Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the most spectacular regions in South America. To do it justice, you’ll need a stay of at least four days, preferably more. The nearest airport is that of Calama, about two hours away. From there, you’ll then complete your journey by road, either by bus, taxi or private transfer. The most convenient base for visitors to the Atacama Desert is the charming tourist hub of San Pedro de Atacama. It has a wide selection of accommodation, restaurants and tour operators offering day tours within and beyond the area. Here are some of the places you can expect to visit while you’re there.
Travel to a lunar landscape
The Valle de la Luna translates as “Moon Valley” and this desiccated landscape is perhaps as close to the moon as you’ll get on Earth. Tours tend to be scheduled for late afternoon, as it’s one of the best places in the area to watch the sunset. Hike through the rocky valley as your boots crunch on the salty ground. Scale a small hill and tke a break as you wait for dusk’s fading light to work its magic.
Marvel at a steaming geyser field
Tour buses depart early in the morning for the drive up the mountain to the high altitude geyser field of El Tatio. The best time to see its steaming geysers is at dawn. If you come in winter, it will be cold, but once the sun’s up, it’s remarkable how quickly the temperature increases. Enjoy the surreal landscape on foot or take a dip in one of the hot pools that’s deemed safe for bathing.
Float in a high altitude salt lake
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The Lagunas de Baltinache are relatively close to San Pedro de Atacama, though the road isn’t a good one. That means relatively few visitors make it to these seven salt lakes, one or two of which are usually accessible to swimmers. Take a dip and float in the vivid blue water under a cloudless Chilean sky. The temperature’s warm rather than hot, but with the sun on your face it will feel pleasant enough for a soak.
Spot flamingos at Laguna Chaxa
Three types of flamingos inhabit Laguna Chaxa: James, Chilean and Andean. To see them, it’s best to come early or late in the day to this high latitude lagoon in the heart of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. These flamingos get their distinctive pink colour from the brine shrimp and algae on which they feed. They won’t be quite as brightly coloured as flamingos in areas such as the Caribbean. Nevertheless, their delicate colouring is still very attractive.
The lack of moisture in the Atacama Desert makes this the ideal location for stargazing. Under a cloudless sky, as long as you find a spot free of light pollution you’ll be impressed by the stars and planets that are visible. The Explora hotel has its own observatory. If you’re not a guest, mobile tours run by local tour operators depart regularly from San Pedro de Atacama if you’re in need of a powerful telescope and an expert guide.
Keen to experience the Atacama yourself? Give Mundana a call today.