Toconao is a small, peaceful village with a name that means “place of stones” in the indigenous Kunza (Atacameño) language. The first settlements are thought to date back 12,000 years, and there is evidence of 10,000-year-old human presence in the area, making it an area of historical, archaeological significance. Its name seems to be related to the fact that homes in Toconao are made of a volcanic rock called liparita (pumice). Structures are of stone and mud, with wooden features installed only with natural elements rather than nails. The most well-known construction of the town is not its church as expected, but the separate nearby 1750 bell tower, located across the plaza.
The town features a few restaurants, small-scale agriculture (mostly fruit) and animal husbandry fed with water from the nearby creek. Most people, however, visit looking for locally made handicrafts such as alpaca wool weavings and reproductions of the town's bell tower. The town administers entrance to the Chaxa Lagoon (Laguna Chaxa) and is often visited as the continuation of an early morning trip to Chaxa.
Most visitors make just a quick trip to Toconao, but you can easily spend an afternoon there, wandering around the limestone that surrounds the Quebrada de Jerez, a narrow ravine close to the town. Toconao is located 24 miles south of San Pedro de Atacama, and it is at the northeast border of the Atacama Salt Lake, in which the Laguna Chaxa is located.