Little Footprints in Atacama

Atacama Desert with Baby and Toddler in Tow

We went to the driest place on earth – the Atacama desert – with our 5 month old and 2.5 year old. Although we only scratched the surface of this incredible desert, we saw some incredible things.

I read pretty much the entirety of the internet about prepping for the Atacama desert and what to watch out for, given that it’s a pretty remote place. So remote that it even makes for one of the best places in the world to see the Milky Way (due to little to no light pollution at all!). I read stories of people getting stuck in the sand, getting flat tires due to bad road conditions, and car batteries dying from the sheer altitude (some sites are at 4500+ meters!) – with no way of getting help for several hours or days.

Every forum and blog post recommends taking tours out to all sites due to these conditions and I was having a hard time finding information on whether it’s even possible to self-drive a rental. But given that we only JUST potty trained our Toddler, I couldn’t imagine asking a tour shuttle to pull over on the side of the road multiple times for us, so go with a rental we did.

When we were handed a fire extinguisher along with the keys to our car, I can’t say that I didn’t start to question my decision.

Given all the above, we headed straight to the grocery store to make sure we have a week’s worth supply of food and water on us JUST IN CASE.

The drive to our Airbnb in San Pedro de Atacama was quite smooth, but there was about 1 flat tire on the side of the road for every 10 meters of driving, followed by a memorial which really set a bit of an ominous tone to this little adventure.

San Pedro de Atacama is so small that street names are made up and the roads don’t matter. Our Airbnb instructions more or less read:

“Once you get to San Pedro you will see a stop sign. Count three trees from that and then take a left. Keep going until you see the cows.”

I may have paraphrased that last bit, but the good news is that those instructions were spot on enough for us to navigate to what would be our home in the desert for the next few nights.

Many people warned us that “you will definitely want a nice place to stay in the desert” because conditions can be rough. But after taking one look at the hotel prices of 500$+/night, we decided to throw caution to the wind and risk it with an Airbnb. Best decision yet.


Our Airbnb was a quaint 2 bedroom cottage equipped with a full kitchen, hot water and fire pit.

Most importantly, it was just outside of San Pedro, which meant the night sky was gloriously unpolluted and we had a view of the Licancabur volcano from our doorstep.

On our first day we explored the the sandy streets of San Pedro. Our toddler lead most of the way.

After getting our first glimpse, we took a deep breath and ventured out to explore the surrounding landscape.

Next Up: The Moon and Mars in Atacama Desert

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