Why I Chose to Visit the World’s Driest Desert – the Atacama

Visiting a desert?  Isn’t it all just like dry and sandy?  Why?  I had been to the Sahara desert but mainly in the vicinity of the Nile River in Egypt.  And while it is likely not representative of the rest of the Sahara (opinions, readers?), I thought how different can they all be from each other?

Since I had the opportunity to spend a holiday weekend away from Santiago late in June, I decided to explore the Atacama.  There are 3 main areas of Chile that I want to see.  One I saw partially in 1991, the other 2 I had not seen.  The lake district down south near Puerto Montt I visited in 1991 but not fully.  In fact, I probably only “sampled” a fraction of the area.  But it is winter now and not the best time to go (I was set to go in March but the earthquake happened and killed the trip…).  The other area I am wanting to go to is Tierra del Fuego and las Torres del Paine.  But, again, it is winter…  So the third area on my top 3 was the Atacama and this seemed a great time to go.

Flying to Calama in the north requires flying over almost half of Chile’s length, abt 2 hrs (photo: http://www.finetravel.co.nz)

I heard it would be cold since some of the places to visit are in altitude (over 12,000 ft above sea level) but, at least, down in San Pedro de Atacama, things would not be so bad.  In another entry I cover the details of my “getting there”.

I didn’t have a strong notion what it was I was going to see prior to doing some research but it sounded different.  I was up for different.  I figured that seeing the desert at different times of day would offer great colors and images.  I also knew there were “salares” (salt lakes of sorts) that could offer great photo opps for a creative type with a brand new camera based on the pictures hanging on the wall of my hotel in Santiago.

Research, including talking to other visitors in Chile who had been there and locals as well as Internet research, showed me there was indeed quite a good bit to see and do.  My mind was more made up than it had been.  Among the key recommendations were:

–  Valle de la Luna

–  Valle de la Muerte

–  Valle del Arco Iris

–  Geysers del Tatio

–  Salar de Atacama

–  Lagunas Altiplanicas

–  Laguna Cejar

–  Night sky watching

So, the trip was born…

Other entries cover some of these (links above) and some learnings acquired along the way…

Any other suggestions for places to see in the Atacama?


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