I was recently invited by two friends to join them on a trip to the north of Chile, more specifically: the Atacama Desert. Knowing practically nothing about what I was signing up for, but having a healthy passion for adventure, I decided to join them.
The Atacama Desert is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been. Driving into what NASA claims is one of the driest places on Earth (parts of the Atacama have never witnessed a drop of rain in recorded human history!) we were a bit shocked to be driving in our bright red desert equipped truck (complete with role bar and visibility flag) into the rain-soaked, muddy town of San Pedro. We later discovered that the town of San Pedro is an oasis in the Atacama This popular base point for travelers in the area is both rustic and charming. There are plenty of tourists and local residents, happy to share tips, experiences or even their morning cup of coffee as we rushed off on our daily sightseeing adventures.
From the town of San Pedro, options for sight-seeing span out in all four directions, east, north, south, and west.
Head North: to El Tatio Geyser fields. Travel guides recommend getting here at sunrise, but even if you only make it for breakfast (we ate geyser boiled eggs that morning) the view, and abundance of wild vicuña are incredible.
Head East: toward the Altiplano lakes district. Minutes from the dry, or in our case, wet desert, will lead you to the snowy Andes mountains where, if you’re lucky, you may spot a llama or two (we lucked out seeing one herding a flock of sheep and goats).
Head South: to Laguna Chaxa, an area of salt lakes attracting 3 separate species of flamingoes and offering beautiful reflections of the Andes.
Head West: for Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). We parked the truck, threw on some tunes, and watched the stars come out. It was absolutely stunning.
If you are fortunate enough to travel to the Atacama Desert, prepare yourself for an unforgettable few days. And pack a raincoat…just in case!
cover photo courtesy of wanderingtrader.com
About the Author:
Tanya is originally from Ontario, Canada and is a graduate of Queen’s University and the London School of Economics. She recently completed an internship with the United Nations Development Program in Brazil and is the author of two publications, one on social development in Latin America and the other on community impacts of dams in the Amazon. She currently lives in Santiago, Chile.