walking or in bicycle
The best way to know this beautiful little town is walking because this way you can see and check everything that you want, the other way to do it is in in bicycle, you can rent one in some stores around and is not expensive,
1.5 dollar an hour and 9 dollars a day.
Anyway are the only ways to be around because there are not public buses or taxis.
- Hiking and Walking
Lan Chile and SKY Airline serve Calama at least 3 times a day from Santiago and other destinations in the north.
Flights are either via Antofagasta (2:35 hours), or direct (2:05 hours), and the lowest fare is US$ 190 for a round-trip ticket on LAN.
Avant is cheaper, and service and aircraft (both use B-737’s, and A-320/319 Airbuses) are as good as in LAN.
There are no commercial flights to San Pedro, but if you're really hurried, you may hire a 4 or 6-seater single engine aircraft and fly into the local airstrip (5 km. from town) for about US$ 200, or an helicopter for US$ 700 (this latter requires prior arrangement).
- National/State Park
It's a long way to San Pedro,it's a long way to go
Bus: From Santiago, the only direct buses are TUR BUS, which take about 24 hours to cover the 1667 overland kilometres (1035 miles); buses are either sleepers or semi-sleepers (both excellent and punctual) with onboard service (meals included, refreshments extra). Fares are around US$ 30 (double that in high season).
Other bus lines, such as Pullman Bus, Flota Barrios, Libac, reach to Calama only (21-24 hours), from where you should take another bus to San Pedro (US$ 2). Fares are between US$ 23 and US$ 42 (double that in high season), and may include, or not, onboard meals and other services. All of the buses have toilets, air-con, video and have fully (or almost) stretching seats. Those that don’t include meals, make enroute stops to have them.
For the 1 ½ hour Calama-San Pedro trip, there is Frontera del Norte, Atacama 2000 and Tur Bus services, at US$ 2 (try to arrive in Calama around 11 AM, so you can take the 1230 AM bus).
The cheapest service from Santiago is Flota Barrios (it arrives to its own terminal, 3 blocks from the Atacama 2000 terminal)
- Road Trip
You will get easily to San Pedro by bus from Calama. Buses from Santiago will go to Calama, but no problems at all to catch buses from Antofagasta, Iquique or Arica, too. You will probably have to change to a different bus station in Calama. Better you ask for the way and walk as I saw two Japanese, that came in the same bus and took a taxi to the other bus station, arriving after almost 1 hours, even though it was only a 10 mins. walk....
- Budget Travel
By bus in Chile to and from San Pedro de Atacama
If you are looking for a cheaper way to get to San Pedro de Atacama than plane then bus is the other option. Distances are far but it is possible to take overnight buses.
The most common route to take is between Calama (where the closest airport is) and San Pedro de Atacama which is 1 1/2 hours.
I took a bus from San Pedro de Atacama to La Serena on Tur Bus which I booked the same day I travelled at the office in town and cost 23,000 pesos. We had to take one bus to Calama and wait an hour for another bus which was a semi cama bus leaving at 10pm. We were woken at about 2am by people checking everyone´s ID in Antofagasta. The bus also made stops in Copiapo and Vallenar before arriving in La Serena for lunch the following day.
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Calama Airport to San Pedro
There is only one company that provides an airport transfer from Calama to San Pedro and their kiosk is in the Calama airport. There is no schedule; the bus just leaves after a flight comes in. It costs 7000 pesos one way, and you must keep the ticket to call them to pick you up. They will pick you up at any time, but if they already have a request for a pick-up within an hour or so of your request, you will have to adjust to that. It's not really a problem since everyone taking the transfer to Calama is usually on the same flight. If you're traveling outside of regular hours, the cost is 10,000 pesos instead.
The cheaper alternative is to take a taxi to Calama city and then a TurBus to San Pedro. One way on TurBus is 1400 pesos, and schedules are available on their website.
All prices as of September 2007.
- Budget Travel
Airport van from San Pedro to Calama airport
It is not difficult to get an direct airport van from the Calama airport to San Pedro (just ask at the airport counter), but you should remember to retain the receipt so that you can call for an airport van back to the airport for your departure. (I almost didn't get one.)
It appears that only the tour agency "Desert Adventure" in San Pedro offers an airport van service, but they don't run every day. I arrived in San Pedro from Calama airport via an independent (?) airport transfer service called "Transfer Licancabur" that, as I later found out, has no physical location in San Pedro. If not for my receipt, I would not have been able to call them. The alternative would have been taking a Tur-bus to Calama downtown then catching a taxi to the airport, which would be much more of a hassle.
Cost = 6000 pesos (~ US$12) each way
Time taken = 1.25 hours
San Pedro lies very far away from Santiago - a bus trip would take a minimum of 20 hours. So the best way to get there from Santiago is by air to Calama and then take a bus or shuttle bus to San Pedro itself. The flight is around 2 hours long and LAN and Sky both offer flights.
Quite a few buses operate from San Pedro or Calama to and from many other different places eg Iquique, Antofagasta, Serena and Arica in Chile. There are also buses to and from Salta and Jujuy in Northern Argentina. If you want to get to Bolivia, the best way is to take the Salar de Uyuni tour, have them frop you off in Uyuni and then get a bus from Uyuni to continue the journey.
Car rental is to be done in Calama, as there are no car rental agencies in San Pedro. Car rental can be quite expensive, so the other option for seeing the sights around San Pedro are organized tours. Some places can also be reached by bike like for example Valle de la Luna, valle de la Muerte and Toconao. You can also visit the immediate surroundings of San Pedro on horseback. The town itself is tiny, so to reach any places in town you go on foot or by bike.
San Pedro de Atacama - Calama
Para ir a Calama tomamos el autobús que tarda casi una hora y cuesta menos de 3$ Compañía : Tour Bus
To go to Calama we took the bus that takes nearly one hour and cost less than 3$
Company : Tour Bus
Very good .
Jeep and Bus from Bolivia
I arrived in San Pedro de Atacama from Bolivia where I took a 4 day jeep tour that departed in Uyunii. Included in the tour was our bus tickets which were from the Bolivia/Chile border to San Pedro de Atacama with a company called Colque Tours. From the Bolivian side it took an hour to get to the Chilean border control point where we had to take our packs off the bus and have them inspected by the SAG border control people who were mostly looking for biological contraband.
- Road Trip
- Women's Travel
Busses to Salta
The Paso de Jama is a complete stretch of Asphalt, I may even say the Argentinan side is in a better condition than the Chilean Roads.
3x a week busses leave to and from Salta. Both Pullmann and Geminis offer an equally good service. From Salta busses leave on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, one day later the busses do the stretch from San Pedro de Atacama back to Salta. The same bus also stops at Jujuy in Argentina and continues in Chile to Calama and Antofagasta.
The ride is stunningly beautifull as you cross the Andes over a pass over more than 4100meters. Make sure your batteries are loaded and get yourself a windowseat!
Getting there and around
The best way to get there is by being dropped off after seeing the Salar de Uyuni and nearby Lagunas. It's such a worthwhile trip (see my Uyuni, Bolivia page for the info).
If coming from Chile, the easiest way to get to San Pedro de Atacama is via Calama, a large town/city in Northern Chile. From Calama you can get buses to Arica in the north or as far as Santiago and beyond in the south. Some Argentina bound buses leave from both Calama and San Pedro de Atacama.
Toconao and Valle de Jerez
As the tours are hugely overpriced, take a break, take a local bus to TOCONAO, and stroll down into the beautiful oasis of the valle the jerez.
it is lovely lush and an altogether enchanting place,
take some sanwiches, and plenty of water, and dont forget the sunblock... you can easily spend all day there.
The bus leaves SP early, and around noon, and to get back be in the Toconao square at 16ººh. (Dont rely on that, it might of course all change, ask the locals!)
Geminis Bus To Salta Argentina
Having heard that it was sometimes difficult to get bus tickets in San Pedro to Salta, we bought ours in Arica. In January/February especially, I would expect pre-purchased tickets to be a necessity. Each ticket for this 12 hour trip cost 15000P/$25US. There is a Geminis office in San Pedro just off Plaza de Armas on Toconao.
Considering the high cost and the long distance to be traveled, I was hoping for something better than an older 44 passenger pullman. There was no TV as is pretty common on most buses. Leg room was also not up to par. We did get a decent box lunch and soda and the bus stopped at a restaurant for a sandwich and coffee somewhere in Argentina. One of our two drivers was quite rude and abrupt with his passengers. Very unusual compared to other drivers we had on many other buses.
We left San Pedro 1/2 hour late and stopped almost immediately to clear Chilean customs. The road was paved all the way to the Argentine border, when it immediately turned to dirt. We saw some interesting landscapes, as well as guanacos.
The Argentina leg of the trip was long and bumpy. Three to four hours of washboard dirt road gets old quickly. However, passing small Indian farms with their assorted animals including llamas, was good. We traveled through some very interesting canyons. The road did not reach altitudes that were uncomfortable.
As we dropped down out of the highlands, the bus got uncomfortably hot. The driver only turned on the air conditioning when asked. He turned it off shortly thereafter and we were back to sweating. As the trip wore on (and on), it was apparent these drivers were not concerned about passenger comfort. Given a choice, I would not go with Geminis again. Unfortunately, there are few choices for this particular journey.
That said, I am glad that we took this trip. There was a lot to see and it was worth a bit of discomfort.
Bus to Salta
We took the pullman bus option from San Pedro, its semi cama and cost 2000 more than the Gemini. Both buses leave from a patch of ground behind the museum, oposite corner from plaza. Be prepared to wait at both border posts. Chillian is the one you enter the salar from, argentina at tha bottom of the hill after entering Argentina. You will know when you hit Argentina as the lovely tarmac surface finishes abd you are back to dirt roads..... Bus takes something between 12and 14 hours without breakdowns, which happened to the Gemini. Arrived in salta at 1:30 am, journey was fine and as with all bus jorneys a sweater/fleece a good idea
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