Atacama Desert holidays are a definite ‘must’ on any holidays to Chile. The otherworldly landscapes range from shimmering salt flats to steaming geysers, conical volcanoes and cracked lunar-like earth.
Rising over 4,000 metres above sea level en route to Bolivia in the Andes, some parts of the Atacama Desert are the driest places on Earth. Breath-taking vistas abound here, and the photographer in you will relish the chance to get snap-happy amid the reflective salt pans and adobe villages.
Because of the Atacama Desert’s setting, days are hot and sunny with the clearest blue skies, but as darkness falls the temperature plummets. Freezing temperatures mean you’ll need to wrap up warm for one of the area’s main draws: stargazing. Nowhere on Earth is better for studying the stars, and at least one night observing the clear skies above the desert is a ‘must’.
Most Atacama Desert holidays will stay overnight in the area’s largest town, San Pedro de Atacama.
The town is home to quirky boutique hotels and resorts, its dusty streets lined with restaurants and cafés. It’s also the starting point for the tours that explore the area, taking in the adobe roads and pretty plazas before heading out into the desert itself. The red-tinged landscapes of the desert give way to a moonscape of salt pans and the appropriately-named Valley of the Moon.
Despite being a desert, you’re likely to spot flamingos, llamas and vicunas, or even the native Latin American ostrich, the nandu. Early risers should make the most of dawn excursions to the El Tatio geysers, which shoot impressive plumes skywards as the sun rises.