Atacama is the driest desert in the whole world. And believe me, this is true. We spent four nights over there, including New Year's Eve; climbed a volcano, and had a great time meeting people from everywhere, but I must confess it was full of Brazilians.
San Pedro de Atacama is about an hour away by car from Calama. If you get there by plane like what we did, that’s your only chance mate. Not expensive and it’s OK. But to get there, I mean Calama, you have many options and remember: it’s far. Sixteen hundred km from Santiago. Far. By plane its just 2 hours.
San Pedro is a very small and charming city. No more than 3,000 people live there. The center is just 2 streets, Le Paige and Caracoles, a small church, a square, and a local history museum. But these streets are full of good restaurants, many tourist agencies, and many many hotels, hostels, souvenir stores and whatever makes a tourist spend some money. But still great and lovely.
Around San Pedro there are some tours you can’t miss by any chance and they are:
Luna and Muerte vallies, Lagunas Altiplanicas, Laguna Cejar, Ojos del Salar, Laguna de Tebinquinche (amazing view and contrasts), Termas de Puritama, Tatio Geysers, and many others.
Believe me, they are amazing. You can spend a month there, you will see almost the same view, but you won’t get bored.