Atacama Desert...
Highest and driest desert in the world

 Atacama desert. Chile
Atacama Desert, Geisers - © Lorenzo Moscia / Tourist Prom. Corp. of Chile

The bone-dry Atacama desert is part of the Antofagasta region in Chile's Big North (Norte Grande), in the Chilean Altiplano.

So dry, that in some areas rainfall has never been recorder, for as long as humans have measured it.

Of ravishing beauty, Atacama desert is an area with unique geological diversity that attracts tourists and researchers all year round, making it also the most ideal location for Astronomical research as well.

Its landscapes include a fantastic variety of moon-like scenery, turquoise-blue high altitude lakes, massive salt flats, geysers, volcanoes and sand dunes.

Another fantastic scenario not to be missed it's called the flowering desert, a phenomenon that happens every four or five years when some areas receive a bit of rain, creating a symphony of colors all over the place.


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Atacama desert is also known as Chile's archaeological capital.
Its harsh, extreme temperatures characterized by freezing nights, scorching sun and shortage of water, hasn't stopped desert dwellers from inhabiting the area for the last 11,000 years.

In fact, the local community, mainly descendants of the Lican Antai or Atacamanean ethnicity, have been influenced by the Tiwanaku and Inca cultures as well as by Spanish ancestors - Pedro de Valdivia and Diego de Almagro visited in 1536 and renamed it Atacama La Grande.

In 1450, Incas built the Catarpe administration center, as their empire extended further down south to Bio Bio river.
Licanabur volcano (5,916 meters above sea level), located some 40 km away from the village of San Pedro de Atacama, used to be an important ceremonial center in the times of Inca civilization.

 Atacama desert. Chile
Atacama Desert - © Lorenzo Moscia / Tourist Prom. Corp. of Chile

The village of San Pedro de Atacama (2,450 meters above sea level), most likely to become your base while exploring Atacama desert and its surroundings, is an interesting mix of local ethnicity and adventurous travelers from all over the world.

An oasis in the desert, you will come across ecotourists, hippies, backpackers and travelers in general, to/from Bolivia's massive salt flats such as Salar de Uyuni, Argentina and Peru as well, the border is some 600 miles away.

To/from Peru, there are long distance buses departing from Lima, Cuzco, Arequipa and Tacna, reaching Arica, Chile's northern border. There is also a train from Tacna to Arica.
Bolivia can be reached via train from the mining town of Calama - 100 km away from San Pedro de Atacama.

About 20 hours ride on a freight and passenger train with little comfort and harsh climatic conditions common to the Altiplano, but an enchanting experience for the adventurous.

To/from Salta, Argentina, there are buses that make the trip in about nine hours.

The village of San Pedro de Atacama, with its orange and pink adobe houses, has two major attractions...

You will hang around Plaza de Armas and stroll along Caracoles street, to find a bar or restaurant to dine by the fire pit, as most restaurants have fires burning in the center of their courtyards.

Spend a couple of days here to adjust to altitude levels before reaching any higher - El Tatio geysers for instance is located around 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) above sea level.

As for nearby attractions, the list includes...

Chile's Big North, with its three biggest cities: Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta - on the Pacific ocean - comprises the regions of Tarapaca and Antofagasta - I and II region respectively.
Time permitting, explore Tarapaca and its outstanding national parks, Reserves and National Monuments...

Make Atacama desert part of your next Chile travel experience because it will stay with you forever.

Together with Torres del Paine National Park, in the far end of the continent, they are both the most geographically opposed destinations in this razor-thin like country nested between the Pacific ocean and the Andes mountain range, and one of the most astonishing sights you will ever come across in South America...

Moon Valley. Atacama desert, Chile.
Moon Valley by Boris G. - a href=""target="new">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

How To Get There:

From Santiago, you can fly with Lan Chile and Aerolineas del Sur to the town of Calama - 100 km from San Pedro, and then take a bus shuttle.
You could also get there by bus from any important city in Chile, with different levels of comfort: executive, first class, coach, etc.

As we talked earlier, Atacama can be reached from neighboring countries: Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.

Where To Stay

Find and compare best hotel rates in San Pedro de Atacama or in Calama.
Book budget accommodation in San Pedro de Atacama.


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