Visit Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert is famous,
In fact, Atacama is the driest place on Earth.
Sheltered between the Atacama ocean trench and the Andes Mountains, this place offers breathtaking and Mars like landscapes. This desert region is all about 6000 m / 19685 ft high volcanoes, turquoise lagoons, desert wildlife, geysers, canyons and salt lakes.
On this page, I share with you a collection of motivational pictures and inspiring photos of Atacama Desert in Chile. This includes places like El Tatio geysers, San Pedro city, Machuca, Salt Lakes, Death Valley, El Coyote and the unbelievable Valle de la Luna. I hope you enjoy it.
Photo of lake and volcano.
Photo of the Salt Lake. The salt desert near San Pedro de Atacama city is amazing. Salt rocks formed over the years provide a fantastic landscape.
Photo of Volcano and Cactus. The road from El Tatio geysers at 4200 meters / 13779 feet until San Pedro de Atacama offers magnificent landscapes. Desert rocky mountains with snowed-white volcanoes on the horizon.
Photo of the Moon Valley. The famous Moon Valley aka Valle de la Luna is an incredible place near San Pedro de Atacama city. This moonlike landscape scenery is extremely photogenic and can be easily explored through trekking or with bicycle.
Photo of walking on the salt flats. In the fantastic Salar de Atacama, you can walk on dried salt lakes. When there’s a bit of water, the reflex of yourself create great photographic effects – Photoshop free.
Photo of flamingo in Laguna Chaxa salt lake. Many flamingos can be easily spotted in Atacama Desert. The sulfur waters are the perfect environment for flamingos and they can get food and survive in such harsh climate.
Photo of the Gran Salar. The quantity of salt in this region of Chile is incredible. Everything is covered with a white salt crust, and in some cases, big chunks of salt are left for millions of years.
Photo of sunset of Iquique Beach. This part of Chile also has Pacific Ocean coast, and the contrast between desert and sea are amazing.
Photo of Snow Mountains. The contrast of colors between the ochre, blue and white from the snow is amazing.
Photo of Bahia Inglesa coast. This place is famous during the bathing holiday season.
Photo of the Moon Valley in Atacama Desert, Chile. The incredible Moon Valley is one of the most beautiful places in South America.
Photo of the Salt Lake in Salar de Atacama.
Photo of jumping in the Lake Tebinquiche. Due to the colors of this place, you can get very nice photo effects.
Photo of Dog in San Pedro de Atacama city, Chile.
Photo of a salt lizard. This beautiful white lizard lives in extreme conditions in the Salar de Atacama.
Photo of traditional fabrics from Chile.
Photo of an Andean flamingo in Laguna Chaxa salt lake.
Photo of Hazard Zone Volcano road sign, Chile.
Photo of the Moon Valley. Close to San Pedro de Atacama, there is a viewpoint called “Piedra del Coyote” from where one can see the fabulous “Valle de la Luna”. The sunset is unforgettable.
Photo of the Moon Valley.
Photo of the Moon Valley.
Photo of the Moon Valley.
Photo of rocks and volcano view.
Photo of the Machuca Church. This rustic church was built in traditional style and dates back to 1933. Machuca is located on the road between El Tatio and San Pedro de Atacama.
Photo of the Moon Valley.
Photo of Guanaco.
Photo of lake with ducks and Volcano.
Photo of Guanacos in Geyser El Tatio, Chile.
Photo of the Moon Valley.
Photo of the Geysers of el Tatio. The morning here is always very cold and you can see a lot of steam coming out of the fumaroles and geysers.
Photo of the Pacific Ocean coast.
Photo of Seagulls in Atacama Desert coastal regions, Chile.
Photo of a temporary lake in the mountains with a volcano in the distance. Very beautiful landscape. Road from El Tatio to San Pedro de Atacama.
Atacama Desert is one of the most fascinating deserts in world. Why like that? One of the reasons is that its soil and sand conditions are pretty much similar to that of Mars. Sensing NASA? Hell yes! We will get there. So, let us read some interesting Atacama Desert facts. We are sure, you will be surprised. Heads up! Atacama mummies are older than Egyptian mummies!
1. Atacama Desert is a desert situated on a plateau surrounding an area of 1,000 kilometres or 600 miles. It is present on the west coast of pacific and it lies to the west of Andes mountains.
2. It is present in South America and is spread out in Chile and Peru. Chile has complete control over Atacama Desert.
3. It mostly contains felsic lava (lava which contains feldspar and quartz igneous rocks), sand, salt lakes and its terrain is stony. Earlier there were rivers but they went dry some 12,000 years back.
4. It is considered as the driest desert in the world. According to the studies conducted by NASA, it is understood that it doesn’t receive rainfall more than 1mm per year. The desert didn’t receive proper rainfall from 1570 to 1971.
5. It is one of the few deserts which receive almost no rainfall. There are some areas in this desert which doesn’t receive rainfall at all. It is assumed that it is because of the presence of two mountain ranges (Andes and Chilean Coastal Range) on either side of this desert.
6. These mountain ranges block the moisture and clouds (from Pacific and Atlantic oceans) from entering the desert.
7. It falls in the rain shadow of Chilean Coastal Range. Don’t go by the name, it simply means that no rainfall on the areas which are under rain shadow. Adding to this, it falls on the Tropic of Capricorn.
8. As there is no water, one can paint the picture of the desert. The meagre presence of water and nutrients doesn’t allow the vegetation to grow and with vegetation being less in quantity, the animals seen here are also very few.
9. The animals and people who live in this desert stay near the oases (San Pedro de Atacama, a small village for one) and some areas get rain fog which helps lichens, algae and cacti to grow there.
10. The animals which are seen here are seagulls, Humboldt penguins, pelicans (near the coast) and foxes, deer, llamas and mice.
11. Historical evidences show that Atacamenian ruled this place during pre-Hispanic times and a pan American highway runs through Atacama Desert.
12. It is the largest supplier of sodium nitrate in the world. Sodium nitrate is used in making explosives, fertilizers etc. The mining was popular in 1940’s and now one can see abandoned mining sites in the desert.
13. The quality of sand and soil here is pretty much similar to the one that is present in Mars. This is the reason why NASA uses this area for testing satellites and other objects which are to be used for the mission to Mars.
14. It is also the site for testing of NASA-funded Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program. The scenes that you see in movies or television series about mars are mostly taken here.
15. Though it is more or less like a barren land, in late 1800’s two countries Chile and Bolivia were in bitter dispute in War of Pacific to get this desert. The reason being the presence of minerals and this area can be mined easily. At last Chile won.
Unlike anywhere else on the planet, with its rugged landscapes, geysers and lagoons, these are the best places to visit in the Atacama Desert, Chile.
This region of northern Chile is a place full of magic, wonder, and photos just waiting to be taken. When I arrived, I just couldn’t believe the variety of landscapes. Where else in the world do you have epic salt caves, close to vast sand dunes, impressive lagoons, volcanoes, salt flats and geysers. Oh and of course there’s the desert too – officially named the ‘driest place on earth’.
As you can imagine, it’s a region packed full of things to do. I’d recommend spending around a week in the Atacama Desert. It’ll give you a bit of time to acclimatise (after all, this is a region at high altitude) as well as venture off on a few exciting day trips.
I fell in love with the region, and my time in Atacama was the highlight of my entire trip to Chile. I’ve recommended it to countless friends, and several have now been and come back absolutely over the moon I put it on their radars! So, if you’re considering a trip, here are a few tips along with my guide to the top 5 places in the Atacama Desert.
Where Is The Atacama Desert Located?
The Atacama Desert is located in northern Chile. Unless you’re travelling overland, the best way to reach the region is by catching a flight to Calama Airport. From there you can catch a bus or a hotel transfer to reach the main town of San Pedro De Atacama. From there, you can easily tick off the top places to visit.
Public transport is virtually non-existent to the key sites, so rather than hire a car, I’d recommend booking organised tours for all of these. Not only do you have the added benefit of tour guides full of information, but also many of the roads are dangerous, with deep ravines and lots of bends. We saw one car completely upside-down at the side of a road near El Tatio Geysers – for the sake of a few pesos, it’s just not worth it.
Best Places To Visit In The Atacama Desert
Wake Up Early For Sunrise At El Tatio Geysers
Experiencing sunrise at El Tatio Geysers was a magical start to the day. As I stood looking out over the geyser field, watching water and steam erupting, just as the first sun of the day cast its eerie light, I knew it was worth the early start. While it was a chilly morning, after a dip in the geothermal hot springs, I was nice and toasty! This tour also stopped at some stunning viewpoints, including a picture-perfect mirror lagoon. Book a tour to El Tatio Geysers here.
Explore The Valley Of The Moon – El Valle De La Luna
Trekking through salt caves as the white crystals glistened, climbing up sand dunes, and catching a breathtaking sunset overlooking the Valley of the Moon – this was one of the most magical experiences in the Atacama region. Book a tour to visit El Valle De La Luna.
Take A Tour Of Atacama Salt Flats and Chaxa Lagoon
Chile is home to the world’s second largest salt flats. Be sure to take a trip to Chaxa Lagoon in the heart of the salt flats to see pink flamingos in their natural habitat. The scenery is stunning, with perfect mirror reflections and a backdrop of the Andes Mountains. Book a tour to the Atacama Salt Flats here.
Visit Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons
Up in the Atacama highlands you’ll find two of Chile’s most picturesque lagoons, known as the lagunas altiplanicas. With its deep turquoise colour, Miscanti Lagoon sits under the active volcano of the same name. Moments away, Miñiques Lagoon is a rich blue hue, and a great spot for spotting vicunas (similar to llamas) in the wild. Find out more about visiting Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons here.
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