The Atacama Desert covers approximately 1,000km of land and it’s the driest desert in the world (up to 4 years registered with no rain). Temperatures are extreme. To give you an example during the day I could be on my bikini with 20-30°C and at night the temperatures would fall to -10°C. At night, prepare yourself for spectacular shows from the stars and the moon! They are possible to see on the naked eye due to the clear sky, high altitude and low levels of pollution.
The oldest artificially mummified human, the Cinchorro Mummies remains have been found in the Atacama Desert dated around 7020 BC;
- NASA uses this Desert to test instruments for missions in Mars because the soil is similar;
- Was used to film scenes from series Space Odyssey and Voyage to the Planets;
The soil is rich in copper and other minerals and it’s famous for having the largest supply of sodium nitrate in the world.
Where to stay?
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
This town in the past was just a small mining town and it’s now one of the favourites for backpackers who are just very curious about the Atacama Desert like me. Located at about 2,400 meters of elevation it was populated by the Atacameña people before the Spanish arrived. Because of all the culture importance it’s considered the Archaeological Capital of Chile.
To get there we got a plane from Santiago de Chile airport to Calama and then a 2h bus.
In this town I found all kind of people from all over the world! The town has a very chilled out vibe about it and is quite empty during the day as everyone is on one tour or another. In the evening the town comes alive a bit more with the bars and restaurants filled with people comparing their Atacama experiences. There a lot of colours and smells from the amazing Chilean food and the happiness it’s a constant even with the extreme cold outside! I felt very blessed to get to know such a place untouched by the mass tourism.
For the tours (check my TOP 5 Atacama Desert) we decided to choose Turismo Mitampi®, mostly because it was a bit cheaper than the others and offered all the activities we wanted to do. There was no English guide available but that was fine as I was able to put in practice a bit of Spanish and would translate everything I could for my English speaking husband.
In total I stayed 4 days in San Pedro de Atacama in Takha Takha® hotel, which was just the right amount of time that we calculated to see what was out there! The location of the hotel was also very central and made it easy to sneak for amazing meals and come back quick rushing out of the cold!