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Where is the
Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is located in the northern region of Chile, one of the most arid places on our planet. For those planning to visit the region’s main postcards, the base of the trip should be the small town of San Pedro de Atacama. The old town, which still bears the characteristics and marks of its history, has a unique charm and the dirt roads are a highlight of the trip.

With scenery drawn between mountain ranges and volcanoes, San Pedro de Atacama is the destination where travelers from all over the world meet. The main structure of the town, including hotels, restaurants and agencies, is spread around Calle Caracoles, San Pedro’s main street.

Go straight to the point of interest:

Mapa Deserto do Atacama
Calama Airport
San Pedro de Atacama

How to get to the Atacama Desert by plane

Despite being the main base for your trip, San Pedro de Atacama does not have an airport that covers domestic or international flights. For those wishing to reach the destination by air, the nearest airport is in the city of Calama.

In the north of Chile, there is also an airport called Desierto del Atacama, which can confuse travelers when it comes to planning a trip and buying a plane ticket. Be aware of this and make sure you arrive at El Loa International Airport (CJC) in Calama.

From Santiago, Chile’s capital, you can fly to Calama with three airlines: LATAM, Sky Airline and JetSmart, the latter two being low-cost options.

For those planning a trip from Brazil, there are currently no direct flights to Calama. The most common way to make the trip is with a stopover in the city of Santiago, which can also be a great way to complete your travel itinerary in Chile.

When you buy your ticket with LATAM, you can opt for the final destination, Calama, and have a ticket with a stopover in Santiago. This option, despite being the most practical, is usually a little more expensive. For those who prefer to try to save on airfare, an alternative is to buy the Brazil – Santiago leg separately from the Santiago – Calama leg.

Buy your ticket to Calama here

Be aware when you arrive in Santiago

Regardless of how you choose to purchase your ticket, when you arrive in Santiago – coming from a flight originating in Brazil – it is important that you collect your luggage from the conveyor belt and check it in again at the airline’s counter – in Santiago it is necessary to do this procedure.

Because of the luggage issue and also the immigration process when you arrive in Chile, try to organize your trip so that the stopover in Santiago is at least 3 hours.

Transfer from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama

When you land at Calama airport, you will need to hire a transfer to get to the town of San Pedro de Atacama. There are several companies offering this transportation service at the airport, as most passengers will need it.

The distance between Calama and San Pedro de Atacama is 101 km and the journey to the town takes about an hour. To save money, you can hire transportation for both your outward and return journeys. The prices are basically fixed and, for this reason, it’s not worth leaving it until San Pedro to book the return trip.

When you hire a transfer, you will be dropped off at your hotel door. So consider that, in addition to the 1-hour journey, you have the time it takes for each passenger to disembark.

Have your hotel reservation ready

It’s very important that you arrive at your destination with a hotel booked. This will not only help with transportation to the town, but also with immigration into Chile. The inspectors usually ask you for your accommodation details at the airport in Santiago, so make sure you have your reservation to hand.

We recommend the for secure bookings at great prices. Remember that every time you book your stay through our links, you contribute to our work.

Book your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama

How to get to Atacama by land

Traveling by car or motorcycle

For those who want to travel to Atacama by land, it’s about 1,627 km from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama along Route 5. As it’s a long journey, on the way it’s worth considering a visit to destinations such as Coquimbo, La Serena and the Elqui Valley.

The roads are good and well signposted, which makes the experience of traveling by car or motorcycle very positive. It’s important to note that police surveillance in Chile is very intense and strict! That’s why having all your documents with you and following the speed limits will guarantee not only a safe trip, but also a trouble-free experience along the way.

Traveling by bus

Traveling by bus from Santiago is a more economical option for travelers. Despite this positive point, it is important to note that this is also the longest option: it takes approximately 22 hours to get to Calama and another 1 hour to San Pedro.

If you have time to make the trip, it’s worth considering breaking up the itinerary by visiting destinations along the way. In general, it’s a safe option and there are very comfortable buses.

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