"Toconao: jumping all around" Toconao by Glospi

Toconao Travel Guide: 6 reviews and 5 photos

The volcanic stone town at the Andean foothills

Located 33 kilometres southeast of San Pedro de Atacama, the tiny town of Toconao is the origin of most images depicting buildings and Northern Desert architecture, as its peculiar, propietary style of building based on the usage of volcanic stone (actually, pumice stone, which is solidified lava) is a trademark of it, as much as is its 18th century chime tower and church.
Its name means, in kunza language, "jumping all around".
Although surrounded by the driest desert on Earth, the area is flanked to the west by orchards and crossed by the clear Jerez stream, that descends from the ravine of the same name.
To their 500-or-so permanent inhabitants, it adds the population of engineers and technicians living in the small minitown of the mining company nearby, but who rarely mix with the local people, unless for having an occasional meal at the few basic restaurants near the plaza (square).
Toconao is almost always a sleepy town -so sleepy that sometimes one feels it like a ghost town... think of it at 3 PM on a weekday and have the picture-, a sleepiness that is interrupted only when the vans carrying tour groups stop at the plaza for a 15-minute photo and shopping stop before heading to either the Quebrada de Jerez, the Salar or back to San Pedro for dinner.
Toconao is a welcomed break after the (relative) hustle and bustle of San Pedro on low season, or the same (absolute) frenzied activity there in high season, but don't be fooled at its apparent lack of excitement: it is the gateway for more than one hidden attraction, ranging from light trekking and camping in the Quebrada de Jerez, rock climbing in the cliffs nearby (and in the bit far-off Socaire), listening to stories from locals and even -if you have the proper credentials- visiting the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array), the megasuper telescope operated by the ESO on the nearby Chajnantor plain, just a few kilometres to the north.

The town lies at an altitude of 2501 metres (8,204 ft.), on coordinates S 23º11'26,0"/W 68º00'25,9"

Photo: Nikon F4s, Nikkor 80-200 ED-IF 2,8, 1/30 sec., f.5,6-8, POL filter, Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Professional slide film

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Quiet spot off San Pedro with excellent drinking water
  • Cons:Can't leave too late, unless you decide to stay
  • In a nutshell:Worth a visit for Quebrada de Jerez and village landscape
  • Last visit to Toconao: Apr 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (6)

Comments (3)

  • tini58de's Profile Photo
    Jul 4, 2006 at 9:58 AM

    Looks absolutely beautiful! I love how you convey this beauty to us who have not been there! Thanks a lot!

  • pepples46's Profile Photo
    Mar 30, 2005 at 7:31 PM


  • Irine_29's Profile Photo
    Jan 13, 2005 at 12:44 AM

    my favorite ones here, r the volcanic stone gate and the light. hoping that a new FM3A will contribute to make shots like those, some day....:p


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