Like I said in the previous post, San Pedro is a city that is aimed totally towards the tourism in the Atacama Desert. There are over 50 agencies registered in the city, which shows us there are services of all kinds and ranges of prince and quality.
When I was still in Brazil, I researched a lot about the agencies in San Pedro de Atacama. What most reports recommended was to look for agencies when you were already in the city, door by door, always trying to negotiate a better price.
Well, that’s a fact! You can wait until you get to San Pedro to close the deal with an agency. Don’t worry it’ll be on short notice because that’s normal around there. Asking for discounts also brings good results. It may not be a lot, but by bargaining a little you get to save some cash.
However, I do need to remind you that most tours are far from San Pedro… which means you’ll go by car to all of them. Therefore, when thinking about saving, think well! It’s not always the best price that’s the best for you. The ideal is to pick an agency that offers good service (since the guide will be with you most of the time) and provides good cars, because your safety should come first. Choosing an agency that conveys trust is the best option to avoid unnecessary tight spots in your trip.
When I got to San Pedro, I already had some names of agencies written down, but there’s nothing like a good word of mouth to help us decide. As soon as I got to the hostel, I met some Brazilian girls who gave me veeeeeeeery good recommendations of Ayllu Expediciones. They showed me some pics of the tours, the cars and the snacks made by the agency. My eyes shone as I saw the pictures… the girls did a great job advertising the agency! I had no doubts, and the next day it was the first agency I visited.
Ayllu was practically next to the hostel where I was staying. I waited for a while to be attended to, and after a few minutes a lady came to me and explained each one of the available tours. I took notes of the prices and visited other options, like Grado 10, which many people talk about on blogs and forums. The structure at Grado 10 can be more eye-catching, but I wouldn’t recommend touring with them.
The service at Ayllu and the recommendations from the Brazilian girls had a great impact on my decision. The prices were even, so I didn’t think twice before closing the deal with Ayllu.
The person behind Ayllu is Mike, a very nice Chilean guy. He works as a guide in many of the tours, and he’s a pretty cool lad. Going there and having a chat with him is something you should definitely do.
Just so you can understand: Ayllu has the agency service, to do the tours, the accommodation service and also a pretty good restaurant. Accommodation is not their strongest point, it’s just an extra feature they offer to people who aren’t looking for much comfort.
With time I got to know all the hostel staff members, and I have only good things to say about them. All of them served me very well and were really helpful. They always talked to me to check if I needed anything and if I was enjoying my stay. I really felt like I was among friends.
But just so this post doesn’t get too long, I’ll focus on Ayllu, the agency.
Well, Ayllu offers the main tours of the area; they have everything you’ll probably want to do there. If you buy several packages, you can get a discount. Remember to tell them you heard about the agency on Robson’s blog, the Brazilian guy from Um Viajante… They offer a special discount to the blog readers.
Regarding prices: Ayllu might not be the cheapest option, but it’s not the most expensive either. Weighing the pros and cons, I could say that it’s a fair price for what they offer, and that’s what really matters. You can take a risk and close the deal with another agency that charges less, but remember the agency’s performance can totally interfere in your trip. So if you go all the way to the Atacama, choose a good agency so you don’t regret it later
I’ll list here the tours I made with Ayllu and the prices (updated in 2015) just so you have an idea of how much you’ll spend there:
• Valle de La Luna (Moon Valley) + Valle de La Muerte (Death Valley) – $25.000
• Lagunas Altiplânicas + Salar de Atacama – $60.000
• Laguna Cejar – $28.000
• Geysers del Tatio – $45.000
• Salar de Tara – $60.000
Besides these, Ayllu also offers other tours.
I’ll write a post about each one of these tours that I’ve taken, so soon enough you’ll be able to follow the details of all of them. Any further information you find necessary, get in contact with them through their official website: www.aylluatacama.com.br
Well, besides these tours, I took two others with other agencies: the astronomic tour, with the agency Space, which I highly recommend… It was one of the most incredible experiences in the desert.
The other one is not really a tour, but a long 3 day trip to Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia, and 1 more day to get back to San Pedro. I took this tour with Cordilheira Traveler. I have a lot of points to make regarding the agency and the trip, but what I can tell you in advance is that YES, it is worth it!
In summary, I closed deals with these agencies in San Pedro:
- • Agency for tours through the Atacama Desert: Ayllu Expediciones
- • Agency for the astronomic tour: Space
- • Agency for Salar de Uyuni: Cordilheira Traveler
If you have any questions or information to complement this post, feel free to leave a comment. Contributing with comments on the blog helps other travelers and makes me really happy