Start planning your Atacama desert vacation today and experience the beauty of this region for yourself. Many of us grew up hearing about the Sahara and thought that to love a desert adventure we had to travel into the far east however, here in Latin America you can find one of the most beautiful landscapes a dessert can offer, Atacama Desert. You might imagine a desert vacation would bore you, but in the vast, unearthly landscapes of the Atacama, you can easily find more than enough attractions to keep you enthralled for 5 days or more.
The Atacama includes crunchy white salt flats, turquoise lakes, dramatic volcanic mountain ranges, and an incredible variety of rock formations. Though some regions of the Atacama have never received rain in recorded human history, nonetheless you will find life here including graceful Andean flamingos, shaggy alpacas, and of course colorfully clad Andean villagers, many of them still living a traditional lifestyle. Start planning your Atacama desert vacation today and experience the beauty of this region for yourself.
Tips for Travelers
When to Go: Because the Atacama desert enjoys stable temperatures and clear weather throughout the year, any time qualifies as the best time to visit Atacama desert. You can expect clear, sunny days between 70 and 80 degrees F and nights dropping to the 30s or 40s whenever you visit.
How to Get There: If traveling to Chile directly from the US, you can easily find a flight into the capital city of Santiago. Enjoy the city for a day or so if you like, then fly two hours to Calama, where you can get a car transfer to the gateway city of the Atacama desert, San Pedro de Atacama.
What to Bring: In order to enjoy the Atacama desert, you absolutely must prepare for the heat, cold, and sun you will find here. Bring a mix of lightweight trekking clothes for the day and warm layers for the evening. Don’t forget your hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and chapstick.
How to Get Around: You will find an abundance of tour operators in San Pedro de Atacama willing to take you anywhere you want to go. However, if you like getting off the beaten path, you should consider renting a Jeep to explore the dusty roads on your own. Either way, allow yourself a few days to acclimate to the altitude before you do any serious hiking or biking.
Choosing a Tour: You may actually need to book several different Atacama desert tours in order to see all the famous sights like the Salar de Atacama, the Valle de la Luna, el Tatio Geysers, Ojos de Salar, and more. Plenty of tour operators compete for your business right in San Pedro de Atacama and you can often get a discount by booking several tours through one company. If you stay at a nice hotel you can ask the front desk to recommend a good tour company.
3 Must-Do Activities in Your Atacama Desert Vacation
Besides taking in all the most famous Atacama desert sights on your own or on a tour, you can experience the landscape by:
Swimming: Thanks to the unique geology of the area, you have two options for taking a dip in the Atacama desert. Head to the Laguna Cejar to experience water so salty you float in it effortlessly, or visit the Puritama Hot Springs for a soothing soak followed by a mad scramble to get your clothes back on in the chilly mountain air.
Sandboarding: Ever surfed a sand dune? In the Atacama desert you can. For about $30 US, a sandboarding instructor will take you out to the dunes in Valle de la Muerte, give a brief demo, and let you slip and slide to your heart’s content. This makes a great activity for older kids who like to get dirty.
Intrigued by the name? It has nothing to do with scary happenings on the site. Many years ago a Belgium priest who visited the site say it looked like Marte and the indigenous people confused that word with “muerte,” the name stuck and today it is called Valle de la Muerte.
Stargazing: The remote Atacama desert offers some of the best stargazing in the entire world, with some experts saying that visitors can see a shooting star every 4 seconds. Hop a tour to the Paranal Observatory or simply walk out past the edge of town for night skies like you’ve never experienced before. This peaceful activity makes the perfect finale to your Atacama desert vacation.
Atacama desert is like no other place on earth, and we don’t know it as one of the top destinations in Latin America. However, if you think about it who would not love to go sand boarding, stargazing and enjoying the incredible landscape this desert offers jus here in South America? We frequently dream of exotic location without knowing we have many of them here where our Hispanic culture was born.