The Pukara de Quitor National Monument overlooks the fertile Río San Pedro valley from atop a strategic bluff. Its serpentine rows of thick, stone walls have defended the verdant oasis's bounty since around 1100 AD. Today, the fortress's impressive architecture and historic significance bring in another sort of wealth, visitors eager to see what are among Chile's most important ruins.
Little is known about the Ayllu de Quitor people who originally constructed the fortress, which was used to defend the agricultural town from the Incas and later, Spaniards. Their handiwork is impressive, however, and makes a fine place to contemplate life in the fierce Atacama Altiplano.
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The Pukara de Quitor National Monument lies about 3 km (1.8 mi) northwest of San Pedro de Atacama. It is usually visited as part of a multi-destination day trip, but you can walk or bicycle from town.
The popular tourist destination also caters to travelers with treks to several other top destinations, including Moon Valley, Atacama Salt Lake, Licancabur Volcano, El Tatio geysers, and many others.
San Pedro's small airport has regular flights to Santiago and elsewhere in the region, while buses connect the town to Calama, Antofagasta, San Salvador de Jujuy (Argentina), and Uyuni (Bolivia). Many multiple-day tours offer transport between Uyuni as well. You can rent cars in town.