Discover the world's driest desert, where adventure meets tranquility. Embrace the silence, feel the stars.

Where is the Atacama Desert located?

The Atacama Desert nestles in northern Chile, South America. It stretches along the Pacific coast for about 1,000 kilometers, flanked by the towering Andes Mountains to the east and the Chilean Pacific Ocean coast range to the west. The Atacama Desert is one of Earth's most unique and extreme landscapes.

The desert's location between two mountain ranges creates a rain shadow effect, making it incredibly dry. Some weather stations in the region have never recorded any rain. It adds to the mystique of this incredible place. The Atacama Desert is the driest of all deserts in the world.

Despite these conditions, the region has a surprising array of flora and fauna. It has adapted to survive in one of the harshest environments on the planet.

Atacama Desert hikers

San Pedro de Atacama

This charming town serves as the perfect gateway to exploring the vast expanse of the Atacama Desert. San Pedro exudes history with its narrow, adobe streets and old-world charm. The town itself sits at an altitude of 2,400 meters, providing a cool respite from the desert heat.

Wander through the town to discover its rich cultural heritage, from ancient ruins to bustling markets. Visit the Church of San Pedro, a national monument dating back to the 17th century. Or explore the R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum. It houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the region's pre-Columbian cultures.

Why "Desierto de Atacama" is so visited?

The Atacama Desert attracts visitors from around the globe for its breathtaking landscapes, clear skies, and unique geological formations. Every corner of this desert promises a discovery. Some of the attractions:

Valle de la Luna

One of the most striking features of the Atacama is its otherworldly terrain. Valle de la Luna, with its strange rock formations and vast dunes, looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie. The valley offers some of the best sunset views in the region. The changing light transforms the landscape into a palette of pinks, purples, and oranges.

Salar de Atacama 

Another must-see is the Salar de Atacama, the largest salt flat in Chile. This expansive area is home to several species of flamingos, which often feed in the shallow, saline waters. The contrast between the blindingly white salt crust and the bright pink birds is truly a sight to behold.

El Tatio Geysers 

The desert is also rich in geothermal activity. El Tatio Geysers, located at an altitude of over 4,300 meters, are one of the highest geyser fields in the world. Visiting at dawn, when the geysers are most active, is an unforgettable experience. The sight of steam rising from the ground, backlit by the early morning sun, is nothing short of magical.

flamingos Atacama Desert

Dead Valley

Adventure seekers will find plenty to keep them occupied in the Atacama. Sandboarding down the massive dunes of Death Valley is a must. 

 Puritama Hot Springs 

For a more relaxed experience, dip in the natural hot springs of Puritama. There, you can soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters surrounded by stunning desert scenery.

  Los Flamencos National Reserve 

It's a nature reserve located in the commune of San Pedro de Atacama. It covers 740 square kilometers (290 sq mi) in the Central Andean dry puna. The Salar de Tara, Salar de Pujsa, Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons are located there. 

An incredible volcanic landscape

The Atacama Desert is famous for being the driest place on Earth. But it's also home to an impressive number of volcanoes. Yes, you heard that right. Around 150 volcanoes in the Atacama Desert offer incredible opportunities for adventure and exploration.

Must-see volcanoes in Atacama:

  • Licancabur Volcano: One of the most iconic, standing at 5,916 meters. It's famous for its perfect symmetry and crater lake. You can arrange a two day trip to explore this volcano.
  • Lascar Volcano: One of Chile's most active volcanoes. Its last strong eruption was in 2015, and it's a popular destination for hiking.
  • Ojos del Salado Volcano: The highest active volcano in the world at 6,893 meters. It's a challenge for the most experienced mountaineers.
  • Sairecabur Volcano: It's 5,971 meters above sea level and offers breathtaking views and hiking trails.

lagoon in Atacama Desert


The best stargazing experience

The Atacama Desert is a dream destination for astronomical observation lovers. Here, you can have an out-of-this-world astronomical experience. The Atacama Desert is one of the best places on the planet for astronomical observation. Here's why:

  • Clear skies: With over 300 clear nights a year, the Atacama Desert offers some of the most consistent and reliable stargazing conditions.
  • High altitude: The desert's high elevation (over 2,400 meters above sea level) means thinner air and less atmospheric interference.
  • Minimal light pollution: Far from densely populated urban areas, the Atacama Desert has virtually no light pollution. It makes the stars shine even brighter.
  • Dry air: The arid conditions result in extremely low humidity, which enhances visibility.


More things to do in The Atacama Desert

Here's a list of things to do in this mesmerizing place. Let's dive in!
  1. Laguna Cejar: float in salty waters and soak in the breathtaking views.
  2. Pukará de Quitor: visit this pre-Columbian fortress and learn about local history.
  3. Laguna Chaxa: observe endemic wildlife in this lagoon within the Salar de Atacama.
  4. Toconao: Explore this charming village and its local crafts.
  5. Salar de Tara: discover unique rock formations and stunning landscapes.
  6. Rainbow Valley: admire colorful mountains and ancient rock art.
  7. Piedras Rojas: marvel at the red rock formations contrasting with the desert landscape.
  8. Valley Tours: explore hidden valleys and discover ancient petroglyphs.
  9. Salar de Aguas Calientes: a lesser-known but equally impressive spot.
  10. Peine: an oasis in the desert with a beautiful spring.
  11. Desert Trekking: explore hiking trails and discover the unique flora and fauna of the desert.
  12. Quebrada de Jerez: a perfect spot for a peaceful walk and landscape photography.
  13. Kari Viewpoint: enjoy panoramic views of the desert and its geological formations.
  14. Guatín Canyon: hike through this canyon and discover giant cacti and stunning landscapes.

There you have it, 14 must-do activities in the Atacama Desert. Each one offers a unique and memorable experience. It's time to pack up and start your adventure!

hikers Atacama Desert rocks

How can you visit the Atacama Desert from the USA?


Book your flight to Santiago

First things first, you'll need to fly to Santiago, the capital of Chile. Fortunately, there are several direct flights from major U.S. cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Dallas. Book your flights a few months in advance to get the best deals.


Fly from Santiago to Calama

Once you land in Santiago, you'll need to catch a domestic flight to Calama. Calama is the closest airport to San Pedro de Atacama. LATAM, JetSmart, and Sky Airline have multiple daily flights to Calama, which lasts approximately 2 hours.

If you have a long layover in Santiago, take the opportunity to explore the city. Visit the historic downtown, enjoy Chilean cuisine, or relax in one of its beautiful parks.


Go from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is about a 1.5-hour drive from Calama Airport.  

If you plan your holiday yourself, you can rent a car or opt for a shuttle service. When you book a program with a tour operator or hotel, a private transfer will mostly be included.


Settle into San Pedro de Atacama

Welcome to San Pedro de Atacama! This charming town will be your base for exploring the desert. There are plenty of accommodation options ranging from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons (December to February).


Explore the Atacama Desert 

Now the real adventure begins! San Pedro de Atacama offers a variety of tours and activities. Check the altitude of the places you plan to visit and take it easy the first couple of days to acclimate.

That's it! You're all set for an unforgettable journey to the Atacama Desert. 

people enjoying sunset Atacama Desert

Ready to start planning? Start your adventure today. ¡Buen viaje!

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