Our last days in South America we spend in San Pedro de Atacama, which is pretty touristic compared to the Putre Region. In Atacama for nearly every attraction entry fees needs to be paid and only the views are for free. This was a bit disappointing as in the north region all attraction were for free.
The places we visit:
Salar de Talar and Laguna Tuyajto: are dry salt lakes, and they are actually for free. It is 170 km away from San Pedro and it were the amazing places in the region but it is a stretch to drive there.
Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miñique: entry fees needed to be paid and the place as packed. Many tour buses driving there and people doing lunch breaks near the lakes.
Laguna Chaxa: entry fees needed to be paid, there is a max. 1 hour hike that can be done around the Laguna. This was nice even that we only saw a few flamingos in the far.
- Valle de la luna: is a great valley with several options. Entry fees needed to be paid, there are 2 possibilities. Stand at the edge of the Valley and look over it and second drive into the valley and hike around. There is one small canyon hike possible. Totally worth to go. As the area is big, we only saw 3 people.
If you want to see the more authentic North Chile, it is worth to go to the region of Putre instead of Atacama. It is more remote and from what you can see it is not that different from Atacama, but is harder to travel and more driving is involved. In case you want a region that is easy to access but tourist and well known then go to the Atacama region.
Atacama is a region from where you can easily solo travel because you will find many backpackers and tour offerings for the region or going further to Bolivia. But keep in mind that the region is well visited.