This was, without a doubt, one of the tours that I enjoyed the most in the Atacama. The sky is something that really gets to me, and listening to an astronomer talk about the space and the stars was fascinating.
The sky in the Atacama is famous for being one of the most beautiful in the world. After taking this tour, I can say that I agree. It’s impossible to describe in words the beauty we can see when we look to the sky.
Well, when I got to San Pedro I immediately went after information about the tours, including the astronomic tour. What I found out was that not all agencies offer this tour. Actually, there are some specific agencies for that, and two of them are more famous: one of them is more expensive and provides more of a mystical experience, and the other is Space, that offers a more scientific explanation about the space.
When I visited Space to schedule the tour, I discovered that I couldn’t pay in advance. The tour depends on the weather conditions and a specific number of people to happen. I had, then, to leave my name on a waiting list for the day and language in which I’d like to go on the tour. The only open list was for the tour in Englis – at that time the Spanish tour wasn’t available.
After returning from the Geysers del Tatio tour, Rafael and I went to Space to confirm our tour for that day. When we arrived there, a woman informed us that, because of the ‘few’ clouds in the sky, the tour hadn’t been confirmed yet, and we’d only have that confirmation minutes before the tour. Anyway, we walked around the main street until we got an answer from the agency. Believe me: there were almost no clouds in the sky, and yet the tour was only confirmed in the last minute. But they finally confirmed it. We’d have the tour that day, and it would be in Spanish, which was even better!
Around 9 pm, our bus with the group for the tour in Spanish left San Pedro do Atacama. The Space observation field isn’t very far. When we got near the entrance, the driver turned the bus lights off and followed some light spots that signed the way. When I jumped off the bus, my jaw dropped! The observation field was completely dark, and the sky was extremely shiny. I had never seen so many stars in my life.
In a few minutes, the French astronomer Alain Maury, who is also Space’s director, came to greet us and started explaining. We stood in a circle, and from that moment on, we looked at nothing else but the sky. Alain was a very nice guy, and super funny. Taking this tour in Spanish would be worth it just to have him as a guide.
In the first part of the tour, he told us about the stars, the constellations and how to notice them, how to read a sky map and some other things. He used a green laser pointer that crossed the sky and showed the stars precisely. It’s really incredible! It’s hard to describe the experience.
Well, after the first part, in which we observed the sky with naked eye, we proceeded to look at the space through the telescopes in the observation field. First, he explained to us about each one of the telescopes and where they were pointing to. Then, we had some time to look through all of them freely. We could also take pictures of the moon through a telescope.
The tour then continued to its final part, when we went to a round room with dim lights and a very cool atmosphere. They served us hot chocolate there, to warm us up from the cold, and we got to ask our last questions. Many people wanted to ask, and, unfortunately, time was short. I could have stayed there for hours, talking about the sky and the stars, but the tour was coming to an end.
The whole tour lasted about 2.5 hours, and when I got back to the bus I was still fascinated with everything I had seen. One of the coolest things he said was that, if you want to look back to the past, you just need to look at the stars. Looking at the sky is like travelling back in time… Man, that was so beautiful! Anyway, nothing that I write here will really make justice to what you’ll see on this tour. What I can say is that it’s really worth it!
Try going on the astronomic tour as soon as possible when you arrive in San Pedro. Since the weather can change overnight, it’s not worth leaving it for later and risk missing the tour.
General information about the tour:
- The tour was done with agency Space for 18,000 Chilean pesos.
- The tour happens every day, except in night of full moon or when the weather isn’t appropriate.
- January and February are the months with the highest chances of clouds in the Atacama, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go on the tour in these months. It’s a matter of luck, really.
- Take your camera to photograph the sky and the moon.
- Wear warm clothes – the observation field is cold and it winds a little.
Read this post in Portuguese: Tour Astronômico em San Pedro de Atacama