Destination Chile: A Traveller’s Guide to the Atacama Desert

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It’s big, it’s barren and it’s the driest place on earth, but there is something truly magical about the Atacama Desert, and if you are heading to Chile anytime soon, this magnificent wonder should be right up there on the top of your “to do” list.

Spanning some 41,000 square miles, the Atacama Desert is the perfect starting point for any multi-destination South American Holiday, and whether you are an intrepid traveller, a photography enthusiast, or simply a globe-trotting dreamer, the Atacama landscapes will blow your mind.

Where is it?

Sitting comfortably between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountain range in Northern Chile, the Atacama Desert occupies a whopping 105,000 square kilometres of land.  Most travellers wishing to experience the Atacama Desert stay in San Pedro de Atacama, a pretty ‘village’ with plenty of accommodation choices, ‘rustic’ restaurants, and even internet cafes.

What to Pack?

A typical desert climate, the Atacama Desert is baking hot during the day and chilly at night, so take a good mix of layers, a warm fleece jacket, and a pair of hiking boots or trainers to protect your feet when you go off exploring.

Where to Stay?

Due to its remote location, there is no such thing as a ‘cheap hotel’ in San Pedro de Atacama, but it does offer a fantastic choice of accommodations. Those looking for luxury will appreciate the All Inclusive option at the luxurious Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa, which includes all meals, many beverages, private excursions and return transfers from Calama airport, although at around $500 per night, it’s not for everyone! The Hotel Poblado Kimal is a great mid-range option, and there are plenty of hostels for those travellers who are on a really tight budget.

When to Go?

Whenever you like!  With year-round sunshine and no rain, you can visit the Atacama Desert at any time of the year, although like everywhere else in the world, you can expect price hikes over Christmas, New Year and popular travel periods.

What to Do?

If you can drag yourself away from the magnificent landscapes for a second, take a day trip to Laguna Verde, visit the Salar de Atacama Salt flats, and take an afternoon tour to Valle de la Luna for the most amazing sunsets.

There are endless reasons to visit the Atacama Desert, and once you have experienced it for yourself, you will understand why thousands of travellers return year after year.

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