Antofagasta to San Pedro De Atacama

Antofagasta - Baquedano - Peine - Toconoa - San Pedro de Atacama

 


Overview

This is a great alternative route to reach San Pedro de Atacama from Antofagasta, avoiding the busy dangerous roads via Calama (Ruta 5, Ruta 25 & Ruta 23).

The route follows mining roads across the Atacama Desert with an excellent unpaved road surface and relatively quiet traffic, with friendly respectful truck drivers offering assistance, food and water on numerous occasions.

Highlights include:

  • Atacama Desert - enjoy the peaceful solitude and the unpolluted night skies

  • Salar de Atacama - crystalline projections for as far as the eye can see

  • Peine - visit this old Atacameño village, see the ruins and cave paintings or take advantage of the hot springs

  • Laguna Chaxa (Reserva Nacional Los Flamingos) - watch the flamingos feed on brine shrimp

  • Laguna Cejar -  take a dip in the ultra saline laguna if you are in the right season

  • San Pedro de Atacama - a tourist haven in the midst of the desert with many atractions to visit

 

The remote section is on the mining roads between Baquedano and Peine. There are no shops, settlements or natural sources of water, so you will need to carry food and water for 208km. We took water (approx. 12L each) and food for 4 days to be on the safe side, but made it in 3 days. The truck drivers gave us an additional 5L of water, but we turned down many other offers due to the weight of carrying water. Plenty of help was available, if required, on this section from the mine workers.

 

'Agua por favor' - keep an eye out for the only tree on this section, literally begging for water - and quench its thirst if you can spare a few hundred mls of water for it to survive out there



Summary Stats

  • Distance (of which paved): 380km (Antofagasta to Baquedano - 76km, Peine to Crossroad - 24km)

    • extra 20km round trip to Laguna Chaxa, extra 24km round trip to Laguna Cejar

  • Time taken: 6 days

  • Ascent: 3578m

  • Descent: 1138m

  • Traffic: Ruta 26 and ruta 5 leaving Antofagasta moderate to busy traffic. Good hardshoulder on ruta 5. Relatively quiet after Baquedano to San Pedro de Atacama. Mine truck drivers respectful of cyclists.

  • Best time to cycle: year round

  • When we cycled: May 2016

  • Difficulty: 6/10

  • Amount we had to push: nil


Route & Elevation profile

Click here to download the KML file

 

Route Description

TOTAL DISTANCE (km) ALTITUDE (m) DESCRIPTION
0 20 Antofagasta - Major city, numerous restaurants, supermarkets and hotels. 2 excellent bike shops: Rana bike (Av. República de Croacia 1042) & Oxford bikes (Avda Jose Santos Ossa 2648) - good mechanics, excellent stock, we even managed to get fatbike inner tubes.
10 580 Ruta 23. End of steep climb out of Antofagasta. Moderate traffic. Initially no hard shoulder.
15 540 Turn left (north) to join Ruta 5. Wide hard shoulder, good surface, safe for riding. No shops until Baquedano. Cross Tropic of Capricorn. Gradual climb to Baquedano.
72 1040 Baquedano. Basic accommodation, shops and restaurants. We stayed in the guesthouse on the northern side of the village. Load up on food and water for the next few days crossing the Atacama desert. Turn right onto B-385 following mining road to the east. End of asphalt road. Good ripio surface.
82 1390 Climb out of Baquedano. Truckers cafe - hot and cold drinks. fast food. No further shops or natural water sources until Peine.
110.5 1515 Mining Building - workers present, may be possible to get water (we didnt investigate)
119 1658 Mining Building - workers present, may be possible to get water (we didnt investigate)
121.5 1729 Top of Climb
124 1730 Mining Building & portacabins - many workers present, may be possible to get water (we didnt investigate)
169.5 2477 Top of Climb
214 2284 Shelter - old stone building at side of road, possible camp spot
215 2922 Top of Climb. Route high point.
227 2342 Mining Building approx. 3km off road - workers present, may be possible to get water (we didnt investigate)
248 2310 Entrance to mine on Salar de Atacama. Security guard present, possible to get water. We were not allowed to cross through the mine, so had to take a slightly longer route (approx. 5km) around the mine. Camping is difficult on the salar as there are no flat areas. We found small flat sections beside the road through the Salar and camped there.
280 2416 Peine - old village. Basic accommodation, shops and restaurants. Tourist attractions: ruins, hot springs and cave paintings. From Peine to the crossroad is a quiet new asphalt road.
304 2400 Crossroad. Continue straight (towards left) onto ripio road.
325 2330 Option to turn left to Laguna Chaxa to see the flamingos. 10km to the Laguna, rough ripio road. Water and toilets at entrance (no food). We slept in the museum that night.
340 2470 Toconoa - small town. Basic accomodation, shops and restaurants.
358 2320 Small oasis. looked like a nice camp spot. Shelters with picnic tables.
361 2350 Option to turn left to Laguna Cejar. 12km on ripio to the laguna.
381 2450 San Pedro de Atacama. Tourist haven, plenty of accommodation options from budget to luxury. A few decent outdoor shops if you need supplies.

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