Would you rent a car to get around the Atacama desert or would you prefer to take a tour? Here we give you the pros and cons of each option.

If you are thinking of traveling to the driest desert in the world, this is probably a question that has already crossed your mind. The tourist attractions in  San Pedro de Atacama are many, and to know them all you must have a lot of time or have everything very organized.

The most popular option to visit San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings is taking tours, but there are those who prefer to rent a car and go on an adventure.

Here we leave the pros and cons of both options, so you can see which one suits you the most:



  • You manage your own times: One of the great benefits of traveling by car is that you can make an itinerary that suits your time. You do not have to wake up 6 am if you don’t want to, and you can return at the time you want. Of course, you have to keep in mind that if you don’t  know the routes it can be dangerous to drive at night in the desert.


  • Easy and convenient: If you travel for a few days or you have little time to organize an itinerary, it is most convenient to hire a tour. All you have to do is choose the destination that interests you the most and the  agency will do the rest. They will pick you up at the hostel, show you the tourist attractions included in the package and then they leave you at your accommodation. Perfect for those who need a relaxing vacation.

Benefits each:


  • The best photos: generally, most agencies arrive at destinations at the same time, but if you go by car, you can avoid crowds in some places. For example, if you go to the high plateau lagoons you can wait until all the tour buses leave to take the best pictures. If professional photography is your thing, this is your option.


  • You have a guide: One of the great advantages of hiring a travel agency is that during the tour or at the destination, there will be a guide telling you the details of the history, culture, or geography of the area. Ideal for inquisitive and curious travelers.


You go only where you are interested: Generally, the tours include less attractive destinations among the most important places, if you go by car and you are not interested in any of these, you can skip them.


You know other travelers: If you travel alone, and you are interested in meeting people from other countries or realities, taking a tour is definitely the best option. Bus conversations are the best way to socialize and meet people with whom you may have a drink later.

Is it cheaper to travel to San Pedro de Atacama by car or tour?

Everything depends on the time you have. If you have enough time before traveling to quote agencies, you can find some cheaper than others. The same goes for the rental of the car. If you rent with time, you can do it at the airport or in Calama, and it will be much cheaper than renting it in San Pedro.

At the end of the day, the option you choose will have more to do with your personality, your times and the purpose of your trip than with your pocket. If you are a photographer and you are going to make a photo bank, it is best to rent a car, but if you want to have fun meeting people from other countries, the tour is your thing.

Which option suits you most?

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