Say desert and people expect dunes, but while Chile’s sprawling Atacama desert has buckets of sand it’s a landscape that’s as diverse as it is breath-taking. There are snow-capped volcanoes, milky blue lagoons, spouting geysers and even steaming thermal baths. Whether you trek through the Salt Mountain Range, formed from salt crystals, or have an extra-terrestrial experience at the lunar-like Moon Valley, you’ll see why this is often described as one of the world’s most extraordinary landscapes. The Atacama’s skies are its crowning glory – huge, deep blue domes by day and star speckled by night. People come from far and wide to peek at its perfectly clear skies through a telescope.
Desolate but not deserted
Despite being one of the driest places on earth (it’s believed some stretches of the Atacama have never seen a drop of rain), this parched terrain is busy with life. You’ll find desert foxes, llamas, condors, vizcachas (large rodents), and numerous birds such as flamingos that flock to the salt flats and lagoons. It’s also attracted humans.
Amidst the craggy canyons are ancient rock carvings, created by llama herders, while remote, dusty settlements scattered through the desert offer an intriguing insight into the local Atacameños culture.
To the far south, the Patagonian desert offers a wildly different landscape. The steppe is mostly scrubland, painted by tufts of windblown grass and tumbleweed. It was once the back yard for Chile’s cowboys and the mesa remains wonderfully evocative.
Chilean Desert tours
Find your Chile Experience with Rainbow Tours
020 7666 1236