It is known as “the driest desert on Planet Earth”, but the landscapes of the Atacama Desert in Chile look more like postcards from some strange and far away planet.
The moniker comes from the fact that 10, 20 or even 40 years have to pass for it to rain one single millimeter in this place.
Climatic factors, its past as a seabed, high concentrations of salt, and its geographic position, all contribute to the creation of the strange landscapes of the Atacama Desert. The whole thing is about 40,500 square miles wide. Inside this vast area, there are many visual attractions waiting for curious travelers.
There’s a place called Valle de la Muerte (Valley of Death), whose 400 ft. high dunes are perfect for sandboarding. There’s also the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) –you won’t have a hard time figuring out why it’s called that.
The Cejar Lagoon, besides featuring a flotation rate higher than the one at the Dead Sea, is one of the most unbelievable sights.
The Atacama Salt Bank, the Lascar Volcano and the Tatio geysers are some of the other stunning sites that will steal your breath.
Perhaps the best known sight of Atacama is the Mano del Desierto (Hand of the Desert), a stunning sculpture that seems to emerge from the earth. Seeing in there, in the middle of nowhere, is kind of like seeing a mirage.
The entrance to the desert is through the town of San Pedro de Atacama. The best way to get there is to catch a flight from Santiago –it is possible to get there by bus or car, but it is a 20 hour ride from the capital.
If you’re traveling to Chile, you don’t want to miss the otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama Desert. Whenever you are in Santiago, remember that City Express Santiago is a great choice for sleeping next to the airport!