Today we will challenge you to travel to the north of Chile, more specifically to the breathtaking Atacama Desert, the highest and most arid desert in the world.
Beautiful and frighteningly surreal, the landscapes of the Atacama Desert are difficult to put into words and make us doubt if we will still be on planet Earth.
It can be said that the Atacama Desert, located at more than 2000 meters of altitude, is a complete desert: fine sand dunes in salt valleys, geysers that sprout from the bowels of the Earth, mountains for all tastes, volcanoes with its snow-capped peaks overlooking the horizon, sculptures built over centuries by the hand of the intriguing geoglyphs, vast plains made of salt.
We can assert that adventure, dazzle and discovery are the slogans of any trip to the Atacama Desert.
Atacama Desert Travel Guide (Chile)
The best places and points of interest of the Atacama Desert. Suggestion of route and much practical information to prepare your trip to the Atacama Desert.
When to go to the Atacama Desert? – Climate
The Atacama Desert is marked by its enormous thermal amplitude and its very low rainfall. The days are usually very hot and the evenings can even be chilled. Rain is a rarity indeed.
The Atacama Desert can be visited all year round, but to escape the crowds from June to August, we recommend visiting during the spring and fall (March-May and September-November). At these times the temperatures during the day are relatively pleasant and the nights are not very icy. Still expect thermal amplitudes in the order of 10-15 degrees.
How to get to the Atacama Desert?
Most travelers arrive in the Atacama Desert in one of the following ways:
- flight to the airport of Calama (generally, originating in Santiago of Chile).
- final of the Uyuni Salar tour, started in Bolivia.
Regardless of the way they arrive at the Atacama Desert, the destination is invariably San Pedro de Atacama, the perfect base for exploring the charms of the desert.
What to see and do in the Atacama Desert? – Main Points of Tourist Interest
San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama is an oasis in the desert. This is the best starting point for getting to know the Atacama Desert.
The San Pedro Handicraft Fair is the most colorful place in the city, responsible for brightly colored textiles. The desert itself supplies the raw material for making all sorts of souvenirs: a cactus that turns into a frame, or a pumice converted into a volcano.
In the central square we find the secular church of San Pedro de Atacama, all built in adobe.
From here it is only one block to the busiest street of the commune: Caracoles street. Restaurants, cafes, bars, souvenir shops, inns, tourist agencies, everything seems to focus here.
If you have time, we recommend a visit to the interesting Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum.
Salar de Atacama
About 50km separates San Pedro de Atacama from the largest saline in Chile. The Salar de Atacama is a Salt Lake with about 3000km2 at an altitude of about 2300m above sea level.
This salar is in a depression surrounded by hills that do not allow the flow of water, allowing the formation of the Chaxa Lagoon.
A little further, about 100km away, lie the Miscanti and Meñique Lagoons and the volcano of the same name. The scenery is simply superb and more than makes up for the long trip.
Valley of the Moon
The Valley of the Moon was so named due to the resemblance of the landscape to the lunar surface. And whoever baptized him could not be more correct.
From the top of the mountains the view that one gets from the valley is sublime and we feel even on another planet. No wonder many of the films on Mars or the Moon are filmed here.
Going down to the valley, the landscape is adorned with pink dunes, peristaltic cliffs, abrupt cliffs, mountains and valleys dotted with white, salt and plaster effect.
The three must-see attractions of the valley are Las Tres Marias, the Salt Caves and the gigantic sand dune.
Climbing to the top of this dune, you risk being in the perfect spot to watch the sunset. It will surely be one of the highest moments of your trip to the Atacama. Of ours was!
This valley, about 2km long, was named after the scarcity of animal and plant life. The legends are told that it is so called also because many of those who dared to make their crossing here have found death there, under the infamous heat of the sun, the strong winds that have chosen this valley as a permanent abode and dangerous rails faintly made in this hostile and torn relief. It was not uncommon to find bones that fed this story.
Today, Death Valley is a paradise for sandboarders: with sloping slopes and a giant dune suitable for the stunts of the most extreme sportsmen.
Tatio Geysers are located at about 4000 meters above sea level and are the largest group of geysers in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world. They are made up of 80 geysers representing approximately 8% of all geysers on Earth. They are well crammed because the temperatures at this altitude are even very low (as low as -10 degrees).
Pukara de Quitor and the Tulor Village
Not only the wonders of nature are the Atacama Desert. Its archaeological wealth is also immense. So do not miss the Pukara de Quitor , a 13th century fortress, and Tulor Village. The peculiarity of this ancient village lies in its architecture: adobe dwellings are circular and interconnected with each other, as if they were from the desert igloos.
If they like astronomy they cannot leave the Atacama Desert without doing an Astronomical Tour. This is one of the best places in the world to observe the stars and planets and there are several companies that offer this service in San Pedro de Atacama. Spaceobs is our favorite.
Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde
If you have not done or are not planning to do the Uyuni tour, enjoy your stay in the Atacama Desert and take a day trip to Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde.
These lagoons are located at more than 4000 meters of altitude, already in Bolivian territory, and are right at the feet of the giant Licancabur, a volcano still in activity. We guarantee the landscapes are breathtaking!
Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama? – Suggestions for Accommodation
Hostal Mirador is very well located and offers excellent value for money for those looking for a private room. And it has the advantage of being able to use the kitchen to make simple meals, which saves a lot of money.
Hostal The Annex
One more hostel with good prices for private rooms, access to the kitchen and great location. It is slightly more expensive than the previous proposal but the quality of the rooms and the outside space makes up for the difference.
La Casa del Pueblo Hostal
This is one of our favorite hostels in San Pedro de Atacama. The staff is super friendly and the price / quality ratio is, in our opinion, the best in San Pedro. The location and cleanliness is exemplary and has a super nice patio. Like the two previous proposals we also have access to the kitchen, which for us is always a super advantage.
If you are not in contention and want to pamper yourself we recommend the Altiplanico Atacama without hesitation. We stayed in this property on our first stay in San Pedro and can only say well. The rooms are huge and super comfortable, it offers a great breakfast, has a private pool and a wonderful view of the Licancabur Volcano. It is definitely our favorite lodging in San Pedro de Atacama.
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