Visitors to San Pedro de Atacama would be hard-pressed to miss the bright white church that sits on the west side of the Plaza de Armas. The Spanish colonial-style church is one of the oldest buildings in Chile, dating back to 1744 when it was constructed with adobe (dried mud).
The whitewashed exterior provides a stark contrast against the blue skies of San Pedro de Atacama, and the attractive perimeter wall, built in the 1970s, stays true to the building's adobe construct. Perhaps not surprisingly, the church's patron saint is St Peter (San Pedro).
The interior of the church has some interesting features, namely the unique materials used to build it. Aside from adobe, two types of trees were used: algarrobo, a thorned tree with rounded brown pods, and chañar, a local tree that bears a sweet, starchy fruit. The roof slats are made of cardon cactus rather than wood, as wood is very scarce in the desert. The church's door is attached to its entryway with llama leather, in traditional altiplanic style. The church most recently underwent renovations in 2009, and as one of the only shady spots to be found in town, this area makes for a good spot to take a break from the bright sunshine.
The Festival of St Peter takes place here every year on June 29, and related activities take place both in the church and the whole town that day. Mass is held on Sundays.