Introduction

It is said that the high quantities of quartz and copper in the region gives its people positive energy, and the good vibes of northern Chile's number-one tourist draw, San Pedro de Atacama, are sky high.

The popularity of this adobe precordillera oasis stems from its position in the heart of some of northern Chile's most spectacular scenery. A short drive away lies the country's largest salt flat, its edges crinkled by volcanoes (symmetrical Licancábur, at 5916m, looms closest to the village). Here too are fields of steaming geysers, a host of otherworldly rock formations and weird layer-cake landscapes.

San Pedro itself, 106km southeast of Calama via paved Chile 23, is quite small, but it attracts hordes of travelers. Despite the high prices and tourist-agency touts, there's undeniable allure to this desert village with its picturesque adobe streets, laid-back residents and music-filled eateries.