Camper van road trip from San Pedro to Santiago, Chile

We weren’t sure how to tackle the rest of Chile after San Pedro, so when Andrew stumbled upon a Wicked Campers office and suggested a road trip it was both exciting and a relief. We finally had a (vague) plan!

We picked up our Pulp Fiction themed van (I would have outright refused to travel in one covered in sexist slogans, like the ones you see in Australia) and spent our first afternoon driving to a lagoon nearby. About an hour later we’d blown a tyre and the metal caging under the van holding the spare had broken through no fault of ours. So we changed the tyre but couldn’t do anything about the metal that would drag behind after us. Not ideal! We originally used one of my scarves to tie the metal to the van but then we were rescued by a park ranger who gave us some wire.

Luckily the lagoon was well worth it.


We drove back to San Pedro and the van was fixed in about 5 minutes. That night we camped nearby in the desert, getting to know the van (whom we called Vinnie) and how it worked.

From then on it was a pretty straightforward drive through the Atacama desert to the coast, then south to Santiago, occasionally dipping inland through some valleys.

All of this is documented in the video I made above and here are some more pics I snapped along the way.


Hand in the desert near Antofagasta


Our camp site in Pan de Azucar National Park


Beautiful Bahia Inglesia


La Serena


Sunset in Tongoy


A beautiful town in the Elqui Valley called Pisco Elqui, where grapes are grown for Pisco.


An amazing cactus I spotted after our tour of the Capel Pisco Distillery in the Elqui Valley


Some amazing street art in Valparaiso


An Alfahores; two biscuits sandwiched with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate, from an amazing bakery in Valparaiso


Some more street art (and me!) in Valparaiso

There were some downsides to living out of a van for two weeks; no showers or toilets! But it was so much fun and I loved being outside so much. When we eventually made it to Santiago I certainly missed the freedom and fresh air that came with van life.

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10 Responses to Camper van road trip from San Pedro to Santiago, Chile

  1. Patrick Caruana says:

    Bec, that was seven minutes of joy. Your video really put a smile on my face. You all look so happy and joyous. The dog at about 3 minutes in I think fancied one of the steaks that was being cooked. There was freedom all over your faces. I laughed when you all torpedoed the beer cans. I can remember doing that over 30 years ago. Something with young people never change. Two photos really jumped off the page as well. The one in La Serena is stunning. The sandy colours of the buildings and earth just made the contrast with the purple foliage of the tree and the blue of the sky just captivating. I loved the cactus up against the red wall as well.
    Travel safe and make sure that you and Andrew never take those smiles off your faces.

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  3. Catherine says:

    Hi Bec,
    Planning to do a similar trip going the other way around (Santiago-San Pedro de Atacama). If I may ask, I’d like to know how was your experience with wicked vans and if you had any difficulty finding places where to park the van at night. your trip looked AMAZING!!!

    Thank you in advance for your help 🙂

    • Bec says:

      We had no troubles whatsoever with Wicked. Some of the kitchen utensils weren’t great so we ended up buying a cheap saucepan and a few other things.
      Finding places was a bit of a task most evenings, to be honest. But we only ended up in camp sites 3 nights out of 15 and out the back of a Copec fuel station one night. Copec is amazing! Free showers and wifi. Have an amazing time!

  4. Hello! How are you??
    I have many doubtsabout sleeping at Atacama Desert! Can i ask somethint for you about sleeping in Atacama desert?
    it is safe?
    Where did you sleep? In the desert (literally :p), campings, where??

    • Bec says:

      Hey Vanessa 🙂
      We felt very safe sleeping in the Atacama desert. We just drove along the main road until we saw a quiet looking road off to the side, then drove down that road for a bit until we found a nice quiet spot. Once we set up we didn’t see anyone and weren’t bothered by anyone at all! The Atacama desert felt like one of the safest places we slept because there just wasn’t anyone around. I hope this helps, if you have more questions please ask!

  5. Sairina says:

    Hey Bec !

    A question about using the Wicked van in the Atacama dessert – could you park it somewhere during the day and go for a hike or a long walk to see something? Was that safe – or would you be at risk of the van being broken into?
    Also how long did the tank of gas last you whist you were in the dessert – did you need to keep driving back to San Pedro to get petrol?

    • Bec says:

      Hi Sairina,
      We picked up our van in San Pedro after a few days of already exploring the Atacama (with buses or tours), we only really drove in there once to go to a salt lagoon, watch a sunset and camp overnight. I think we filled up with petrol every 1-2 days. We did leave the van parked in places for a day while we explored, like in Valparaiso, and it was fine. Hope that helps!

  6. matt says:

    Hi there, looks an awesome trip. Planning on heading out to Chile with my partner later on this year and would be planning on doing a similar thing to what you did in terms of renting a camper van and travelling between Santiago and San Pedro.
    Couple of questions if possible (I know I’m a few years late to this!) Was the temperature ok camping out in the desert or did it drop quite low during the nights?
    Secondly would you recommend the type of camper you had with the sleeping on the roof or would you have preferred a camper with internal sleeping?
    And thirdly do you by any chance know if you can rent sleeping bags etc from Wicked when you went with them?
    Many Thanks,

    • Bec says:

      Hi there. Would definitely recommend this trip! The temperature did drop when the sun went down but we just put on sweaters, long trousers and maybe a beanie and it was fine. We alternated sleeping on the rooftop tent with sleeping in the van and sleeping in the tent was much nicer. It gets pretty stuffy inside the van. I’m not sure if you can rent sleeping bags from Wicked, I’m guessing no because hygiene would be an issue? Have a great time!

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