San Pedro de Atacama Street, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama Street, Chile

Ever since I was a child I’ve been enchanted by Chile. Maybe it was a past life, who knows, but I have always longed to visit the Atacama desert in Northern Chile.

Driving into Chile the the stark contrasts with Bolivia are immediate. The first thing I noticed was sealed roads. Then there were the public toilets – clean, toilet paper, seat… free. There’s more than BBQ chicken with chips on the menu. You require some sort of service, you pay for it and you get it.

Sheer-functional-brilliance.

Now don’t take that poorly toward Bolivia, Bolivia is an incredible country that I would return to over and over, but I was… weary… dirty, hungry and weary from travel…. and Chile was just what I needed.

San Pedro de Atacama is a gorgeous little town in the Atacama desert in the north of Chile, about an hour from the border with Bolivia. The heat is dry, the streets slightly dusty, the people vibrant and relaxed. There are many arty shops selling hammocks, blankets, wristbands, and funky jewellery.

San Pedro de Atacama is an extraordinary place, it has a certain… Vibe about it… a feel that you could settle right into, a vibe that you could ride until your little heart is full of peace and happiness. I latched onto San Pedro de Atacama immediately.

Chile had me weak at the knees straight away.

Valle-de-la-luna-chile

Kim at Valle de La Luna, Chile

We arrived, scoured the streets for a hostel, and went straight out for food. Considering I hadn’t eaten properly in two days, I spent most of our first day in Chile… eating. It was the first time I had fresh salad the whole trip, and I was making the most of it. We spent the day trying to get clean again and chilling out in town. We randomly bumped into an Irish couple we happened to meet everywhere, and kicked back in the hammocks at the hostel. My first hostels in Chile and it had a kitchen, so we made our first dinner since Lima.

atacama-tour-truck-chile

Grado 10 tours truck, Atacama

Day 2 was filled with a whole lot more relaxing and checking out town. That evening we went on a tour of Valle de La Muerte (Death valley) and Valle de La Luna (Moon Valley) with a company called Grado 10, which has a big yellow truck. Valle de la Muerte was apparently given the name by accident when an explorer meant to call it Valle de la Marte (Mars Valley, which would have been an apt name) but got the pronunciation wrong. So the link with death never really was. The Valley is a gorgeous deep red colour and we spent the evening running down the sand dunes, and face planting into the sand. Then we went on to see Las Tres Marias, where we all got out and sat on the roof of the truck to take some awesome pics.

Atacama Desert, Chile

Atacama Desert, Chile

Last stop was Valle de la Luna for sunset. It was amazing. We went to an area where there was no one else and watched the sunset on top of a mountain. Then just as we were about to leave a full moon came out, it was beautiful, and apparently the first time the tour company had seen it. So we were really lucky.

The following day I was dragged away from San Pedro de Atacama, far too early for my liking.  We boarded a cosy, bright green TurBus heading south to a small town called Caldera, en route to Valparaiso. I’m in love with Chile already…

Valle de la Luna, Chile

Valle de la Luna, Chile

Kimberley Casey

Founder of Time as a Traveller, where Independent Travellers share their extraordinary experiences. Kim is an Independent Traveller since 1997. Writer. Photographer. Lover of Freedom. Specialist in off the beaten track, adventure, long-term budget travel and everything Latin America. Good at roughing it, long haul trips, and sleeping on all modes of transport. Read her story at https://timeasatraveller.com/founder-kim-casey/

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