South America

Guide to Visiting the Best of the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is located in the northern region of Chile, close the border of Bolivia.  I had no idea what the Atacama Desert was or where it was located until I was researching another trip and came across stunning photos of an other-worldly region.  I showed them to my friend traveling with me and our quick weekend trip suddenly became a longer one.

Be careful what airport you fly into!  Fly into Calama.

When we first booked this trip, we figured since we were going to the Atacama Desert, we should fly into San Pedro de Atacama right?  Turns out its a big place, and that is 8 hours from where we needed to be and we had to scramble to fix our flight fail. (Which we did- thank you Latam.)

We chose to stay at Tierra Atacama, which is a beautiful, eco friendly, upscale boutique hotel and spa.  Our rate was all inclusive, including airport pickup and drop off.  Don’t think spring break in Cancun all inclusive, think staff members bringing you scallop canapés in the hot tub while you watch sunset with a cocktail before dinner.  In short, heaven.  Is it too soon to go back?

Tierra Atacama Pool

When you get to Atacama, it feels like you are on the set of a Star Wars movie.  Be sure and plan on several days to a week, and dont miss these hot spots.

  1. Flamingos!

The salt flats and lagoons set against the back drop of the snow capped Andes mountains are something that no photographer or picture could adequately capture.  It’s a flat 5 minute walk from the car park area to the flamingos.  The flamingos spend most of their time foraging for food, so most of your pictures will be with their heads down.  Try to wait for them to fly to a different area- it really is magical.


  1. Salt Lagoon

There are a series of salt lakes that as salty as the Dead Sea in Jordan and you can lay in the water and float to your heart’s content.  However, make sure you bring water shoes as the rocks on the bottom will cut your feet (this happened to me), bring towels not just for your body but also one to put your stuff on the shore.  Salt gets in everything and is the very devil to get out.  Once you are done floating, they have showers (communal, keep those trunks on boys) to wash off the worst but trust me, you will need a few more to get it all off. For the next two days, it felt like everything was covered in a fine mist of salt.


  1. El Tatio Geysers

El Tatio geyers are at the top of a mountain 14,500 feet above sea level.  You probably should not do this activity on your first day since the altitude is so high unless you are quite physically fit.  My friend and I did it the first morning, and the locals were quite apprehensive about it, they even carry oxygen with them.  We felt some mild affects for the first few minutes but then were fine.  This trip needs to be done at sunrise!  Sunrise is the time to see the steam rising from the bubbling hot water streams.  It is really cold in the morning up here.  I was not prepared for this and only brought a hoodie.  I was freezing, could see my breath, and my fingers were numb.  I loved every single second.

  1. Wetlands

Yes! There are some beautiful wetlands in the Atacama Desert which was great for bird watching, and spotting Vicunyas.  Theses are adorable smaller, wild versions of alpacas.  Plus it’s just really fun to say.

  1. Moon Valley

This landscape is the closest thing on Earth to matching the landscape on Mars.  In fact, NASA has been known to conduct equipment tests here.  There are just no words to describe this rugged valley.


  1. Dont forget the big cacti! I invite everyone to caption this photo.


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