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    South by South America Tour – Chile Part 22

    Wednesday, September 11, 2019
    San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

    The Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    The Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    I spent all day in the Hostel Sonchek just resting from my long bus ride from Santiago yesterday and catching up on my Photoshopping and blogging duties. The wi-fi was really slow, so it took forever. I went on a stroll around San Pedro de Atacama during the golden hour to stretch my legs a bit and shoot a few photos. Every inch of every street in this tiny town is chock-full of tour operators, bicycles rental shops, souvenir shops, convenience shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. Really over-the-top touristy towns like this can be a turn off in a lot of ways.

    The pulpit in the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    The pulpit in the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    At least most of the signage on the shops in town was designed by a talented graphic artist, for once instead of the usual eyesores everywhere you look. It looks like maybe one or two designers did all of them, as there is a consistent look throughout town. Before this trip, I had never heard of San Pedro de Atacama or the Atacama desert in general, but I’ve since learned that it has been quite the tourist quagmire for 30 years now. I wonder how it stayed off my radar for so long? Since so many people come here from all over the world—not only thrifty backpackers but also wealthy snobs—prices for everything are considerably higher.

    A casket in the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    A casket in the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    “San Pedro de Atacama is a Chilean town and commune in El Loa Province, Antofagasta region. It is located east of Antofagasta, some 60 miles southeast of Calama and the Chuquicamata copper mine, overlooking the Licancabur volcano. It features a significant archeological museum, the R. P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum, with a large collection of relics and artifacts from the region. Native ruins nearby now attract increasing numbers of tourists interested in learning about pre-Columbian cultures.

    The rustic ceiling in the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    The rustic ceiling in the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    A picturesque gate at the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    A picturesque gate at the Iglesia San Pedro in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    “San Pedro de Atacama grew, over centuries, around an oasis in the Puna de Atacama, an arid high plateau. Its first inhabitants were the Atacameños, who developed basketworks and ceramic pottery crafts that can be now be appreciated by tourists in the several souvenir shops. The town was part of Bolivia since independence until Chile claimed ownership during the War of the Pacific, and lies at an average of 8,000 feet, thus visitors often experience mild altitude sickness such as dizziness, lethargy and headaches.

    Doors galore in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    Doors galore in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    “The local climate is extremely dry and mild, with daytime temperatures between 77–86°F in the summer (December to February) and 64–77°F in the winter (June to August). Nighttime temperatures routinely drop below 32°F and can reach as low 14°F in the winter. San Pedro de Atacama is a popular tourist destination. There are various activities for adventurers in the area, including archaeological sightings, amateur astronomy, rock climbing, trekking, exploration tours in natural landscapes and even sandboarding in the desert. Because of its altitude, a brief period of acclimatization may be required.”—Wikipedia

    Pedestrians and shops in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
    Pedestrians and shops in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

    Words and photos ©2019 Arcane Candy.

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