Photo Essay: Sandboarding in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

During our round the world trip we made a brief stop in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, a town near the Argentine border. San Pedro de Atacama is the entry point to the massive Atacama desert. It sits at an altitude of over 8,000 feet and boasts gigantic sand dunes that are ideal for sand boarding.

We decided to skip a pricey tour and explore the dunes by ourselves. We rented a couple of cheap mountain bikes and a “sand board,” which is essentially a block of wood with straps, and followed some sketchy directions up into a canyon.

Words cannot really do justice to what we found, so let’s skip straight to the photos!

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After biking for several miles on a paved highway we reached the rocky, winding road that led to the sand dunes. A pack of friendly stray dogs followed us all the way from town.

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I tried to look cool while peddling towards the dunes with all of our gear.

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The dunes were massive, and involved a long hike to the top.

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We were afforded tremendous views of the rock and sand formations that stretched for miles.

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Leslie wasn’t afraid!

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We felt like explorers on Mars, with the trippy landscape and lack of people.

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It took me several tries to make it all the way down the dune on the sand board!

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And now for the long trek back to the top…

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I admit, it was frustrating to stay upright!

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In every direction there were different types of rock and sand formations, for as far as the eye could see.

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Leslie was a natural on the sand board!

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At an altitude of almost 9,000 feet, each climb back to the top was exhausting. We took off our shoes when they started to fill with sand.

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Once I got comfortable on the sand board, I ventured down the steeper slope (on the back side of the dune).

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The view from the top of the dune was spectacular.

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We had the dunes entirely to ourselves, aside from a tour group that packed up and left the moment we arrived.

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We were surrounded by a stunning landscape.

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The walk back up the sand dune after each run was grueling, but it was worth it.  We had an amazing experience and it only cost us $14 to rent the bikes and the board.

For more info

Check out the San Pedro de Atacama Wikipedia page for the town’s location and links to popular attractions.

Browse the carousel to find helpful books on Chile travel:


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About Jake Semmel

I'm a blogger and round the world traveler. I'm always on the lookout for new places to scuba dive, hike and ski.