Renting a Car in San Pedro de Atacama

Road heading toward Tatio Geyser

On our third day in San Pedro, we picked up our rental car and went to Tatio Geyser along with Chuck and Erika (two students from Seattle who had been studying abroad in Chile and were traveling before heading back to the U.S.) We left San Pedro around 10am and took our time admiring the scenery and wildlife on the way to the Geyser Tatio.
Free geyser outside of the park
“White Volcano” outside of the geyser park
What we didn’t realize until our arrival, is that the park is only open until 9am or so and we arrived close to 12pm. The good news is there  are actually geysers outside of the park that the park guides told us about and we were able to enjoy them for free instead of paying the $15,000 peso entrance fee to the Tatio Geyser!
Seeing Vicuñas on the way to Tatio Geyser
For our second day with the car, we (Guillaume, Chuck, Erika, and I) went to Volcano Lascar. We left San Pedro at 10am and arrived at the volcano around 1pm. While this is a little late to start a hike we knew that the hike was only 4 hours or so and luckily the weather was clear.
Hiking up to the crater 
The trailhead wasn’t too difficult to find but a 4-wheel drive car was definitely necessary. The hike up took around 1hr and 30min. It was only 2km but it climbed to an altitude to 5500m so we were definitely walking slower than normal! The trail was easy to follow and the view from the top was amazing!
View from the crater of Volcano Lascar
Guillaume, Erika, and Chuck stoked to be at 5500m! 
Volcano Lascar is the most active volcano in the north of Chile and we were able to smell the sulfur and see the activity from the crater. This was my first time at this elevation and also my first time seeing an active volcano so I definitely thought it was a great experience!
Volcano Lascar
On our last day in San Pedro, Guillaume and I drove to the south. We went all the way to Laguna Tuyajto and Salar de Talar. The view of the drive was absolutely amazing as were the destinations.
Laguna Tuyajto
Salar de Talar
After the first stops, we went on to Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miniques which offered amazing views plus the chance to observe vicuñas and other wildlife.
Vicuña at Laguna Miscanti
Our last stop of the day was Laguna Chaxa which is a salt water laguna with a lot of flamingos to observe. While we spent a lot of time in the car this day, it was a great way to see a lot of different places in San Pedro plus we had the freedom of our own car so we didn’t have to go with a tour group. Another bonus: I learned how to drive a manual car!
Flamingo at Laguna Chaxa
Salt Flat at Laguna Chaxa
Travel Tip: The car cost $215,000 pesos for three days. While it wasn’t cheap it was about the same cost at doing tours to all of the places we visited. I thought a rental car was definitely the best way to go because we had more freedom to take our time and go at our own pace. Plus it was really easy to find others travelers to split the car with which made it more economic!
View from Laguna Miscanti
Overall, San Pedro de Atacama was even better than I expected. Before going, I didn’t know that much about the area only that it was a popular stop on the way north. After visiting, I can definitely see why it has such a reputation and it one of the top places to visit in Chile. The diversity of the landscape and wildlife was amazing and it was definitely one of the most unique and interesting places I’ve been!
Walking path along Laguna Miscanti

Author: jordansjourneys92

Hi! My name is Jordan Gurkin and I am currently traveling around the U.S. and working for a non-profit called Compassion International. I just finished spending a year backpacking and teaching English in South America. I'm a travel blogger focused on bringing you budget travel advice, travel tips, and some of my recommendations on places to visit!

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