Atacama Desert: The driest Place of the World

In August five friends and I decided to visit the Atacama Desert for four days. We booked a flight from Santiago to Calama, which is a two hours flight heading north. From Calama we took a bus to San Pedro the Atacama, a small town in the Atacama Desert. All tours to the surroundings are organised from there. The town lies at 2.400 m above sea level which is why some tourists suffer from altitude sickness. Luckily we didn’t feel it too badly but when driving further up for our tours I felt a bit dizzy as well. We have done tours with the company “Janaj Pacha” everyday. After comparing several agencies we found that this was the cheapest one.

Natural reserve Los Flamencos

Day 1

On the first day we drove to Piedras Rojas at 6:00 am where the temperature was -6°C due to the even higher elevation (4.000 m above sea level) than San Pedro itself. We had breakfast outside in the cold and walked around in the beautiful area. Due to the altitude we had to walk slowly because we’d get exhausted really easily.

Breakfast at 4.000 m above sea level and -6°C
Piedras Rojas (engl.: Red Stones)
Piedras Rojas

Then we continued the tour to Laguna Chaxa, the National Reserve Los Flamencos around noon, where the temperature was already much more agreeable. The landscape is breathtaking and it’s fascinating to see flamingos in their natural habitat.

Natural Reserve Los Flamencos
Natural Reserve Los Flamencos

The Atacama Desert is one of the best places worldwide to do stargazing and most of the world’s observatories are located there. At night you can see the Milky Way with your naked eyes. It was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. Everyone who visits San Pedro should definitely do a stargazing tour.

Photo of the sky taken with my Canon EOS 1300D

Day 2

We started the second day with renting a bike and biking to the Valle de la Muerte where we had incredible views over the desert and the snowy mountains in the distance.

View from the top of Valle de la Muerte
Valle de la Muerte

After returning our bikes we did a tour to the Lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques where we went swimming and watched the sunset later on.

Never would I have imagined that a desert could be that beautiful. The nature is impressive and there’s a lot of different activities to do and places to see.

Day 3

On our last day we got up at 5:00 am and drove up to 4.300 m above sea level to watch the Geysers del Tatio where the temperature was -12°C. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring any winter clothes. Despite all the layers I was wearing it felt like my extremities would freeze soon and I have never felt as cold before – so bring enough warm clothes if you plan to go there!

Geysers del Tatio, 4.300 m above sea level

After watching the Geysers we continued the tour to the Valle de la Luna where we watched the sunset.

Valle de la Luna

Recommendations

  1. If you go there during winter season (June-September) bring enough warm cloths for the tours in higher altitudes and for the night.
  2. Temperatures in San Pedro vary greatly between night and day – so bring summer clothes as well
  3. Stay in San Pedro the first few days or do tours that don’t go too far up. Your body should get used to the altitude to avoid altitude sickness.
  4. If you plan to go to Bolivia or Peru as well, don’t buy your souvenirs in San Pedro. The same things are sold everywhere but in Bolivia and Peru it’s way cheaper.
  5. Hostal Rural: Great hostel for 20€ per night including breakfast

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