Three hours’ flying time north of Santiago, the Atacama is the world’s driest desert. This is an inhospitable desert landscape which is as harsh as it is rugged, with canyons, gorges and salt-lakes, all under the distant shadow of the high Andes. Volcanoes smolder and geysers steam and hiss into life However, it isn't just an empty wasteland as pink flamingos haunt the featureless white salt flats, cacti stride towards the horizon and oases splash the tawny landscape with vigorous vegetation, especially after rare flash rainfall. Tiny, white-washed colonial villages dot the landscape surrounded by fruit trees, breathing life into the stark panorama.
At its heart is the iconic oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama provides the perfect base for desert exploration. San Pedro has grown dramatically over the last 10 years since its early days as a hippy, backpacker stop and now offers a wide range of hotels, restaurants and tours. Its origins, however, date back to the Atacameno culture some 4000 years ago, remnants of which can be found in the town’s archeological museum and in the pre-Inca sites of Tulor and the fortress of Pukara de Quitor.
A real highlight here us simply to gaze up at the star-dazzling southern night sky in one of the least light-polluted places in the world. Atacama is a great place just to relax, given that you are almost guaranteed good weather. Even during their winter - the ski season - it’s remains sunny and warm during the day at about 23°C. Also, during July, August and September we love the fact that its nice and quiet – just as a desert should be!