Alright, I’ll be upfront with you…2 days in San Pedro de Atacama 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. So without further ado, here’s how to make the most of 2 days in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
On day one, your first stop will be the Tatio Geysers. 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!
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!
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 Muerte
The day isn’t over yet though! The 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.)
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 will be another busy day!
Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos (The Flamingos National Reserve)
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!
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.
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.
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.
The last stop of your very busy day 2 are 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, so head back to your hotel for the night and rest up. Our next stop was 4 days in Santiago for some more fun!
How to get to San Pedro: I’d recommend checking out Momondo 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 book a transfer from Calama 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: San Pedro de Atacama is a desert town in the middle of nowhere, but the town definitely offers a range of places to stay from boutique hotels to backpacker hostels and everything in between. 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? For the backpacker option, look no further than Hostal Rural, complete with hammocks, a bar, and caves! I was traveling with my sister for this trip, and we ended up opting for a sweet Airbnb 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!)
Additional Chile Resources: For more awesome resources on Chile, make sure to check out the top 20 Instagrammable places around Valparaiso (hint: it’s basically everywhere with all their amazing murals!) If you’re curious about Santiago and what to do there, I conveniently wrote a 4 day itinerary through Santiago post, so give it some love too!
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!
P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own.