The Atacama Desert from Chile is considered one of the driest places on the planet, and some believe that there is not much to see and do there. I would dare to tell you that it is the opposite, since Atacama is actually a paradise for adventure travelers, offering many things to see and do while discovering a wonderful and incredible landscape.
In this article I am going to list the best adventures that can be done throughout the Atacama Desert and hopefully you will write down one or two to do on your next trip!
1. Visit the Valley of the Moon
The Valley of the Moon is located in the Domeyko mountain range and is one of the most famous and must-see landscapes if you plan to visit the Atacama Desert.
You may have already imagined it, but this place with its valleys and hills of salt, rock and sand, devoid of flora and fauna, owes its name to the fact that the whole environment looks more like the geography of the Moon than to that of South America.
The first thing that will catch your attention are its huge dunes, the largest of which is the Valle de la Luna Amphitheater of about 40 meters made up of rock, salt and sand.
Very close to the Valley of the Moon is the Valley of Death which is a veritable abyss of sand located just 6 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama. Its name is due to the fact that remains of bones (human and animal) have been found and it is believed that everyone who tried to cross this valley, died on the way. Like the Valley of the Moon, it is characterized by its strange geological forms, its incredible rock sculptures and sand dunes.
La Luna Valley is ideal for practicing sports such as mountain biking, horseback riding and sandboarding in its dunes.The latter is incredible!
The valley can be reached by car independently or you can hire a tour that lasts around 4 hours and includes a tour of the Cordillera de la Sal at sunset to enjoy the color changes in the sand mountains.
As my last tip on this site, I recommend that you visit it as the sun sets to see the red rocks and sand of the valley glistening from the setting sun.
2. Mountain Bike in the Atacama Desert
The unique landscapes and landforms of Atacama make it an excellent place to practice mountain biking. & nbsp;
Explore the desert landscape by bike and you will see how incredibly rewarding it is, especially when you hit the road and discover the local track.
If you are a beginner you will find many easy trails while more experienced mountain bikers will discover several technical trails that will put their skills to the test. An amazing tour is to go down a section of the Sairecabur Volcano and fill yourself with adrenaline, but be careful because it is a bit risky and suitable only for the brave.
3. Find flamingos in the Salar de Tara
Located in the middle of volcanoes in the Los Flamencos National Reserve, the Salar de Tara is another of the many attractions that you must discover in the desert of Atacama.
With lagoons, rivers and meadows covering an area of 48 square kilometers, the eroded relief offers a fabulous spectacle as undulating terrain and volcanoes coexist, along with native animal and plant populations.
But best of all, without a doubt, is that the Salar is home to a large number of flamingos, who flock to the salty lakes. Seeing these colorful birds in nature, especially at sunset, is one of the most beautiful activities of the trip to this region.
4. Climb a volcano
Yes as you read it, it’s time to climb to the top of a volcano! & nbsp; The Atacama desert is home to several volcanoes and all require a different level of experience on your part to be able to climb them. Here are 3 options, the first two with a beginner’s difficulty and the third requires a little more experience.
- Cerro Toco: Located 60 km to the southeast of San Pedro de Atacama, this is a dormant volcano and the closest to the commune. The mountain is known to be the friendliest to climb in the area. During the ascent you can see the so-called penitents: large frozen needles that are generated naturally.
- Lascar Volcano: It is the volcano with the highest activity record in the Atacama desert, close to 30 eruptions from the 19th century to date. Its 6 craters make it look like a bombing zone. The ascent to the Lascar volcano is also one of the easiest in the area, but unlike Cerro Toco, it requires a little more physical capacity due to its 700 meters of unevenness.
- Sairecabur Volcano: It is located right on the border of Chile with Bolivia, and is part of a chain of 4 stratovolcanoes quite close to each other. The path is not very clear during the ascent and there are sections of loose material that require experience.
5. Stroll through an old fortress
The Pukará de Quitor, in the middle of the Atacama Desert, is an ancient indigenous fortress of the Inca empire, dating back more than 700 years and was declared a National Monument in 1982.
It is located just 3 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama and was built in the 12th century with a strategic location on the side of a hill as a fortress. It is built of stones that climb the hill with a defensive wall.
Walk along the path through the ruins to the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the surroundings.
6. Gaze at the stars in the Atacama desert
It may not sound like much of an adventure, but I assure you that once you admire the stars in the Atacama Desert, your concept of beauty will be different.
With its dry air, high altitude, and a complete lack of light pollution, Atacama is one of the best places on Earth for stargazing. The night skies are utterly breathtaking, with literally billions of stars on display. It’s a show that has to be seen to be believed and is truly one of the highlights of any visit to northern Chile.