Santiago and the Atacama Desert

Drive through the driest non-polar desert on Earth

  • Chile
  • Duration: 8 days
  • Self-drive

Areas of Interest

The Atacama is the oldest desert on Earth and has experienced semiarid conditions for roughly the past 150 million years, according to a paper in the November 2018 issue of Nature. Scientists estimate that the desert’s inner core has been hyperarid for roughly 15 million years, thanks to a combination of unique geologic and atmospheric conditions in the area. This perfectly parched inner-desert region spans roughly 50,000 square miles (130,000 square km), according to soil scientist Ronald Amundson of the University of California, Berkeley.

The Atacama is tucked in the shadow of the snow-capped Andes Mountains, which block rainfall from the east. To the west, the upwelling of cold water from deep in the Pacific Ocean promotes atmospheric conditions that hamper the evaporation of seawater and prevent the formation of clouds and rain.

In other deserts around the world, like the Sahara, the mercury can soar above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). But temperatures in the Atacama are comparatively mild throughout the year. The average temperature in the desert is about 63 degrees F (18 degrees C). rivers.

Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city, sits in a valley surrounded by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coast Range. Plaza de Armas, the grand heart of the city’s old colonial core, is home to 2 neoclassical landmarks: the 1808 Palacio de la Real Audiencia, housing the National History Museum, and the 18th-century Metropolitan Cathedral. La Chascona is the home-turned-museum of poet Pablo Neruda.

Dynamic and cosmopolitan Santiago is a vital and versatile city. Home to many events showcasing the very best of Chilean culture, it also hosts superb international festivals of sound, flavor and color. The Chilean capital breathes new life into all its visitors!

The city’s diversity shines through in its many contrasting neighborhoods. Set out to explore the city streets and you’ll discover beautiful and original art galleries, design shops and handicraft markets, as well as a great selection of restaurants, bars and cafes. Night owls can enjoy a taste of lively Latino nightlife in hip Bellavista!

Itinerary

  • Day 1 – Arrive Santiago – Hotel in the City Center

One of our members will be waiting for you at the airport in Santiago for your transfer to your hotel in Santiago, strategically located to allow you to visit the capital.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

 

  • Day 2 – Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama

On the second day of your holiday, a van will be waiting for you at your hotel ready to head to Santiago airport, where you’ll catch your flight to the city of Calama and begin your adventure in the Atacama Desert. Once you’re in the northern part of the country, you’ll be picked up from the airport by a driver who will take you to the town of San Pedro de Atacama.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

 

  • Day 3 -San Pedro de Atacama

Today you will pick up your 4×4 vehicle, and start exploring San Pedro, an amazing small little desert town. You’ll have free time to explore the cultural beauty of this special place and in the evening, enjoy the unique and spectacular night sky.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

 

  • Day 4 – Chaxa Lagoon

After breakfast, your journey begins heading towards the Chaxa Lagoon, in the middle of the Atacama Salar in the National Reserve “Los Flamencos”. After lunch, you will drive towards the Altiplano lagoons of Miscanti. Surrounded by towering volcanoes you can observe a variety of birds, flamencos, foxes, vicunas.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

 

  • Day 5 – Tatio Geyser

This day we will visit the famous Tatio Geysers, considered the highest in the world at 4,320m/14,173ft. We suggest a very early start at 4:30 am as the early morning hours afford the best opportunity to view the geysers in full glory and to best appreciate the unique early morning desert light. You can take a relaxing bath in a rustic pool of warm water in this completely natural environment. On your return to San Pedro, we suggest a stop in the village of Machuca, where people have bred llamas and collect Llareta (flowering plant, family Apiaceae) for generations.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

 

  • Day 6 – Moon Valley

From San Pedro, you will drive to the Moon Valley, a natural sanctuary whose landscape resembles the Moon with a variety of craters and wind-sculptured rock formations. This Valley is of haunting beauty which will make you wonder if you are still on planet Earth. Natural Sanctuary since 1982, the Moon Valley is a wonderful place with colorful geology. Located in the Sierra Obate depression, 2550 meters above sea level, it has different visual attractions that turn it in an extraordinary place called “Moon Valley” because of its similar look to lunar soil. The Moon Valley is a perfect place to contemplate desert nature, without flora, fauna and humidity.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

 

  • Day 7 – Tara Salt Flat

On your last day in the desert, we suggest to visit the Tara salt flat. It is considered to be a high wetland thanks to its large salt flat and lagoons. It also boasts a series of geological attractions that shape the salt flat’s relief and form volcanic structures and columns known as the Centinelas de Pakana.

Service: Bed & Breakfast

 

  • Day 8 – San Pedro de Atacama

This will be your last day in the Atacama desert. Depending on your flight back to Santiago, you may have additional time to enjoy the village. At a pre-arranged time, you will be transferred to the airport, for your return flights.

Service: Transfer to the airport

v-adventures