San Pedro de Atacama is a town in Northern Chile.
San Pedro is a very popular destination among Chilean tourists and international visitors alike. Visitors come in large numbers, to use the town as a stepping stone to the amazing landscapes around it. Most attractions are part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve, perhaps Chile’s most varied and amazing national park. Prices in any of the laid back bars and restaurants fare well against Santiago‘s. Still, it’s a fairly expensive location, as it’s one of Chile’s three most popular destinations, along with Torres del Paine and Easter Island.
As many people head for San Pedro to continue their travel into Bolivia doing the popular Salar de Uyuni tour, it is important to note that many sights found around San Pedro have similar equivalents on the Bolivian site. Hence, instead of paying twice, it is worth thinking about skipping some tours offered in San Pedro and saving the money. This is also what many travellers that did both countries agree with and recommend to other. In fact, the sights along the Salar de Uyuni tour are equally or even more beautiful and impressive than what can be found around San Pedro, e.g. 1) Geysers del Tatio: 2 hr from the border you will visit a smaller but much more versatile site with mud pools, loud steams and geysers, and shortly after that a nice warm thermal pool with magnificent views which easily tops the semi-warm thermal pool at the Geysers del Tatio. And you do not have to get up at 5, freeze your bottom off, and get hassled along the way due to the limited time. 2) Lagunas Altiplanicas: Already the first stop after the border at the Laguna Verde (or the Lagunas on the second day) and the Laguna Colorado at the end of the first day top this tour, with much more flamingos and more versatile views, not to mention the value of Salar de Uyuni over Laguna Chaxa. 3) Astronomic tour: This can easily be realised in the middle of nowhere on the Salar de Uyuni tour with no lights whatsoever around. 4) Salar Tata: The diversity of the sights along the Salar de Uyuni tour is immense and also covers this tour.
Nevertheless, the Valle de la Luna is a must when in San Pedro and cannot be skipped for anything along the Salar de Uyuni tour. Likewise, the Laguna Cejar, and a bicycle, hiking or sandboarding tour around San Pedro are not substitutable. Furthermore note that the tours in San Pedro are a good way to acclimatise against altitude sickness. The Salar de Uyuni tour almost touches the 5000 m mark. So, the Piedra Rojas tour for instant might actually be a good thing, because at the Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques you will cross the 4200 m mark.