The Atacama desert in Chile is one of the driest place on earth, covering a 1,000-kilometre strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains.
Here you will find vast tracts of red sand, active volcanoes, felsic lava, salt-lakes and a variety of animals and plants.
The Atacama desert offers a spectacular and unforgettable experience. You can see numerous volcanoes, visit the El Tatio Geysers, watch flamingos at the Salar de Atacama, hiking in the Moon Valley, take mountain bike tours and much more!
While staying at the luxurious Awasi Hotel by Relais & Chateaux in San Pedro de Atacama, we had a private guide and a modern 4WD “doble cabina” utility vehicle to help you discover the remote but stunning landscape. Our guide, Jorge, grew up in the San Pedro de Atacama vicinity and delights in showing tourists places that they have never seen.
We were blown away by the spectacular scenery where nature has crafted its shapes and materials in the desert.
Here are some suggestions for worthwhile excursions in this vast region of Atacama Desert:
Salar de Atacama & Laguna Cejar
The Salar de Atacama is the largest salt flat in Chile and it’s located a short ride south of San Pedro de Atacama. The setting is dominated by the view of the vulcano Licancabur and the surrounding desert.
The Laguna Cejar is a small salt lake in the middle of the Atacama desert. The water of the lagoon is a crystal-clear, decorated by a white salt crust. Due to the high salinity and the pleasant temperatures of the water, you can get the perfect experience floating!
El Tatio geysers
One of the most fascinating excursion was certainly the one to the Tatio Geysers. El Tatio Geysers is a field of geothermal springs with fumaroles activity and mineral deposits. It’s located at 4’200 meters above sea level and approx. 80 km from the town of San Pedro de Atacama (approx. 2 hours drive).
Make sure you arrive early before sunrise since the geysers are most active in the early morning.
The natural spectacle is overwhelming … water and steam rising up from everywhere and when the sun goes up, the sun light sparkles in between – just awesome!
Remember to take along some warm clothes since you will expect some chilly temperatures! Even though we are quite used to cold temperatures (since Switzerland is not exactly one of the warmest countries) we felt quite freezing.
Valle de la luna (Moonvalley)
The so-called Valley of the moon is famous for its resemblance to the surface of the moon. An amazing array of colors mark the landscape, including plenty of reds, oranges, and browns of course.
Within the valley you will see the great dune path; for thousands of years strong winds have affected these relifs, creating huge fields of sand dunes. Awesome!
Hiking in the “Valle de los Cordones”
On our last day we opted for an easy, but not less fascinating, hike through the “Valle de los Cordones”. We very much enjoyed the hike and the mix of foxtail plants, cactus and rocks in this valley.
Another amazing experience was the “Stargazing night with Jorge“. What an overwhelming night!
Not only was the viewing of billions of stars spectacular, but also our guide’s wealth of knowledge on the subject was impressive! It certainly enhanced our perception and understanding of the subject.
Where to stay in San Pedro de Atacama
We spent several nights at San Pedro de Atacama, in the following two luxurious and stylish hideaways leave nothing to be desired! Click at the links to read the detailed review about these fantastic hotels:
Please check out our review of renowned Hotel Awasi by Relais & Chateaux
Here’s our travelogue from Alto Atacama
Please find some more impressions from stunning Atacama Desert here: