Vacations to the Atacama Desert, Chile

The other-worldly Atacama Desert is 41,000 square miles of weird and wonderful terrain in the north of Chile. It’s a combination of dramatic vistas unparalleled almost anywhere else on the planet. This wild, remote and extreme place is made up of vast salt flats and lagoons, volcanoes, geysers and mysterious rock formations. The sights here will quicken the pulse of even the most well-traveled nomad and something you really have to see to believe.

It’s the driest place on earth (barring the poles), which makes it pretty inhospitable for us humans so that partly explains why there’s little development here. There’s just one main town, San Pedro, a petit place that’s a maze of pretty streets around a central plaza. It was once a quartz and copper mining hub, but today it’s mostly just a tourist base from which to get out and explore the Atacama Desert.

It’s thanks to the lack of human dwelling and the clear air here that the star-gazing opportunities are so good. Here, perhaps more than anywhere you’ve ever been, you’ll have an uninterrupted view of the night sky. Heading to an observatory will give you a breath-taking glimpse into space, untainted by light pollution.

By day, there’s a lot to see across the desert. Mornings at the icy El Tatio geysers are worth bracing to appreciate the eerie beauty of the world's highest geyser field bubbling and steaming. If you’re fit, you won’t want to miss climbing the sand dunes at Death Valley. Ascending the largest dune gives you a stunning view across this bizarre landscape and you’ll appreciate why Nasa used this location to test space buggies. Elsewhere, the Atacama Salt Flats is one of the highlights of the Los Flamencos National Reserve, which stretches across the border to Argentina. It’s home to an extraordinary number of elegant flamingos.

To finish your day, the Moon Valley (handily just ten miles from San Pedro) is a popular place to head at sunset. Watching the colors of this lunar-esque landscape change from soft pinks into reds is spectacular.


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I found world class wine, amazing food and wonderful people everywhere I went in Chile. Riding on horseback through Torres del Paine National Park was the perfect way to travel through the breathtaking landscape of this iconic part of the world.

Atacama Desert trip ideas

Here are some trip ideas in the Atacama Desert. All of our trip ideas shown below are examples, and we’ll amend, adapt or start from scratch, until we’ve created the perfect trip for you. See one you like, or have a trip in mind? Call us now to book: 01483 319 333

Places to stay in the Atacama Desert

Things to do in the Atacama Desert

Here are some of the things you can do in the Atacama Desert. When you've chosen your favourite experiences, just give our Travel Designers a call and they'll put a trip together for you.

Map of the Atacama Desert