shapes. Looks like you had a wonderful time. I’m sure 2 days isn’t enough, but it’s better than never visiting, right?!

  4. Looks incredible! I spent some time in Chile and loved it and would love to go back and experience more of it. One problem I encountered the last time I was planning my Chilean trip was the elevation. A lot of Chile is quite high, past what I’ve learned that my body can endure. Do you know the elevation of this area?

    1. So the elevation of the town itself isn’t bad— about 8000 feet, but the Tatio Geysers were at 14,000. Not gonna lie, I felt that on the first morning…just took it really slow and made sure not to push myself too much

  5. Hey Melissa!
    Thanks for sharing your experience! Do you recall roughly what your budget was for your time spent in San Pedro de Atacama – food, lodging, entrance fees, tours, etc? Trying to see if this is feasible for an upcoming trip! Thanks!

    1. Hey there! Our Airbnb was about $80/night so $240 total, but there are a ton of cheap hostels to stay too. Our tours were about $180 total and included breakfast and lunch. The amount we spent on food outside of tours was pretty negligible – about $20. Make sure to factor in getting to San Pedro, whether you drive, take a shuttle (this is what we did), etf

        1. I think the 3 of them ended up being about $150-$180 in total for each person. That included the ratio geysers, valley of the moon, and the day to Piedras Rojas, the Altiplanic Lakes, etc.

  6. HI DEAR Melissa ,I LOVE YOUR BLOG & THANK YOU FOR THAT,I LIKE TO VISIT IN APRIL.2019 FOR 21 DAYS WITH MY LOVE ONE MY WIFE ,CAN YOU PLEASE HAVE YOU ANSWER ME to my Q.
    IF I STAY IN THIS PLACE FOR 4 DAYS CAN I VISIT THE PLACES IN YOUR INFO in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: The Highlights-FORM SAME PLACE /HOTEL ? OR I NEED TO MOVE EVERY DAY TO ANOTHER HOTELS THAT I DO NOT WHICH FOR THAT, ?
    THANK YOU AGAIN ,ALL BEST ,
    AMNON IN NYC.

    1. Hey there! Yes, you can visit all of the highlights from the same hotel. The town is pretty small, and tours will typically either pick you up from the hotels or the middle of town.

  7. Melissa -hi again,do i need to take many different of tours to be taken ? OR best to rend car and self drive ?
    will i have to drive long Hr from the village to visit all the place in your info ,
    thank you again.Amnon

  8. Hi.thanks 4 your answer. Do you think I need to rent a car so I can visit the places for more on tim.like sunrise and sunset.or I have to take tours . Thank you again for your help.amnon

    1. The tours will get you there at sunrise, so I wouldn’t worry about that. It just depends how comfortable you are driving in a foreign country (few gas stations, signs, etc.)

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