The Atacama Desert is a narrow coastal plateau stretching from northern Chile into Bolivia and southern Peru. This is the driest place on earth; precipitation is imperceptible in vast sections of the plateau, and some riverbeds are thought to have been dry for the past 120,000 years. The arid climate has preserved delicate archeological treasures from the region's ancient inhabitants. Pottery, jewelry, textiles and mummies are found here in quantity, and some specimens more than three thousand years old.
Despite its harshness, the Atacama is punctuated with charming oasis towns. One of the most popular is San Pedro de Atacama, an adobe village located within reach of Licancábur Volcano, Valley of the Moon, the Atacama Salt Flats, and several flamingo-inhabited lagoons. The town's R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archeological Museum houses nearly 400,000 pre-Columbian artifacts. San Pedro is also home to a fine collection of boutique hotels, some of which have won international design and service awards. Visitors can enjoy horseback riding, trekking, mountain biking, and guided excursions to the El Tatio Geyser fields and other geologic wonders.
Most visitors arrive by air from Santiago. The city of Calama, about 60 miles northwest of San Pedro de Atacama, is the primary gateway. Flights from Santiago to Calama take just over two hours. Arica, in the far north, is a three-hour flight from Santiago.
The Atacama Desert is not as hot as you might expect, partially due to its high altitude. During the summer months of November to March, highs reach into the 80s, and overnight lows hover near 60° F. The winter months—May through September—can be much cooler, with overnight lows near 40° F. Sunny skies are virtually certain. The lack of precipitation also results in near perfect stargazing conditions.
Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel in Chile and throughout South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.
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