Ever heard of Atacama desert in Chile aka the hand of the Desert?
Desierto de Atacama or Atacama desert is 1255 km long and is renowned to be the driest non-polar desert in the world. Located in South America, Atacama is composed of stony terrains, sand, salt lakes, and felsic lava. To its east you can find the mighty Andes along with towering volcanoes standing for 6000 meters in height. Atacama is amongst the very famous holiday destinations for tourists from Chile and international travelers alike.
Top 5 Things To Do and Places to Visit in Atacama
With its vast and unending region of sand, you may be thinking what are you supposed to do except walk in Atacama desert. You’ll be surprised to know there are plenty of things to do and sights to see in the driest region on earth.
- Check out the petroglyphs.
Petroglyphs are images carved with red pigment made thousands of years ago by men riding in animals in the desert. You can go to the mountainous piles of rocks at Yerbas Buenas and discover the hundreds of petroglyphs inside. From Yerbas Buenas, you can add a trip to the adobe village of Río Grande and then go back through the rainbow of rocks that make up Matancilla valley. This trip in Acatama desert is sure to satisfy your hunger and thirst for hiking and some history.
- Visit the Atacama Salt Lake.
Be amazed at the sight of flamingos grazing in the lake and be relaxed while you take in all the peace and quiet
around the Atacama salt lake’s surrounding areas. You can also take a trip to Toconaos local inhabitants and be inspired and in awe of their knitting abilities. Watch them as they knit llama wool on cactus spines.
- Unwind in Tatio geysers.
Make sure to leave San Pedro Acatama while it’s still early in the morning so you can arrive at the geysers earlier than usual. Geysers tend to spout highest when it’s dawn although there’s a chance of 8 meter steam columns to gush above you when there isn’t that much of a crowd, as well as the hot rivers of scarlet algae. Take a dip in relaxing Puritama thermal baths before you go back.
- Head to Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons.
The blue lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques host a variety of species of rare birds and is an absolute paradise for birdwatchers. If you want to just pass the time in an utterly remote and beautiful place while in the Atacama desert, it’s the perfect thing to do.
You can then journey across the Andes mountains and experience a memorable ride while witnessing awe-inspiring rock formations, flamingo-filled lakes, and numerous hot springs. This 200-km roundtrip is sure to make your visit to Atacama desert a one-of-a-kind experience.
- See San Pedro Church.
Set behind thick walls of adobe in the main plaza of San Pedro de Atacama is the San Pedro Church which was built in 1744. It is the largest in the region and it boasts iconic colorful images on its altar. What also made it interesting is its sloping roof that’s made out of cactus wood.
- Visit museums.Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum is another iconic place in San Pedro de Atacama. It is home to over 380,000 artifacts from the region including the hair-raising sacrificial mummy of a woman who sat with her knees hugged into her chest, perfectly preserved for spectators who want to see it face to face.
- Go sandboarding.
The most popular sandbank in San Pedro de Atacama is in Valle de la Muerte also called the Death Valley. All sandboarding tours from local tour agencies will take you there. The dune is around 100 meters in height. Some other tour companies offer packages that includes watching the sunset in the Moon Valley and a visit to Cari viewpoint and the Great Dune. Many agencies will take you to the place on a van and the offer will include a board per person in their fare most of the time. This allows you to conserve your time and energy for sandboarding. Just keep in mind that you cannot sandboard in the Moon Valley and you will be fined if you even try.
- Go mountain climbing.
San Pedro de Atacama sports a wide variety of mountains where you can experience mountain climbing in varying levels of difficulty. There are specialized agencies which offer this kind of service in the area. Just make sure that the package includes the tourist guide and the driver. You can expect an oxygen tank and climbing rods for mountain climbing activities, and other equipment depending on the difficulty. Mountains recommended for the first time climbers are Cerro Toco which stands 5604 meters in height and Volcán Lascar which stands 5510 meters in height. Both mountains are very popular to tourists, and they take no longer than a day to complete. The difficult
ones to climb are Cerro Pili which is about 6064 meters in height and Sairecabur, around 6971 meters.
On the other hand, the majestic Licancabur Volcano, which towers over the town, is the hardest and presents many challenges. Even if it is only 5916m high, it takes at least three days to complete, not including the preparation period. Another choice is the mythical Kimal mountain which stands 427 meters tall. The mountain has many myths and legends surrounding its existence. According to local folklore, the “princess Kimal” is an extremely jealous woman and she enjoys snatching adventurers away. There’s even a preferred season for climbing this mountain, months when she is said to be in a good mood, which the tour agencies won’t tell you. If you want to take the adventure to the next level, climb the mountain at your own risk. Just be cautious and careful to ensure your safety while in San Pedro de Acatama. If you are having second thoughts, then do not continue.
- Experience the Star Tour.
Atacama desert is known to be one of the best place on Earth to see the sky. Space Star Tours offers an incredible experience in watching the stars high up in the sky. The tour starts with an explanation of the naked eye sky. Topics like what is a constellation about, how you can learn them, how to read a sky map, and how to recognize the main constellations are some of the topics that will be covered. They will also explain why the skies vary in color.
The next part of the exploration is a visit to the largest park of telescopes of any public observatory in south America. In this place, it is possible to see Saturn, other planets in the solar system, and other galaxies outside of it. The tours ends by providing a warm drink to all tourists while also giving an explanation about the basics of astronomy. The tours can last up to two hours and a half. Schedules may vary depending on the month you decided to book your trip. There are also a Spanish tour and an English tour available. It is highly recommended for you to wear warm clothes and bring some extra since the place is going to be pretty cold. Reservations are recommended for this tour in Atacama.
Places To Stay at During Your Trip To Atacama
After each adventure in the outdoors of San Pedro de Atacama, you want to go back home to a comfortable and cozy room where you can sleep and get yourself recharged for your next adventure. Here are the top picks for hotels where you can spend a night or two. Some may be costly but thd hotels are an experienced in themselves so
it’s still worth it!
Situated in San Pedro de Atacama, this luxury all-inclusive hotel was built using local materials like adobe, wood, stone, and straws. The local materials were transformed cleverly by professional builders to create environment that boast casual yet refined simplicity. This place is the perfect place to stay at while in Atacama for when you’re in need of open, beautifully landscaped external areas including a shaded swimming pool. You’ll experience an extremely comfortable accommodation for the hotel has eight double rooms in adobe cottages and also has 43 friendly and professional who are trained to provide quality service to all guests. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth staying in luxurious hotel during your stay in San Pedro de Atacama.
- Hotel de Larrache
The boutique hotel sits in 17 hectares of terrain and was recently refurbished for prime experience for its guests. It is also an all-inclusive hotel with 50 rustic-styld rooms, all with views of Atacama desert. Guests can go horseback riding, relax by the swimming pools, or go stargazing at the new observatory.
- Lodge Altitud
Operated and owned by a young Chilean couple, Lodge Altitud boasts a number of decorated rooms with views to the surrounding volcanoes and an inviting heated pool. The couple who are owners of the hotel are also qualified tour guides and are able to arrange trekking, rock climbing, and archaeological excursions whether you are a guest or not in their hotel at San Pedro de Acatama.
Where To Eat During Your Acatama Adventure
Blanco is a restaurant that features international cuisine with a Chilean twist. Eating will sure be the most awaited part of your Atacama experience.
- Cafe Adobe
Cafe Adobe is famous to visitors of San Pedro de Atacama for its pizzas and barbequed steaks. There’s also a lig-fire every night.
- Las Delicias De Carmen
It is home to the best and most delicious lemon pies, apple tarts, and empanadas with cheese, basil, and tomato. zit is the perfect place to go for when you want to just grab a loaf of bread and have some coffee to wake yourself up so you’ll be ready to conquer San Pedro de Atacama.
When to go to Atacama Desert
Because the Atacama desert is one of the driest area in the world, you can expect the weather to rarely change. The best months to travel to Atacama Desert is early autumn, from October to November and late summer, from March to April. This is when there are fewer tourists. This time is also perfect for stargazers because it’s when the skies are clearest.
You can go in June if you want to witness the local Saint’s Day festival, or in July for when you want to experience cooler nights.
What to pack for your Atacama Desert Adventure
Since you are going to venture to the driest place on earth, be sure to be prepared for what the Atacama desert have for you. You’ll definitely need a sun hat and a sunblock. You’ll need fleece for early mornings. You also have to pack a pair of sunglasses, lightweight shirts, pants and shorts, comfortable trekking shoes, windbreaker, and a swimsuit. Bring a stargazing guide, binoculars, and a special camera to capture star trails.
Experience Adventure At Its Finest in Atacama Desert
San Pedro de Atacama is where you should go to for when you want to experience nature and get a feel of the mountains, the skies, and the desert. Book your flight now to Atacama Desert.
Visit the South America destinations category to learn more about best places to visit in South America!