Spread between the Pacific Ocean and the Cordillera de los Andes lies a land the rains have shunned for more than 400 years: the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth. However, with its charming accents of oases and welcoming towns, this northern Chile landmark also proves one of the most alluring.
At the heart of the desert, the oases are as peculiar as they are unique. Situated 8,202 feet above sea level, the oases enjoy a pleasant climate year-round, where light, transparency and air, take on a special character. All that is seen is diaphanous and different. And thus, the outlandish geography that marks this mysterious destination—cordilleras, volcanoes, salt flats and striking rock formations, layered landscapes, altitude wetlands and steaming geysers—acquires its unparalled appeal.
Located amidst this spectacular scenery is San Pedro de Atacama, a popular oasis town constructed almost entirely of adobe. You will find restaurants, upscale resorts and handicraft markets peppered about picturesque streets. It is only a short drive out into the surrounding desert where salt flats, the crater-like Valley of the Moon and unusual flora and fauna of the colorful Altiplano await. Go sand boarding, hiking, horseback riding or cycling among others options, with some of northern Chile’s most impressive scenery as your backdrop.