The Atacama Desert: Feel Alive in the Driest Place on Earth
Oct 7, 2014
About the Guidebook
The Atacama Desert is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular and unique places you'll ever visit. If you love nature, sprawling landscapes and that feeling of being out in the wild, (and let's face it, who doesn't love that?!), then you can't miss the opportunity to travel and explore this region of Chile.
The driest places on Earth, 50 times drier than California's Death Valley and with an average of one millimeter of rainfall per year, it's surprising to discover just how much life can be observed around the various plateaus and plains. From llamas and vicuña's, to foxes and flamingoes, the Atacama Desert is a dreamland for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Rent a bike to explore the nearby red canyons and incredible valley's, take a tour to the beautiful and famous lakes on the Altiplanico, or walk among salty earth that is hundreds of thousands of years old in the Salar de Atacama.
Whether you want extreme sports such as sand-boarding in the massive dunes, or relaxing in beautiful hot springs, you'll find it all in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile.
Local Knowledge & Cool Perks
One of the easiest and most popular ways to explore the Atacama and its several natural wonders, is to buy the tours through local agents.
Travel Tip: The four main tours, Salar de Atacama, Valle de la Luna, Laguna Cejar and Laguna Altiplanicos, can be bought together in a package for a discount. We got a great deal of $50,000 CLP per person for all 4 tours, when booking with our hostel, Hostal Iquisa (Calle Puripica 172, San Pedro de Atacama). The family that runs the hostel are very friendly, helpful and often, the brother will be the one taking you on some of the tours in his private jeep.
Renting a car to explore the desert is also a good option, and may work out a lot cheaper if there are several of you sharing the cost. Navigating through the (mostly) well-maintained roads in the desert is not as difficult as you might expect. It also allows you to take your time, stop for photos and enjoy some of the breath-taking views along the way.
Food and drinks in San Pedro de Atacama is not as expensive as you might expect for such a isolated location. Prices in Chile's capital of Santiago are often more expensive or around the same, for a meal at a restaurant.
Travel Tip: Most tours that leave early in the morning will provide a light breakfast/lunch and drinks. However, if you're exploring the desert independently, make sure to bring enough food and liquids for the day. Nobody wants to get dehydrated in the driest desert in the world!
About the Author
I'm a freelance travel writer and photographer from Ireland, who quit my job in January 2012 to travel the world. I've been to 20 countries in the last 6 years, and lived on four different continents, in cities such as New Delhi, Mexico City, Washington DC, Santiago de Chile and Cali, Colombia. Traveling makes me happy and photography makes me happy, so I intend to keep on doing both of them for as long as I can.