Atacama is the driest desert on Earth and recent scientific studies demonstrated that the soil in the region is about 25-30 million years old. The Atacama landscape is characterized by highlands, volcanoes, salt lakes, lagoons, hot springs, strange rock formations and sand dunes. Famous natural landmarks include Licancabur Volcano, Valle de la Luna, the Tatio Geysers and the Atacama Salt Flat. Atacama also has a lot of indigenous culture and pre-Colombian archaeological relics which have been perfectly preserved by the dryness and minerals. Its brilliant, clear sky makes Atacama a famous place for star gazing. The southern Atacama desert is famous for bursting into flower after rare rainfall, exhibiting rare exotic flowers and stunning colours across hundreds of kilometres, in a phenomenon known as the Desert in bloom.
The Altiplano, meaning ‘high plain’ in Spanish, is a high plateau in the Andes Mountains located to the North-East stretching across the borders of Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. It is home to many active volcanoes and the famous Lake Titicaca which sits at 3,800m above sea level. La Paz, capital of Bolivia, is the biggest city of the Altiplano.
- The Atacama desert covers a 1000km (600 miles) strip of land to the West of the Andes
- The desert spans Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina
- The Atacama desert in Chile is the driest desert in the world
- The region was shaped by volcanic activity and millions of years of wind erosion
- San Pedro de Atacama, departure point for most tours, is literally an oasis in the middle of the desert at an altitude of 2,000m
- Popular activities in the region include trekking, sandboarding on the dunes, stargazing, visiting the salt flat, geysers, volcanoes, and indigenous local villages
- The desert is full of abandoned mining towns, deserted during the ‘Nitrate crisis’ in the early 1900s
In Atacama, days are pleasantly warm all year round but nights can be cold in winter. In summer the average temperature is 27 degrees (81 F), reaching maximums of 32 degrees (90 F), and 16 degrees (61 F) at night. In Winter the average temperature is about 22 degrees during the day (72 F) and 4 degrees (39 F) at night. The lack of clouds means stargazing is optimum all year round. The Altiplanic rainy season comes during Chilean summertime between December and March, and the rest of the year tends to be very dry, cool, windy and sunny.