San Pedro de Atacama is besides Patagonia one of the most famous tourist destinations in Chile. The unique landscapes and the dry climate make it a place high on many peoples bucket list. With Valle de la Luna, salt lagoons and a crystal clear sky for stargazing it has something to offer for everyone. I travelled to San Pedro in December 2022 and I’m here to give you my recommendations! If you want to know how to get to San Pedro and how to get around, head over to this blog post. These are the best photography spots of San Pedro de Atacama.
In This Post
Valle de la Luna
You can’t skip Valle de la Luna, the valley of the moon, when you’re in San Pedro. It’s located right out of town and the rock formations are simply amazing. To see this valley, you can follow the signs and enter the park (during certain hours, ask the staff of your accommodation first) to see everything yourself. Another option is to stop at the side of the road and admire one of the amazing viewpoints. My personal favourite is the one that’s called Mirador Likan-Antay on Google Maps. From here you can walk a bit inside of the valley as well and you’ll surely find a spot for yourself during the sunset!
💵 Entrance fee viewpoint: none
📍 Google Maps Location: click here.
Rainbow Valley / Valle del Arcoiris
Everyone knows about the Rainbow area in Peru, but did you know Northern Chile has its rainbow valley too? It’s about an hour drive from San Pedro and I highly recommend to go in the afternoon, as most of the tours return at 1pm. On the way you’ll likely see lots and lots of lamas in the field, like we did.
After a bit less than an hour you’ll arrive at a dirt road for the last couple of kilometers. The road here is in good condition and you don’t need a 4-wheel-drive to get to the valley itself. Once there, there’s a lady waiting for you where you pay 50 pesos (about €5,50/ $6) to enter. You can drive or walk through the valley yourself and see all the different colours of rock formations.
Make sure you bring a picknick to eat in the shades, as there are no shops or places they sell food. Bring enough water as well!
Entrance fee: 5.000 Pesos per person
Google Maps Location: click here.
Pierdas Rojas / Red Rocks
When I saw a photo of Pierdas Rojas, I knew I wanted to come to San Pedro de Atacama. But, the photo I saw didn’t include a location. After some Google Maps research and reading some brochures, I figured out that it must have been Pierdas Rojas. It’s one of the best locations in San Pedro, but at the same time one of the furthest locations from town. Next to that, it’s at an elevation of 4100m and you’ll surely feel that. The best advice I can give is to save this location for your third/fourth day in San Pedro, so you can get used to the altitude.
Another important thing to note, is that you need to make a reservation to visit Pierdas Rojas. The area is huge, but they still allow a maximum of 100 people at the same hour to the red rocks. You can get your tickets with a time slot at the website of Socaire Chile. After that, you have to register one hour before your visit in the town of Socaire. This is a small town, so it’s hard to miss the office. You won’t have mobile coverage here, so make sure you reserve your tickets before you start your drive there. Once you arrive, you check in and you can drive the final kilometers to the park where you get a small briefing before you can enter.
A lot of people combine this trip with the Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques. I didn’t do this as I knew I would see loads of lagoons on the way to Uyuni and it’s another 10.000 pesos to spend. If you decide to go, you also have to register in Socaire before you can head there. You can book the combination of both sites as well and it will save you some pesos, but it’s mandatory to follow their order of visits and you have to visit the lagoons before the red rocks. Once again, bureaucracy in Chile.
💵 Entrance fee: 10.000 Pesos per person, you have to book your ticket here and arrive one hour before to register in Socaire.
📍 Google Maps Location: click here.
Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache
If you’ve never been to a salt lagoon before, I highly recommend to try it out. Swimming in a natural pool full of salt is just a magical experience. It’s hard to describe and that’s why I recommend to try it yourself! Getting to Baltinache is not that easy though. It takes a 45km dirt road to get there and it’s bumpy! A lot of people got stuck here with flat tires and you’ll see many of them along the route. If you’re going by yourself and you get stuck in the middle, you have to walk to find help or wait until someone’s ready to help you out. I warned you! But, we went anyway and with a car full of good people from our hostel, we managed to drive there and back without any problems. I would only recommend to go there if you consider yourself a decent driver on off road conditions, as you’re likely to lose control of your car every once in a while.
Because it’s so far away, you’re likely to have the place for yourself. When we arrived, a tour group just left and about two other groups of independent people were around who were brave enough to take the ride. There are 7 lagoons and you can swim in two of them. The most beautiful one is the one in front, but the quietest one is in the back. The first one has a picknick zone as well and from my own experience I can say that an empanada never tasted as good as after a swim in the salt flats!
💵 Entrance fee: 10.000 Pesos per person
📍 Google Maps Location: click here.
If you’re not so keen to drive this dirt road, you could consider visiting Cejar Lagoon. This one is way more expensive (30.000 pesos for a swim, that’s $35…) and easier to get to. It’s also more crowded and they say the water is less blue than the Baltinache Lagoons. It is still impressive and if you’re not keen to drive the dirt road, you could go for this option.
The Magic Bus is an abandoned bus, located on the other side of Valle de la Luna. Most of the road is the same way as to the Baltinache lagoons, but after about 8km on the dirt road, you turn to the left for the last 7km to the bus. I visited the Magic Bus during sunset and I wasn’t the only one having this plan. I arrived at the same time as about three touring cars and a couple of tourist cars and you can imagine that they all came for the same. I must say that the surroundings are super cool too, so you don’t have to fix your eyes just on the bus, but in the end it’s what most of the people come for. If you want to have the spot for yourself, you should head there for sunrise. It’s one of the only places where you don’t pay an entrance fee and at this time of the day you’ll surely have it for yourself.
Getting there is quite hard as you need to take the dirt road. The condition is bad, so if you don’t count yourself a good driver it might be better to skip it. If you decide to go, download the app Maps.Me, download the offline map and navigate using this app. Google Maps will give you the wrong directions and you’ll end up at an entrance point of Valle de la Luna that’s permanently closed. Been there, done that. Just download Maps.Me and you’ll be fine!
💵 Entrance fee: None
📍 Google Maps Location: Doesn’t work. Use Maps.Me and search for Magic Bus.
I think you should really see the stars from San Pedro de Atacama, but I’m not so sure if you need a tour for that. I did the tour and it felt like a serious tourist trap. You’ll be transported to an abandoned area where they set up a picknick table with some local snacks. You get to see the stars through two telescopes and they take a picture for you. Besides that, they tell you a lot of stories about the way Inca’s looked at the stars. For me, the only interesting part was to see the stars through a telescope. I hadn’t done that before, but I’m not sure if that was worth about 25.000 pesos. If I would go again, I would surely go and see the stars, but then independently as there are more than enough places without light pollution where you’re able to see one of the best night skies you’ll ever see.
If you have any questions regarding this article, advices of something that’s missing or whatever, please let me know by leaving a comment!