Getting to San Pedro de Atacama from Antofagasta by Bus


on: 2022-10-23

by: Alice Silva

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    04 hours 30 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    archaeology, astronomy, hiking

  • Best Price

    USD $ 16

  • Maximum comfort or class


  • Departures

    1 Departure daily

  • Recommended by

    2112 travelers

Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

The bus and route from Antofagasta to San Pedro de Atacama

Lago Miscanti near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

This is a really fun and relatively short trip from the west edge of Chile to almost the eastern edge.  This isn’t hard because Chile is such a narrow country.  But the most enjoyable aspect of it is going through the epicenter of the driest desert on earth, but ending up in a famed and historic pueblo that will charm your socks off.

San Pedro de Atacama, or S-P-A for short, sits in a place that technically is Chile, but it feels just the same as nearby Argentina or Bolivia, too.  So to start, it’s an internationally friendly place. But the draw for most is the incredible array of outdoor adventures, climbs, archaeological digs, and a fantastic small-town high-desert vibe clad in adorable adobe structures that makes visitors feel welcome and entertained between their outings. What’s better, you can get there by bus!

What are the buses like from Antofagasta to San Pedro de Atacama?

SPA is served by the best buses in Chile, which in turn are some of the best buses in South America. These are large coaches, but only if you’re coming from farther away like Santiago will you most definitely get two decks from which to choose (the top deck being regular coach seats and the bottom a luxury cabin).  Buses from Iquique have a shorter route, so they usually only include a handsome single deck for all passengers with semi-reclining cushioned seats.

On board, you will find climate control to protect you from the cold and dry air of the altiplano and tinted windows to block the intensity of the solar rays. Most coaches also have toilets, which are cleaned before and after trips, but avoid using them in the middle of the trip if you can.  Because of the relative isolation of the area, Wi-Fi may be really spotty on board until you get closer to Calama, which is just 45 minutes before the final destination itself. 

How long is the bus ride from Antofagasta to San Pedro de Atacama?

The reason we suggest starting from Antofagasta instead of a more popular tourist center such as Iquique is that it is only a 4-hour and 20-minute trip, which is far shorter and easier than from Iquique and doesn’t require you to transfer in Calama. So, make a plan for spending the night in Antofagasta so you can wake up bright and early to get the only daily bus direct to San Pedro de Atacama.  The road conditions are excellent because this is a highly trafficked highway, and you’ll still get to see great views out the window as you go.

What are the bus schedules from Antofagasta to San Pedro de Atacama?

It may be because San Pedro is such a fragile environment and so they don’t want to allow too many visitors at a time, because the only bus departing from Antofagasta is at 4:00 a.m. daily.  That’s why we encourage you to get to bed early the night before so that you can get to the bus station by about 3:30 a.m.

We don’t recommend trying to do the long haul from Santiago.  Yes, it’s possible, but it is a huge haul of hours and kilometers to make, and you’ll be bypassing several other worthwhile places to visit in Chile that would have been nicer on your bones and back to get there.  We encourage slow travel, which means taking the bus on shorter trips, and getting off the bus to explore towns and sights in between larger ultimate destinations.

If you do want to take the bus from Iquique, that is a better alternative, as they have about three departures every day, but they only go as far as Calama.  In Calama, you would have to get off the bus and then get another bus from Calama to San Pedro de Atama, and you might find the extra time and hassle not worth it compared to the swiftness of the bus from Antofagasta. 

What is the cost of traveling by bus from Antofagasta to San Pedro de Atacama?

Here’s the best part. Not only is it swift and easy, but you can get a seat reserved in advance for under $16.  Just click on Reserve Now and then walk to the front of the line with your online ticket and get on board!  All seats are in the same class, which is to say there is no first-class cabin on this trip.  Bear in mind the Chilean peso is pretty stable, so the only things that will cause the price to go higher are global market phenomena like increased cost of living and wages, shipping and manufacturing of parts, and that kind of thing. 

What to do in San Pedro de Atacama

Lago Miscanti near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

You may already have a packed list of things you want to see and do in San Pedro de Atacama, but if not, our bus-riding team has been there many times, and here are a few of the favorites we agree on.

#1 - Bike around the Moon and Mars Valleys

They’re so close to town, you can rent a bike and pedal out to see this stunning landscape.  You’ll find huge dunes, and get a true sense of the stark salt and rock nature of the Atacama desert. Underground seismic activity over millennia has shaped many of the hills into rock formations that look like the gods sculpted them. Many come out here at night for perfect star gazing.  Make sure to seek out the Magic Bus (a deserted bus disintegrating into the landscape) and the spooky rock structure, Las Tres Marias.

#2 - Pucará de Quitor

Even closer to town is the magnificent ruins of a 12th-century fortress, Pucará de Quitor.  It was built to defend the local Atacameño people of the time against the invading Inca, which ultimately failed in the 15th century.  The fortress is representative of many in the desert, built of mud and stones, and separated into different courts or terraces for housing, storage, worship, markets, and more. In between them winds complicated alleys and corridors.  This pre-Inca construction was declared a National Monument in 1982.

#3 - Hemisferio Observatory

We all went through at least some portion of our lives as amateur astronomers, gazing through a telescope out our bedroom window to get a glimpse of the planets and stars.  Here in San Pedro de Atacama, join professional astronomers from the world over who flock here to Observatorio Hemisferio Sur because of the remote desert landscape that allows for the cleanest skies in the world.  Peer into the universe through the telescope so powerful there are only two others like it on the planet and only one (behind this one) in the southern hemisphere!

#4 - Meteor Museum

Have you ever seen a meteor or meteorite after aside shooting through the sky?  San Pedro de Atacama has its own museum with the largest collection in the world of meteorites (meteors that have fallen to earth), spread out for display in various geodesic domes of the museum campus.  Touch and feel real meteorites (also known as sidereal rocks that began their life on other planets of our Solar System. Audio guides are available in several languages. 

#5 - Puritama Hot Springs

When your body has had its fill of hikes and treks around the desert, make your way to one of our favorite hot springs in South America, the incredible Puritama!  Near the border with Bolivia, the hot springs are a completely natural oasis of healing minerals bubbling up from the earth in eight pools that have temperatures ranging from 28 ° to 31 ° Celcius (82-87° Fahrenheit).  Many outfits in town will take you up to the springs as part of a tour or as a single outing.


For such a small adobe village in the middle of the driest desert in the world, San Pedro de Atacama doesn’t fool around when it comes to a serious amount of opportunities for amazement.  It’s so easy to get there if you’re starting from Antofagasta on the Chilean oceanside, and not much further away if you’re in Iquique or even coming in from Bolivia to Calama.  Reserve your bus ride today!

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can you get to San Pedro de Atacama from Argentina?
Rarely. It’s very difficult for buses to make the trip from or to Salta, Argentina because the road conditions are brittle and they don’t get enough requests to do this very remote stretch. It is easier to cross from Bolivia, but even that is not something available around the year, only in the temperate seasons when tourism is at its peak.
What are the options to get to San Pedro de Atacama from Calama?
Calama is an important mining center and largest city in the area, so that is where you will find a good place to use as a transportation hub for other areas of interest in the Atacama desert, including San Pedro.
Are there public buses that go out to the major archaeological and hiking sites?
Don’t count on it. You may be able to convince the bus driver to let you off at a trailhead on the way into or going out of western side of town. However, the only reliable means of transportation once you get to San Pedro is local taxis and tour providers who have suitable off-road vehicles.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

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