The Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert is a narrow coastal plateau, stretching from northern Chile into Bolivia and southern Peru.
This is one of the driest places on earth.
Precipitation is imperceptible throughout vast sections of the region, and some Atacama riverbeds are thought to have been dry for the past 120,000 years.
Ancient Archeological Treasures
The arid climate has preserved delicate archeological treasures from the region’s ancient inhabitants.
Pottery, jewelry, textiles, and mummies have been found here in quantity, with some specimens over three-thousand years old.
Despite its harshness, the Atacama is punctuated with charming oasis towns, where water is more plentiful.
San Pedro de Atacama and The Atacama Salt Flats
One of the most popular is San Pedro de Atacama, an adobe village located within reach of:
- Licancábur Volcano
- The Valley of the Moon
- The Atacama Salt Flats
- Several Flamingo-Inhabited Lagoons
The town’s R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archeological Museum houses nearly 400,000 pre-Columbian artifacts.
San Pedro is home to a fine collection of boutique lodges, some of which have won international design and service awards.
Visitors to Atacama can enjoy:
- Wildlife Watching
- Hiking Geyser Fields
- Visiting Traditional Towns
- Exploring Atacama Salt Flats
- Soaking in Hot Springs
- Climbing Volcanoes
- Horseback Riding
While the night sky in Atacama is astonishingly clean and clear, the southern stars can feel disorienting and new.
Many of our travelers stay four nights, and that’s a good start.
The outdoor adventure options are so varied, if you were to attempt every full and half-day excursion, you’d need two months to complete them all.
That diversity makes Atacama one of our favorite destinations for multi-generational families.
Most visitors arrive by air from Santiago.
Calama: Gateway to Atacama
The city of Calama, about 60 miles northwest of San Pedro de Atacama, is the primary gateway.
Flights from Santiago to Calama take just over two hours. To the far north, Arica is a three-hour flight from Santiago.
The Atacama Desert is not as hot as you might expect, partially due to its high altitude.
During the summer months of November to March, highs reach into the 80s, and overnight lows hover around 60° F.
Atacama’s winter months—May through September—can be much cooler, with overnight lows nearing 40° F.
Sunny skies are virtually certain. The lack of precipitation results in near perfect stargazing conditions.