The landscapes of the Atacama desert are something out of this world! Truly unique and awe-inspiring they will leave you breathless! The world’s driest desert will surprise with the amount of life that inhabits it and its ancient cultures will envelop you in a warm welcome.
From lunar like landscapes to small villages where timeless traditions still are the norm in daily life, to the world’s best night skies for star gazing, a trip to the Atacama should be a 3-night minimum.
You will fly to Calama and from here a 2 hour car journey will take you to San Pedro de Atacama where most accommodation choices are. Some are within walking distance to local bars and restaurants whilst other hotels are on the outskirts. The hotels here have a wonderful desert rustic vibe and cater to all budgets. You will find modest but comfortable 3* lodges on a bed and breakfast basis, chic 4* hotels on either B&B, half board or all inclusive basis, and some of Chile’s most beautiful and luxurious brands like Explora, Tierra and Alto that offer exclusive all inclusive packages with full board and all excursions.
The Atacama can be visited all year round however, do bear in mind that January and February mark the Altiplanic winter that can bring heavy rains.
Although the Atacama desert is jewel and most famous destination in the north of Chile, there are some other places that are more off the beaten track and still delivering on beauty and experience, minus the high number of tourists.
The Elqui Valley is one of Chile’s most important regions for wine production (Syrah and Carmenere) and pisco, the country’s national drink. And if you travel away from the vineyards, you will still be able to enjoy desert landscapes, charming towns and beautiful starry skies.
Lying between the Elqui Valley and San Pedro de Atacama, another hidden gem is the Copiapó Valley. Copiapó itself is a tranquil town with a mining history but it is the natural beauty that surrounds it that will leave you in awe! Beautiful beaches and the Pan de Azucar National Park in the north west and the natural wonder of the Nevado Tres Cruces National Park in the east.
However, tourism in this region is not as developed as in San Pedro de Atacama so hotels can be more modest and there is less choice.