Crossing through the Atacama desert, the driest desert on earth, and passing over the Domeyko mountain range on a 3250 m.a.s.l you can start to get a glimpse of the snowy andean peaks in the horizon. Then at a closer distance the Great Salt Flat spreads out with its display of minerals and a white salt lagoon in the middle. Heading down to 2500 m.a.s.l you´ll pass the passage of the capricorn and enter the Salt mountain range which on the other side greets you to an oasis. The green valley provides its life by the two mountain rivers San pedro and Vilama, whose basins remains fearless in the hardship of the extremely harsh dry climate.

 

San Pedro de Atacama

is a town of Hispanic colonial white construction

located in the middle of the Atacama Desert,

Region of Antofagasta, Chile.

The landscape provides magnificent surroundings whose beauty and color, is a product of thousands of years of powerful geological formation, and that now have attracted thousands of people, who visit the area every year.

The scenic mix of mountain ranges, salt flats and volcanoes often becomes overwhelming and the intense blue sky, completely clear most of the year,

Here you find the most spectacular site for an infinitely mysterious and solitary scenery.

 

A simple way of the daily life that coexists with nature that attracts both chileans and foreigners, many even choosing to move and start a life in San Pedro.

The local population, belonging to the indigenous group of Atacameña, mixes in the streets with faces from all over the world.

 

 

San Pedro has through the years been described as a mystical, mysterious, ancestral and magical place.

But what really makes this town special, it is the intense dose of the encounter between an ancestral past and a present full of peculiarities.

With a way of life that is daily recreated in the warm adobe walls of a people that adapts to the ever changing times while maintaining their traditions and customs.

 

 

Travelling through the harsh Atacama Desert you really encounter with the powerful climate and fast temperature changes that is a everyday fact in this land.

The dryness, the solar radiation, the strong winds, the sudden changes of temperature between day and night, are some of the fundamental characteristics that your Atacama adventure will bring. Around San Pedro the altitude measures between 2,000 – 3,500 m.a.s.l, and the climate is characterized by having an average annual temperature between 12 and 13 ° C.

As the temperature swings it can reach up to 35 ° C in summer (December to March) and the minimum degrees below zero in winter (June to September).

 

Before Pedro de Valdivia’s advance the conquerer Don Diego de Almagro came to these lands in the year 1536, seeking to pacify a territory that was revolted like the rest of the Atacama region. Due to the episodes of the Spanish conquest in the nearby lands, the Indians had abandoned their villages, taking women and children to more distant areas in the mountains, to avoid the obvious signs of colonization that could soon be coming. Those who remained in the fortresses of Pukará and tried to defend their territory had to face more than one attack and survive the territorial occupation in permanent conflict. Finally, Francisco de Aguirre decided to put an end to the episode of disobedience, in 1540, through the definitive taking of Pukará de Quitor, where the majority of the Atacameño Indian population of the area lived. Once the battle was won, in which arrows and stones tried to fight against light and sharp sword rays, Aguirre ordered the slaughter of 25 or 300 Atacameños, a number not yet clarified. And their heads were exposed on the walls of Pukará fortresses until the arrival of Don Pedro de Valdivia some time later.

This episode marks a radical break in the history of the Atacama culture that was developed around the Atacama Salt Flat and the Andean High Plateau.

It is prescribed that San Pedro de Atacama was founded near the end of the 16th century, starting with the building of the Catholic Church the Spanish way.

Many years later, by the year 1843, the explorer Rodulfo Philippi went around the place describing the town:

“Regular streets are found only near the plaza, which is located precisely at the furthest point  northeast of the town; they are straight and they cross at direct angles. The best houses have cobblestone paths. In the rest of the town there are only paths instead of regular streets, and the houses are distant from eachother, surrounded by orchards and fields, and sometimes separated by a stretch of desert. They are all within walking distance from the Atacama River, whose waters are depleted by irrigation before even reaching the lagoon. That is why the town is more than about 7 km long and yet it has no more than two or three thousand souls. The Governor himself could not give me the number with more precision. The town is divided into five “Ayllos” and there is a mayor of each ayllus, whose badge is a cane with a silver button. »

The history of the Atacameños in the Oasis of San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings have left us with a wonder of its richness and a new way to view the world.
Its valuable ruins, fortresses and impressive display of pre-cononial rock art. Places that it is possible to visit with an adequate awareness of the delicacy of its conservation and durability over time.

With an awareness of its conservation and durability over time you can visit these places to take part of the delicacy and wonder.

San Pedro de Atacama is called the Archaeological Capital of Chile. This thanks to the work carried out by R.P. Gustavo Le Paige, a missionary based in San Pedro de Atacama in 1955. His perpetual interest of collecting and studying archaeological objects that he came upon in his travel, led him to finally create what is now the Archaeological Museum in San Pedro that also bears his name. The museum is currently in the hands of the Archaeological Research Institute of the Universidad del Norte. After his death in 1980, his legacy has crossed borders and the research in the area has multiplied, throwing important data that today allow to know in more detail about the way of life and development of the first people who inhabited the area of San Pedro de Atacama.

This land, so extremely dry, a dryeness that also is what today allow us to discover the remains of the people and their culture who, in order to survive, had to conquer the most inhospitable lands in the world.  The dry environment allowed the good conservation of the bodies and perishable materials. In this way, the “mummies” are presented with their original clothes, woven in wool and feathers, next to the ceramics and objects of leather, wood, copper and bronze that were considered necessary for the trip to the other life. The excellent conservation of the bodies allows to establish what type of food they ate and make analyses to know causes of death and other interesting data.

The found objects have given lights of their way of life, what they lived in, their works and religiosity. For example we know that they buried its men in a fetal position, as if wanting to return to the maternal womb of the “Pacha Mama”, the material remains that have been best preserved in this culture are stone utensils. Leather, wood and bone had to surrender in the face of time. The oldest tombs and dwellings that was found dates back to five thousand years ago, when the first features of settlement in the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama appeared. These houses are circular, of stone, gathered in small groups. An example of these are the ruins of Tulor, which are now available for tourists to visit. This type of camps multiplied, populating the most favorable places of the streams; Among the ruins are bones of camelids, rodents and birds, remains of the trees Chañar and Algarrobo, stone waste from quarries and other vestiges that give us an idea of ​​the multi ecological use of the different heights and properties of the environment.

San Pedro de Atacama is surrounded by archaeological sites. The town itself is based on ancient cemeteries and it is not unusual to find yourself on any walk with an arrowhead or a burial, which unfortunately the traffic has caused a impact of archaeological pieces of great value.

One of the first traces of Atacameño rock art that was found was developed by groups of camelids, rodents and bird hunters. Their food was basically present in the caravan routes, and they completed their diet with a collection of wild vegetables, which involved the establishment of seasonal occupation camps.
In these places, as well as in ceremonial sites, large rocks and in the contours of some streams, we find the artistic reflection of a culture that left its trace in time, marks that speak of their inner world and the vision of their environment .

The rock engravings were made with three different techniques: the first consisted of the application with natural paint, whether vegetable or mineral, above the stones. The second, sometimes combined with the previous one, was in low relief, by scraping the oxidized surface layer of the rocks, which resulted in clear drawings that contrasted with the dark background, known as petroglyphs.

The rock engravings were made with three different techniques: the first consisted of the application with natural paint, whether vegetable or mineral, above the stones. The second, sometimes combined with the previous one, was in low relief, by scraping the oxidized surface layer of the rocks, which resulted in clear drawings that contrasted with the dark background, known as petroglyphs.

Finally, a simpler but mighty technique consisted in the grouping of small, light rocks and stones on a dark background, forming enormous designs on the slopes of the hills near the transit routes, called geoglyphs. One of the best known sites is in the Salar de Pintados, near Iquique. In some cases, these works constituted a true archaic practical marking of routes, since they could be seen and interpreted to tens of kilometers, thanks to the diaphaneity of the air.

The drawings of this art have been classified into three groups: geometric (circles, squares, diamonds and broken lines); zoomórficos (figures of animals, especially camelids, felines and reptiles) and anthropomorphs (stylized human figures, sometimes with canes, bows and arrows, in attitudes of hunting or work).

The designs of animals and geometric are representative of the different phases of culture. The naturalistic representations of camelids recorded on blocks of stone found in Puripica stand out and, surely, correspond to some cult of the first pastoral groups that are known in the Atacama region, revealing the first indications of settlements or small camps. Similar situation is found in the Quebrada de Tulan (Peine), southeast of San Pedro de Atacama, where in relatively small stones, rows of camelids and geometric figures were recorded.
In Peine one of the most remarkable pictographs of rock art is concentrated, these are located in the so-called “Quebrada de las Pinturas”, in which we find representations from different periods of Atacameño history, there being thousands of years of difference between and others. To better understand the distribution of rock art in the Atacama region, they have been classified by sectors:

Sector Chiu Chiu – Lazana: Along the road between Chiu Chiu and Lasana there are around 76 petroglyphs, carved in liparite stone panels. These petroglyphs show scenes of herds of camelids and shepherds that guide them. There are also geometric drawings in the shape of the sun, of animals such as ostriches, lizards, toads, snakes and, of human figures dressed with ritual trousseaux and / or social representation. It is likely that most of the petroglyphs have been made since the first millennium of the Christian era, where the Atacama society joins politically and is grouped into manors. The first petroglyphs could have been engraved around the year 400 when the construction of pukará began, while the last ones were made in the Hispanic era, due to the fact that men riding on horses are shown.

Sector Alto el Loa: Pre-Hispanic rock art in this territory, was developed from 2,300 bc until the arrival of the Incas. In a first stage, in the sector of Santa Bárbara, the concentration of rock art in caves, showing figures of camelid naturists represented in a lateral way, finally engraved in extensive panels of the so-called Colina style. Later, in the sector the Taira style was developed, where most of the designs are camelids and the anthropomorphic motifs have a certain notoriety. The figures were made by engraving, painting and a combination of both techniques. The stylistic heterogeneity of the rock art of Taira is associated with its long existence in time (800 BC and 400 AD) and its expansion throughout the territory of Atacama whose presence is found in several sites of the upper part of the Salt river and in the Atacama Salt Flat basin. Around the Salt River there are beautiful representations of rock art located around its valleys and ravines.