San Pedro had not been one of our intended destinations, but recommendations from fellow travellers and the heated political situation in Bolivia, made the decision to end our Salt Flats tour in northern Chile and not back in Uyuni easier.
As this was not an intended stop, our research on San Pedro was non existent. We just booked a hostel with little research (to our error) and set off. It's only 45minutes from the end of the Bolivian Salt Flats tour but an over thorough check at the border crossing easily doubles the time spent on a crowded coach - plus Stu trying to smuggle a lemon picked from the Amazon across the border did not help! Another 45 minutes and extra form later, we were across and into Chile for the 2nd time this trip!
San Pedro is situated in northern Chile, in the Atacama desert (hence the 'De Atacama' in it's name), the driest desert in the World. Supposedly some areas have not seen rain for hundreds of years!! San Pedro is actually situated on a stretch of land owned by Bolivia but it was claimed by Chile during War of the Pacific removing Bolivia's only claim to the Ocean. Our hostel was situated out of the town (one of the lessons we learned from our lack of research) and was a strange setup. Named the 'Chillout Backpackers Hostel' it felt like bachelor pad with a live in owner. Nice enough sitting areas, were mixed with the constant sound of FIFA 20 playing.
Now, I do like Fifa, but it was not the idea I'd conjured of 'seeing the world ', especially not right outside our dorm room! Luckily our mantra of only booking 2 nights 'to test the water' came in useful and Sarah came to the rescue, finding a hostel that comparatively felt like an oasis, double room and a pool for the same price (Hostal Iquisa). Now, onto San Pedro. The centre itself, has a great vibe - very chilled, almost strange beachside, surfer feel. Great restaurants for a very good value (for Chile) and a market feel along the streets which lead through to a lively square, which is similar to the ones you'd expect to find in a small Mediterranean town, live music, restaurants and tourists.
San Pedro had been described by many tourists we met as their favourite place. We did like it and it was haven after the Salt Flats, Salkantay and Amazon tours which left us knackered. I don't think we could describe as our favourite place, but can't deny it had a charm we enjoyed and very much needed!
As far as experiences are concerned our first was the visit to the 'Moon Valley' and was quite different to the one in La Paz. The scenery here was a fantastic (if you can get away from all the other organised tours at this time) and finishes at the viewpoint for a gorgeous sunset over the desert (warning though, this is abit of a tourist scrum but the view is breathtaking, so worth it!). We booked it and cost 36,000 CLP$ (£36). Booked it through Star Travel, it was ok but I wouldn't necessarily recommend them. The tour seemed abit awkward and unplanned.
Our second was surprise really. It started out with a quiet Saturday night drink, to talk over our past few weeks and unwind. It ended in a party with locals in the Atacama desert with locals, a fire pit, a sound system, car headlights and copious amounts of beer. It was a truly memorable (and not so) experience :). The bit in between the start and the end involved meeting 3 Dutch travellers who had heard this party existed. And sure enough, after wondering the streets, we found fellow travellers moving in the same direction. I think this only happens on a weekend but it is definitely worth asking a local or your hostel! Apologies but I couldn't remember where we found it - I blame hops. We had planned a stragazing tour for the next day but the sky was a cloudy as Stu's head the next day, which pay to that! There is plenty more to do such as geysers, lagoons, rainbow mountains, flamingos and salt flats but we had already been spoilt by these sights, so we decided to take a budget check and start making our way across to Argentina in our final 2 weeks in South America! As usual, we booked our bus through busbud.com and made our way for the 7hour journey! Cost us 35,000 CLP$ each.
We enjoyed our chillout in San Pedro (but not the so named Hostel). A good reset before the last few weeks of our South American tour.
5 days total in San Pedro = £315
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