Top 5 Things to do in the Atacama Desert:
An area of other-worldy landscapes, endless mountain ranges, towering volcanoes and deserted salt flats, the Atacama Desert is one of South America's most unique attractions. Set up for tourism, the area offers a wide range of activities and excursions to suit every taste. Read on for a run through of our top 5:
1.) Go sand boarding in the Valle de la Muerte: This is definitely one of the more exhilarating ways to see the Death Valley just outside of San Pedro de Atacama. Climbing to the top of 120 metre-high sand dunes and then hurtling back down on a board similar to a snowboard is guaranteed to get the blood pumping and a is a unique way to experience the striking views.
2.) Float in the Laguna Cejar: One of the more relaxing activities in the Atacama Desert, this excursion takes you out to the edge of the Salar de Atacama. Like the Dead Sea, the pools and lakes here have such a high concentration of salt, you can leave yourself to float on the surface without exerting any effort whatsoever. Although these pools can become quite busy in the afternoon, visiting in the morning will give you a chance to have more of the pools to yourself.
3.)Star gaze in some of the clearest skies in the world: For those of us who live in polluted cities, it’s easy to forget what a starry sky looks like. Here in the Atacama, a combination of high altitudes, very little rainfall and minimal to non-existent light pollution results in crystal clear, star-filled skies which are unrivalled elsewhere on the planet. Whether you go star gazing with a local guide and a telescope or at one of the area’s cutting-edge observatories you can’t fail to be impressed by the universe above you.
4.) Visit the Tatio Geysers: An early start is required to see the geysers at their best, when the sun is rising and geothermal activity is as its height, tall columns of steam rise out of boiling pools of mud and water. If the cold morning temperatures are too much you can take a relaxing soak in the nearby 40°C hot springs.
5.) Watch the sun set at the Valle de la Luna: You can’t really visit the Atacama Desert without visiting the Moon Valley; one of its most well-known attractions. This lunar landscape forming part of the Cordillera de la Sal is the result of millions of years of erosion and transformations in the earth’s crust. Salt caverns and sculptures jutting out of the landscape make this a fascinating place to visit and is made even more impressive by the kaleidoscope of colours that appear over the Andes at sunset.