Where is the
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.
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.
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.