San Pedro de Atacama- overtouristed? worth it ? OR Iruya
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Nov 26, 2012 3:46 PM Last Post By: lmlinzer
Nov 22, 2012 10:20 PM
I know its touristy but is it worth it ???
Lonely planet book lists things that appeal to me such as Toconao oasis 38 kilometers away, the puritama hot springs, sandboarding for a hoot and sunset on the dunes.
However I am concerned that it is now unreal and tourist hardened and I would be better to take the bus to Permamarca and go up the quebrada to Iruya, Argentina for a more genuine experience even if it doesnt have so much going on. I dont have time to do both.
Any thoughts to help with my decison???? much appreciated, Julie
Nov 22, 2012 10:35 PM
1Well yes, San Pedro is touristy, but we enjoyed the Valle de la Luna for the experience of being in the desert. We hired bikes and cycled there on our own. The tours go there for the sunset, so if you go during the day you have the place pretty much to yourself.
Not sure what Iruya is like, but I found Pernamarca quite touristy as well, at least during the day when the bus trips pile in.
Nov 23, 2012 3:54 AM
2Personally I think the scenery you get on the tours from Uyuni is more impressive than what the San Pedro area has to offer. I'd be tempted to go across to the Argentina side simply because the scenery is very different and still spectacular. You could easily spend a week exploring the Quebrada de Humahuaca area, some bits are quite touristy (esp Purmamarca as #1 says) but generally not to the same degree as San Pedro. Main thing with San Pedro is lots of tours all doing pretty much exactly the same itineraries at the same time (you cant really explore the area with public transport); if you have your own transport or do some of the less popular tours you'll appreciate the scenery more. Out of season its considerably less crowded.
You might well end up in San Pedro for a day or 2 anyway as the buses across to Argentina fill up quickly and don't go every day, and a lazy day to relax after the Uyuni tour wouldnt be a bad idea. Renting a bike is a good way to explore the immediate area at your own pace, you can do some hikes to the nearby Cordillera del Sal and there are various outdoor activities (sandboarding is one) that are not available on the Bolivia side. Trips you can do that dont really have an equivalent in Bolivia go to some salt lakes in the middle of the Salar de Atacama you can swim in and observatory visits. Apart from a quaint church tower there's not much to see in Tocanao, its fine as a quick stop as part of a longer tour but not really a destination in itself.
Nov 24, 2012 10:15 AM
3Iruya is nice and I hiked to the village of San Ysidro and back in a day. There are other possibilities. Guess what? There will be other tourists doing the same thing, and there are souvenirs for sale. I don't think this makes it more or less "genuine". However, it is unlikely to be very crowded.
Nov 24, 2012 11:23 PM
4I loved SP but then I didn't go to the Bolivian side. People who have been to the Boliviam side tend to find SP very expensive in comparison. As for the "gringo" cafe scene, there is a bit of a cafe scene but it's not 100% gringo as you will find a lot of local travellers plus other South American nationalities such as Argentinians and Brazilians. .
Nov 26, 2012 3:46 PM
You can definitely get off the beaten path in Atacama. Have you considered camping? That way you can arrive at some of the most touristic areas ahead of the flood of tourists and explore areas that many tourists don't venture to. We put together a camping trip out in the desert that is all about getting off the beaten path and trekking through the open Atacama desert. You should take a look at the itinerary to get some ideas. It's called Atacama Under the Stars and offered by OneSeed Expeditions.
Happy travels to you!
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