I absolutely LOVED San Pedro. It’s a small town in the north of Chile, not far from the Bolivian and Argentinian borders. It’s your gateway to the Atacama desert and the Bolivian Altiplano and you could happily while away a week or two here, soaking up the towns abundant charm and exploring the local dramatic scenery by hiking, 4WD, cycling or even horseback!
A few facts:
Town population: 5000
Altitude: 2100 metres
Language spoken: Spanish
Currency : Argentinian peso (£4.30 = 100 peso)
Visa requirements: None for most countries. Australians need to pay a reciprocity fee of $117 if entering via Santiago airport. Chinese have to get a visa which is free.
Where to eat
San Pedro is not cheap so if you are on a budget you will need to look around and find the best deals – they are there to find. You will, however, find an abundance of great restaurants covering cuisines from all over the world. You certainly won’t go hungry in San Pedro. If you have space afterwards, I recommend stopping at one of the numerous ice cream shops! Here are a few of my favourite restaurants:
The Burger Garden
– Best for hanging out with locals
Basically, just a no-frills burger bar found on a side street in a little courtyard lit up with fairy lights. There are a few long tables to sit around and a great sociable atmosphere. Frequented by lots of locals it’s a great place to get to know some of the people who know San Pedro best! The burgers are also delicious and a decent price – around 6000 pesos (£7-8.)
- Best for fine dining
Not the cheapest of places but the food is delicious, the staff helpful and friendly and the atmosphere is great. The food is also well presented – the chicken curry came inside a coconut! Dinner will set you back about 12-14000 pesos. I’d recommend the Carne pasta – like a lasagne but with shredded beef instead of Bolognaise. The chicken in a mustard cream sauce was also a hit.
- Best for people watching
Found in the main square and with tables outside to sit and people watch and soak up the sunshine, this was a great find. The food was delicious, portion sizes VERY generous and they also make amazing cakes – I recommend the chocolate cake! The fruit juices are also huge and absolutely delicious – I had strawberry and banana and it was so good! We ate quesadillas with some yummy homemade guacamole which cost about 5000 pesos. They will also do takeaway if you wish.
- Best for takeaway
Here you can get absolutely huge and really tasty empanadas to take away. This will keep you full for most of the day and only costs 3800 pesos!
Where to Stay
There is a huge choice of hostels, campsites and hotels in San Pedro as it’s such a popular place to visit. I usually use booking.com as it allows you to search based on requirements e.g below a certain price or only with a swimming pool or wifi. You will also find a booking.com search bar on this website for your convenience. Scroll down, it’s on the right!
The place I stayed at I can highly recommend. Camp Campestre is primarily a campsite but there are also some dormitory rooms if you prefer a bed! There’s a kitchen to cook in, a nice area to hang out in outside including a hammock and chair swing and they are in the process of building a swimming pool. More importantly, the showers are hot, the toilets are clean and there is wifi (sometimes.) It’s a 2-minute stroll into town but it can get dark at night so take a torch with you when you go out for dinner!
What to do
- People watch in the main square. There are several cafes dotted about the square where you can enjoy a coffee and some people watching.
- Do some shopping.You will find everything from souvenir markets selling all things alpaca to high-end jewellery in boutique shops.
- Enjoy the nightlife – San Pedro is bustling at night, especially for such a small town! But you will find everything from traditional Chilean pubs selling nowt but beer to swanky bars for Pisco Sours.
- Arrange a day trip to Moon Valley in the Atacama desert. Marvel at the rock formations (see if you can spot the witch and the dinosaur.) Climb to the top of a sand dune for amazing 360-degree views of huge rock formations and salt planes which looks like a snowy winter wonderland! Then find a rocky cliff to sit on to watch the sun go down. Don’t forget a jumper – it’s super hot in the day but the temperature drops quickly in the desert!
- Organise a 4WD trip across the border to the Bolivean altiplano. Here you will find incredible views of snow capped mountains, colourful lakes, spouting geysers and bubbling pools of sulphur. You can even stop for a soak at some natural hot springs overlooking a beautiful lagoon. Keep your eyes peeled for flamingoes, llamas and vicuna! The short journey back over the border is also pretty spectacular!
- Organise a star watching trip but be warned, they don’t run for about a week around the full moon (sadly when I was there!) But apparently it’s one of the best places in the world to star gaze. And even with a full moon, they looked pretty incredible from San Pedro.
- There are countless other places to visit with lagoons, rock formations, geysers and hot springs. You can arrange to cycle, hike or horseback ride to see the sights. Sadly it was a flying visit for me but I did meet a guy, Pablo, at the Burger Garden (see above) who runs a tourism business where he arranges private tours of the surrounding area tailored to your interests eg hiking, photography etc. You can visit his website at www.atacamacontact.com.
San Pedro is definitely a place I’d like to go back to see more of! Have you been before? Maybe you got the chance to stargaze? I’d love to hear about your experiences!