Atacama Desert

Overview

Overview

As the driest place on earth, you’d expect the Atacama Desert to resemble a barren wasteland. Instead, the vast and arid landscape offers plenty to see and explore, including blue lagoons, salt flats, and active geysers—and also offers some of the world’s best stargazing opportunities. 

The Basics 
The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile is the driest place on earth outside of the poles; until 2018, no rain had been recorded in its core in 500 years or more. Visit to see the otherworldly terrain, which include sights like the dune-filled Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna) and Laguna Baltinache, which has the same salt content as the Dead Sea. 

To explore the rugged terrain, you’ll need to travel by a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Guided excursions of the area often include stops at the Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama) and El Tatio Geyser, where you can soak in thermal pools. Some include other nearby natural wonders, such as the Red Stone Desert, Cejar Lagoon, and Los Flamencos National Reserve.  

Things to Know Before You Go 
  • Most tours of the Atacama Desert require some walking on uneven terrain, so ensure you’re wearing sturdy and comfortable shoes. 
  • The town of San Pedro de Atacama serves as the gateway to the desert; here, you can find an abundance of shops, restaurants, and accommodations. 
  • Temperatures in the desert can plummet at night, so be sure to bring some warm clothing, especially if you plan to star gaze.

How to Get There 
The easiest way to reach the Atacama Desert is by taking a flight from Santiago to Calama, then driving to the town of San Pedro de Atacama, about 1.5 hours away. Alternatively, you can take a 24-hour bus ride to San Pedro from the capital.

When to Get There
Daytime temperatures in the Atacama Desert range from the high 70s and low 80s in summer (Nov–February) to the 60s in winter (June–August). If you plan to go stargazing, it is best to visit between September and April, when the evenings are mildest. 

Stargazing in the Atacama Desert 
The Atacama Desert has some of the clearest night skies on earth and is a mecca for astronomers. The area boasts several astronomical observatories where visitors can book a slot to see the night sky through ultra-powerful telescopes. You can also opt to visit multiple telescopes on an astronomer-led tour, which includes a guided look at the constellations and an opportunity to take photos of the moon’s surface. 
Info

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San Pedro de Atacama, North Chile

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Places of Natural Beauty

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Deserts

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