Calama serves as the gateway to Chile’s Atacama Desert. The northern mining town is roughly 1.5 hours away from the city of San Pedro de Atacama, making it an easy daytrip on a dime.
Begin with breakfast at Maracaibo Cafe for a quick coffee and pastry for less than $6. Next, head just north of town to take a peek at the Chuquicamata mine. The world’s largest copper mine is the cornerstone of the local economy and its sheer size will leave you in awe. Spend no more than $10 to get there and back by taxi.
Next, take a stroll along the Loa River to get an idea about local life in Calama and spend time mingling with locals. For lunch, check out Rustico for great Chilean cuisine less than $10. Most of the city’s attractions are actually outside of town so get ready to hop in a car.
Seek out Laguna Colorada to witness a magnificent red lake teeming with rare flamingos. From there, drive to Árbol de Piedra. This landmark is nicknamed the Stone Tree for its unique shape that stands starkly against the flat desert landscape. Finally, you’ll want to make your way south of the city by about an hour to Valley of the Moon. This breathtaking region is a blast of vibrant colors, cliffs, canyons and more that are reminiscent of the moon. If you stay until nightfall you’ll be treated to some truly amazing stargazing. While entrance to each of these is free, you can expect to drop roughly $60 for cab fare or gas if you get a rental.
Finally, return to the city for a quick dinner at Patagonia Restaurant for a meal less than $15.
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