For the tours that I took while I was in San Pedro de Atacama I booked through a tour company in town called Cactus Tours.
Cactus Tours website
Address: Domingo Atienza 419
Telephone: (56-55) 851534
Although you would find many tour companies in San Pedro, the quality of the tours differs. Not all speak good enough English to explain in detail the geography, history etc. I tried two tour companies and am recommending the better one - Cosmo Andino Expediciones (On Caracoles Street, just across from more famous but somewhat disappointing Desert Adventures). Cosmo is not the cheapest, but I thought the difference was worth it for the quality. Although all tour companies may go to the same place, e.g. Valle de Luna, the geysers, your experience really depends on the itinerary. It could be a boring point A to B bus tour (like my bunk-mate's), or it could be like my Valle de Luna tour. Cosmo got us to walk two long stretches through the desert and canyon on our own (1+1 hours total) and it was a UNFORGETTABLE experience. I also took a El Tatio geyser tour with COSMO and had casually asked if I could borrow a jacket at the time of signing up. The staff, Veronica remembered, even though it was two days later. I really appreciated the jacket because El Tatio was freezing in the morning. Kudos to a wonderful tour company!
Fondest memory: The canyon walk. I don't know the name of the canyon as it was part of the tour I took with COSMO. But it was amazing walking through it and listening to the salt columns in the mountain expand and contract. I sat down and journal-ed because it was simply too magical.
I just came back from San Pedro 2 days ago and am pleased to update the VT community that there is now an mobile ATM-in-a-van that connects via satellite. (It is the first time I've ever seen something like this!) However, it only seems to accept Maestro and Cirrus cards, so be sure your cards have those.
Electricity also runs all day now, although water seems to shut off between midnight to morning. I had to brush my teeth with mineral water coming back late one evening and leaving early for the geysers at 4 am. I am not sure if this is a problem with my hostel (Resicidencial La Florida) or in general for San Pedro.
Favorite thing: Some people identifies san pedro de Atacama with his idea of an explendid desert. I think they're right. But, you can visit many other interesting places in this beautifull and unique desert in the world. San Pedro the hole year is full of tourists. But be prepared, because some times thing's you´ll need could be very expensive or even doesn't exist. I don't know how electricity is working now, i went in 1997 and there was electricity up to 6:00 pm
Favorite thing: I was quite lucky to receive some rain in the driest spot on earth. Before coming to SP I was told something of 53 years without rain and the like. I don?t know if it was the colleague at work who was always terribly exaggerating or some more trustworthy source, but anyhow ? it was getting close to a miracle! We were cut off for 2 days as the one and only connecting road was flooded ? as well as the dirt roads within ?downtown? as you can see here on this pic.
Favorite thing: The Licancabur can be easily recognized. It is simply the most beautiful peak around. I was fascinated by it?s shape and my eyes kept searching the big L over and over again while hiking. For this pic I waited until the last sun rays kissed the peak. I don?t know if there are tours to climb it or if the gods still have it to themselves. Find out yourself if you dare and like?
Favorite thing: For planless people like me, this area is perfect. Whatever direction you take out of „town“, it will hold great nature and fantastic views for you. I took different directions every day, following my naive and boyish instincts: „Let‘s see what‘s behind that hill now“ (I love that feeling!). The day the pic was taken, I did planless hiking in perfection, always climbing, spontanuosly checking where to go next. And this area into direction Valle de la Luna was just made for it. Ooops, now I already told you where to go, sorry…
Favorite thing: Leaving the village into direction Valle de la luna you will come to a little river, which offers you perfect places for reading. I enjoyed listening to the quiet muttering of the riocito, overlooking the desert, having the cleanest air and no other sounds than just the little brook and the pages of my book. Actually it was not a book but I was writing into my big Chile diary. But I'm not going to tell you the secrets that I put in it that day....
Favorite thing: Maybe you are as lucky as I was in June to see some rain and then all the minerals coming out of the Atacamas rich ground colouring the desert. Also it was great to see the snow line coming down so close to the village as you can see on the picture. Better you bring a good jacket, though, as this desert in this time can also be quite chilly during the day (San Pedro is at 2200 m above sea level)
When going to San Pedro, be sure to bring enough US dollars or Chilean pesos for your stay in town.
I was told by someone in our travels that there was an ATM in San Pedro, but if so, I never saw it.
An acquaintance had to bus it into Calama to find a bank where she could get some cash.
Take one of the many tours, to the geisas, to moon valley, to Rio Grande, to the Salt Lakes. You should plan to spend about 4-5 days in San Pedro.
Fondest memory: The total relaxation and great food.