Amazing Authentic Restaurants in The Atacama Desert Chile

Getting to San Pedro de Atacama is a journey in itself. Tucked in the middle of the Atacama desert, this popular town in the north of Chile is an oasis, surrounded by spectacular scenery. San Pedro de Atacama is one of Chile’s top three most visited destinations.  As a result, restaurants abound all competing to attract the tourists walking down the main street.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by restaurant’s choices and worried about stepping into a tourist trap? That’s how we felt when walking around San Pedro de Atacama. We were searching for the authentic restaurants, the real “gems” in the midst of all the popular restaurants in the tourist zones. We followed our instincts and used our tips to avoid tourist trap food.

So, can you find authentic food experiences in San Pedro de Atacama? An unequivocal, yes!
If your travels take you to San Pedro de Atacama, here are 3 restaurants where you can enjoy the local specialities and eat like a local.

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1 – Baltinache Restaurant

Baltinache is not your typical restaurants. Located on the outskirt of town, you will not see it unless you are walking in its direction. And even if you are looking specifically for the restaurant, there is a chance that you could miss the entrance which blends right into the adobe style architecture.

How to avoid tourist trap food Baltinache restaurantNonedescript entrance to Baltinache Restaurant

Baltinache is a small and intimate restaurant which serves indigenous fusion food. The chef, Marta is a Mapuche, the native population from Chile. Her husband César, is from San Pedro de Atacama and he brings the local flavor to her cuisine.

We talked in detail about our meals and experience in this guest article Exploring creative cuisine from the Atacama desert in Chile.

Here, we want to point out the originality of this indigenous fusion restaurant. There is no menu. When you walk in, you will be given two choices to choose from based on the season and availability.  The cuisine is creative and simple at the same time, the emphasis is on the use of local ingredients.

Don’t miss out on the local specialties. Start off by ordering the local drink, Pisco Sour Rica-Rica. This cocktail made from the famous Chilean Pisco brandy prepared with the local plant Rica-Rica, that we discovered and talked about in the food of the desert article.

Baltinache Restaurant San Pedro de Atacama Authentic Food QuestPisco Sour Rica-Rica

Each dish we savored incorporated Mapuche and local ingredients.

One of the most exquisite dishes we had was the famous Chilean fish called Reineta. The fish was accompanied by sautéed mote (wheat), which is used in the traditional Chilean drink mote con huesillo.  A delicious salsa (sauce) made with olives and Rica-Rica was drizzled on the Reineta and mote. What a delight!

Baltinache Restaurant Reinata Fish San Pedro de Atacama Authentic Food QuestReineta Fish

2 – Charkikan Restaurant

When heading out of the main street take a right and make your way over to Toconao avenue. Keep walking past all the bike rentals shops and keep going way past the currency exchange stores. Towards the end of the street, you will a door with the menu printed on either side of the entrance. Look up, and when you see the Charkikan sign you know you’ve come to the right place.

It is worth making the trek off the beaten path to experience authentic Chilean food at Charkikan. The simple adobe brown colored decor welcomes you and the friendly staff will immediately put you at ease.

Take advantage of the delicious and generous portions, and order the food Chileans eat on a daily basis. Start off your meal with Sopaipillas, one of the 10 popular Chilean dishes worth trying. These are simple flat breads made with pumpkin flour and they are very popular throughout Chile. The Sopaipillas are served with pebre, a Chilean condiment made with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion, olive oil, garlic and ground spicy aji peppers. Simply delicious, don’t miss this starter.

Sopaipilla San Pedro Atacama Restaurants Authentic Food QuestSopaipilla with Pebre

In keeping with the local and authentic theme, try Terremoto, one of the 6 famous Chilean drinks to experience like a local. Terremoto means “earthquake” and it references just how strong the drink is. Terremoto is made with pineapple ice-cream, mixed with a sweet fermented white wine called Pipeño and grenadine. The drink is strong and sugary and surprisingly refreshing.

Be sure to enjoy all the delicious local options at Charkikan.

A unique Chilean Drink Terremoto San Pedro de Atacama Authentic Food QuestThe powerful Terremoto local Chilean drink

3 – Las Delicias de Carmen Restaurant

Towards the end of the main street, is this overlooked gem, Las Delicias de Carmen. Named after Carmen the chef and owner, this is another great place to eat typical Chilean dishes.

Not a fancy restaurant, this has place exudes local charm. You will walk right into a large open room decorated with local artifacts. On the walls and hanging from the ceilings are llamas and traditional baskets. The service is great and the staff work seamlessly together all under the watchful eye of Carmen.

Las Delicias de Carmen San Pedro de Atacama Restaurants Authentic Food QuestInside Las Delicias de Carmen Restaurant

The food is homemade and the menu has an extensive selection of traditional Chilean food.

The serving sizes are pretty generous. Go hungry or plan on sharing.

One dish we highly recommend trying is the Patasca. This is a hot stew made of corn, potatoes, pork, beef and onions.  What makes this stew unique is that it is native to the Atacama people (indigenous people of the Atacama desert and altiplano or high plain region). It is also made with  white capia variety of corn that is unique to this region.

Food of the desert Patasca San Pedro de Atacama Authentic Food QuestPatasca

Food Shacks Outside of Downtown San Pedro de Atacama

If you want to go beyond the restaurants in town, you could explore the little shacks that are lined up on the northern side of town. You will find about half a dozen or so small food joints open for lunch. Each of the joints have a fixed menu with a couple of local specialties for a very reasonable price. You will find locals and tourists alike.

Food Shacks San Pedro de Atacama Restaurants Authentic Food QuestTuksa and the food shacks

We chose Tuksa on the far left of the strip. We were attracted to it by the menu, clean environment and ability to see the cook making the food.

The started on the menu was a fresh vegetable soup accompanied with pebre served with round white breads. This was a perfect start to open up our stomachs for the main dish.

For the main meal, we had a choice between several typical Chilean dishes. We ordered the churrasco vacuno (thin sirloin steak served with rice) and the omelette de verduras (vegetable omelet). Both were fresh and tasty. Nice and easy meals to get us going for the rest of our afternoon in the Atacama desert.

Churrasco de Vacuano San Pedro de Atacama Restaurants Authentic Food QuestChurrasco de Vacuano
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In Summary

If your travels take you to the Atacama desert, you should absolutely explore the unusual landscapes and beautiful surroundings.

During your stay, take the time to appreciate the local and unique flavors. Choose the restaurants that offer local and authentic cuisine. In between your tours and excursions, open up your taste buds too. Go beyond the expected and  get a taste of the unusual flavors of the Atacama desert.

 

Locations Mentioned

Baltinache Restaurant, Domingo Atienza, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Charkikan Restaurant, Toconao 475, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Las Delicias de Carmen, Calama 370, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Tuksa, Licancabur, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

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Have you been to San Pedro de Atacama? Did you check out any of these restaurants? Share your experience below.

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Amazing AuthenticRestaurants in San Pedro de Atacama Desert Chile Authentic Food Quest

43 comments

  1. Why do I always read your posts when I’m hungry???! I’m salivating over here lol – Great post! I want to eat at one of those little food shacks and the altiplano looks like something I need to try too!

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    • That’s wonderful Jessica, that we made you salivate 🙂 We have the same problem when writing the posts. Glad you enjoyed reading the article. The food in the Atacama desert is worth traveling for 🙂 We appreciate your comments.

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  2. That is one of the benefits of traveling I think. While we do eat at some of the commercial restaurants we try to always eat where the locals do. That way you really get a taste of the unique cuisine of each country you visit. For example, the minute I land in Chile I want to try the Terremoto and the Reineta Fish.

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    • You are so right, eating with the locals always provides for a unique experience. The food in Chile is quite diverse and you would love the Terremoto and reineta fish. Be warned about the Terremoto…it is strong 🙂

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  3. Wow the food all looks so delicious! It looks like you really were able to discover some authentic restaurants during your trip. The Reineta Fish looks delicious!

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  4. All of these suggestions look fantastic, but especially the Patasca. I always love a good stew, so I’d have to try it out. Thanks for making me hungry with this great article!

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  5. Wow, would not have expected to see such amazing food in a desert! It’s making me hungry just looking at all of those foods. I’m most curious about that local corn though. I LOOOOOOVE corn. 🙂

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    • Indeed Stephanie, the idea of the food from the desert was intriguing right from the get-go. Finding the local spots was quite a treat. Discovering the local ingredients and their use in the dishes was also quite spectacular. In short, there is great food in the desert….and yes the corn is abundant. You would love South America just for the corn!! cheers

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  6. Local places are the absolute best. I’ve never been to Chile, so I really wasn’t aware of what their traditional food looks like, but if/when I do visit, I’m hitting up the food shacks. That’s my kind of place.

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    • That’s awesome to hear Leah! Local places are indeed the best. The traditional dishes of Chile are quite diverse and tasty. Each region also has unique specialities. You would love the food in Chile….and the food shacks too!

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  7. I wouldn’t have thought there would be so many cool places to eat in the Atacama Desert! I’m glad if I visit that I don’t need to worry about getting some decent authentic food. In particular I really like the idea of the food shacks, somewhere you don’t have to spend at fortune at that is a little more the ‘real deal’.

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    • Hi Melissa, the challenge we actually finding authentic restaurants in the area. There were so many “tourist traps” and our goal was to show that there are indeed “hidden gems” in the desert. Yes, the food shacks were pretty good and inexpensive. The experience is also quite unique. If your travels take you to the Atacama desert, you now have great options 🙂

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  8. I hate tourist traps and love good local cuisine! It’s hard to find…one of my biggest fears of traveling is ending up like a tourist! Love that you scouted out the good authentic spots. Thanks for the tips!

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    • You are most welcome Lyssie. We agree and we also detest tourist trap food. The fun part of the job is scoping out the places and then sharing them:) If you haven’t been to Chile yet, hope you get there soon and experience the delicious cuisine. Cheers.

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  9. I love the Baltinache restaurant and their concept of no menu. Going what is in season and what looks good on the market that day is so much better. But I have to admit, the first thing that came to my mind was the flight attendant asking me if I want beef or chicken 😉

    Reply
    • That’s funny Maria,…lol. That is an interesting parallel. When you get to the restaurant, they actually do a good job explaining what the chef has on that day. The take the time to explain the dishes, the ingredients and they are much more exciting than “beef” or “chicken.” Cheers 🙂

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  10. Chile is on our travel wishlist. I fell in love with pebre years ago, and I haven’t found a place in London that quite makes it like the mother of my friend. As always, you guys do an incredible job bringing such ‘authenticity’ to the world of foodie travellers! Thank you for this!

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    • Bringing “authenticity” to foodie traveling is something strive to inspire people to do more of on their travels. We really appreciate our kind words on that note,thank you! You are right, Pebre done right…in Chile, is incredible. Hope you get a chance to visit the world’s narrowest country soon. Cheers!

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    • Thanks Anne, the landscapes in San Pedro de Atacama are quite unique…it is a desert, so lots of sand and unique formations. It is a region that is worth visiting for the food and landscapes. Hope you can visit the area soon 🙂

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  11. Avoiding tourist traps is so important when trying to experience a region’s local cuisine. I’m hoping to visit San Pedro within the next year or two, and would especially love to stop by Baltinache Restaurant. I love that there is no menu and that it emphasizes the use of local ingredients. The food shacks look like great places to stop for lunch!

    Reply
    • Hi Erika, completely agree that avoiding tourist trap restaurants makes for a much more authentic experience. You would love Baltinache, keep this post in mind and have a great time. The food shacks are awesome as well…you will love San Pedro!!! Cheers

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  12. When I was in San Pedro I was stayed at Tierra Atacama where all meals were included. They were super good so I never got the experience the food in local restaurants, but I’m sure I’ll be back one day 🙂

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    • Hi, it sounds like you had a great time at Tierra Atacama. It’s too bad that you didn’t experience the local restaurants. Keep these recommendations in mind for your trip to the Atacama desert. We appreciate your comments!!

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  13. I love the sound of all of this. And that first restaurant, judging by that picture, you really had to pay attention to find it! I am quite intrigued by Sopaipillas, if I could find pumpkin flour anywhere locally, I’d be tempted to cook them myself. Might happen faster than a trip to the Atacama desert, unfortunately…

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    • Hi Alina, the architecture in the Atacama is quite unique and everything blends in. To find the best restaurants, you do have to “hunt” them down. The sopaipillas were some of our favorite snacks in Chile. The pumpkin flour and the savory pebre sauce make a very nice combination of flavors. Make them at home first and them compare and taste them in Chile later. Appreciate your comments.

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  14. If only I knew this before.. I had a hard time eating anything decent for a normal price in San Pedro de Atacama. Only the fresh croissants and breads from the bakery across my hostel. I’m sure this guide will help many travellers to San Pedro! Well done

    Reply
    • So sad to hear about your experience, Naomi. Indeed, you need to “dig” for the authentic food specialties in San Pedro de Atacama. We hope that this article can be a resource for future travelers and one for you, if you go back to the area again 🙂 Cheers.

      Reply

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