When we think of the desert, images of sand dunes and a rather dry environment immediately come to mind. And although the Atacama Desert in Chile is considered one of the driest in the world, it also offers surprising landscapes different from what we usually imagine.
Between volcanoes, canyons, natural pools and geysers, the travel destination in South America surprises with unforgettable experiences. And as if the breathtaking views weren’t enough, this desert also offers varied and quality cuisine.
How to Explore the Atacama Desert
The main starting point for exploring the desert is San Pedro de Atacama, a village in northern Chile, 2,450 meters above sea level and about 100 km from Calama, where the nearest airport is located. It is a very quiet and rustic place.
Despite its simple lifestyle, San Pedro has excellent infrastructure to receive tourists. The city’s hotels are among the best in Chile. Travelers can thus travel without fear of unpleasant surprises. Additionally, there are a number of agencies in San Pedro that offer tours of the Atacama Desert.
When should you travel?
Atacama is a destination that can be visited all year round. Indeed, it hardly rains in the region and travelers may only be confronted with low temperatures at certain times of the year. However, this does not affect the observation of natural beauty and the success of the trip.
What to see? What to do?
Valley of the Moon
Here, travelers will have the impression of being on lunar soil. Wind-sculpted rocks and incredible salt formations give the desert a surreal feel. Its beauty is truly unique. The sunset with its golden reflections on the rock formations is a magical experience.
Laguna Cejar Resort
The complex consists of 3 lakes at an altitude of 2,300 m. Here the traveler can not only watch, but also swim. This might be an ordinary experience if it weren’t for the high concentration of salt in the water, which allows you to submerge and not sink. The water is cold, but it’s a worthwhile experience. When you exit, your body will be white with salt, but the site has fresh water showers and toilets for changing.
The Ojos del Salar are two huge circular freshwater craters of unknown origin that look like true works of art in a desert region. Seen from above, the lakes look like two bright blue eyes in the middle of the desert, hence their name.
One of the many theories about this unique formation is that it was formed by two meteorites that crashed there millions of years ago. Well, we will never know the true origin, but that doesn’t stop us from admiring them.
Further south is the Tebinquinche Lagoon, where travelers can see the magnificent flamingos, which have a reddish color due to their diet. There are no words to describe this view surrounded by hills and volcanoes.
If you are interested in geology, don’t miss this tour. The valley is made up of different minerals that give the rocks different colors. Hence the name “Valle Arco Iris”.
The Atacama is known around the world as the best place for skywatching, which is why you shouldn’t miss this tour. Everything takes place a few kilometers from the center of San Pedro de Atacama. Here’s how it works: The astronomer chooses a location that is undisturbed by artificial city light. The telescope is installed there and a guide gives explanations. To add to the ambiance, a hot drink and some snacks are served.