The Atacama desert in Chile offers unique landscapes in the world. Composed of ocher sand dunes, we can admire oases but also volcanic peaks 6,000 meters high. This desert expanse alone concentrates a unprecedented variety of landscapes.
These numerous variants are explained by the geographical position of the desert, wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Andean Cordillera.
Yet, in some places, no raindrop has ever fallen to the ground. Awesome!
The average altitude of the desert Atacama is slightly below 5,000 meters.
Atacama’s grandiose spectacle does not stop here: its volcanoes form a natural line that forms the border between three countries that are Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
And for good reason ! This stretch is 1,600km long and 180km wide! There are precious minerals such as gold, silver, iron and copper.
Protected plant and animal species of the Atacama Desert
The animal species present in the Atacama Desert are very rare and in this way very valuable: they are protected by the organization WWF, the World Fund for Nature, which works to protect very few mammal species and birds that survive remarkably in some of the most difficult conditions known to us.
Among these brave animals, you may observe flamingos or other resistant birds. A few rare mice and lizards survive the extreme conditions of the Atacama Desert.
Plant species are very little presence in the desert. A NASA robot, before going to explore Mars, detected tiny amounts of bacteria.
Plants and shrubs are mostly present on the hills along the Pacific coast where moist air comes out of the clouds. Elsewhere, it is mostly cacti that grow.
Not far from here, at the gateway to the desert, Llanos de Challe Park is known for its countless species of flowers that grow from October to November when weather conditions helped by the wind bring some rain.
These flowers give a magnificent look to the immense expanse and some species are among the rarest in the world.
The scientific station of the Atacama desert
The Atacama Desert presents extreme climatic conditions: very high aridity and duration of sunshine record.
This is why astronomers have established some of the most important research stations in the world, there are five in the South and two in the North of the Atacama Desert. Scientists observe the constellations with a clear sky.
In the footsteps of Atacameños, former inhabitants of the Atacama desert
When you go to the Atacama Desert, you will surely be told the story of the Atacameños, the community that lived in the desert at another time.
Thanks to an ingenious system of agricultural terraces, this farming person was satisfied with very little water to irrigate their plantations and thus grow squash, peas, tobacco, potatoes, corn, etc.
This system is also present in Quechua culture. Many of their characteristics are now extinct, like their language, kinda, but there remains in the desert the remains of their constructions.
To learn more about this extinct Atacama culture, go to San Pedro de Atacama where a museum is entirely dedicated to him.
San Pedro de Atacama, a small village in the heart of the Atacama desert
San Pedro de Atacama is a small village located in the desert, hundreds of kilometers from Antofagasta, a remarkable city in northern Chile. It was once the nerve center of Atacama civilization, long before the Inca era.
It is interesting to know that because of the arid conditions of the desert, the village would not exist without the two rivers that surround it: the Rio Puritama and the Rio Purificada. In the village, go to the museum and find a few minutes to admire its white adobe church …
Licancabur watches over the Atacama Desert from 6,000 meters
An excursion to the Licancabur volcano, literally “the mountain of the people” in kunza, the language of the Atacama, will allow you to take the height and admire the salary of Atacama from a new angle.
The ascension of this volcano is possible only on the Bolivian side because mines still remain on the Chilean side. In its crater, there is one of the highest lakes in the world.
Scientists have done a lot of research in this lake because it’s living conditions are close to those observed on Mars when there was water on this planet.
Ready ? Leave! The curiosities of the Atacama desert to visit
The Salar of Atacama
The geysers of El Tatio
The Valley of the Moon
South of the village, Salar Atacama opens its doors. A unique experience to live in the desert of salt, you will make there the meeting of wild flamingos! The dimensions of this salar do not compete with the famous Salar Uyuni 10,000km2, but they are still notable: 3 000km2.
North of the village, towards the geysers of El Tatio: it is a natural park of 80 geysers!
The Valley of the Moon and its lunar landscape have been the subject of much research and questioning as the place is desert and cut off from all civilization. Result: the guarantee of being far from everything and not crossing en route neither animals nor plants …
The Laguna Miscanti overlooked by the volcano Miñiques is also to see! It’s a totally lost place, where time seems to have suspended its flight … The color contrasts between the blue of the lake and the ocher tones of the sand are spectacular!
Journey to the Atacama Desert with Andean Lands
The getaway that Terres des Andes offers you for your trip to Chile, in the heart of the Atacama Desert, will keep its promises: a total disconnection, out of time.
Beautiful walks to be closer to nature and elements, nice excursions to discover the riches of the Atacama desert …
Let yourself be guided to new emotions that we do not know in Europe.
You will discover the great natural expanses of Chile with your guide who will take you to see all the authenticity of this beautiful country through small traditional villages, but also lakes and peculiarities of the desert of Atacama in all its size.
Aside from the Atacama desert, what to see in Chile?
All fighters will tell you: Chile is one of the most beautiful countries in Latin America. This country impresses with its elongated shape that never seems to stop …
There are landscapes very different from each other and especially a warm welcome to its people.
Terres des Andes gives you some ideas to explore if you plan to live a good experience for your trip to Chile (non-exhaustive list):
- If you want to change the setting and return to the city. In central Chile, visit Santiago, the capital!
After a quick tour on the Plaza de Armas, you will be able to take the height on Cerro Cristobal, having a sight at 306 ° on the city!
Do not forget to have a look at Pablo Neruda’s house, but also at Bellavista neighborhood. The latter is the bohemian and trendy neighborhood of Santiago.
- Always in an urban atmosphere, if you have the opportunity, take the time to visit the beautiful city of Valparaiso.
It is a very colorful city that can not leave you indifferent. It has kept its authentic appearance of an old fishing port.
For Street Art lovers, you will be served! Beautiful contrasts make this city a must!
- To take a step back, go to the Lake District in Southern Chile. Mapuche Indians still live in this nature paradise.
We strongly recommend an excursion to discover the island of Chiloe, located before the Chilean Patagonia.
For lovers of open spaces and nature, its natural park will meet all your expectations.
Special mention for its authentic houses built on piles all more colorful than the others!
- Finally, for the most adventurous of you, Patagonia awaits you!
If the Argentina part is the best known, know that Chile also has its “end of the world”, and it is named Puerto Wiliams!
Between the Torres del Paine National Park and its famous Cape Horn, a region as mythical as extreme reveals its most beautiful landscapes …
We are already far from the desert of Atacama …