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Atacama Desert

Listed under Deserts in Antofagasta, Chile.

  • Photo of Atacama Desert
  • Photo of Atacama Desert
  • Photo of Atacama Desert
Photo of Atacama Desert
Photo by flickr user italolemus
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Almost devoid of life and the driest place in the world, parts of the Atacama are comparable to a Martian landscape of salt basins, prehistoric lava flows, rings of active volcanoes and miles of smooth, undulating red sand. NASA have tested their exploration vehicles here before sending them to other planets.

The highest point is nearly 6,000 meters above sea level and the erratic landscape is generated by constant geological activity, which also created the geysers and hot springs at Tatio. With no rainfall at all in over 400 years in some areas, the Atacama is almost totally free of any moisture, making it a mecca for astronomers due to the clear skies. The lack of moisture also means that the Atacama perfectly preserves anything that stops there for long enough. Settlements and the remains of American Indians from as many as 9,000 years ago have remained intact in the dry air, making them some of the world's oldest mummies.

Written by  larapiegeler.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Atacama! The landscapes are awe-inspiring. The high-altitude lakes are amazing colours. And the Taito Geyser field (the highest geyser field in the world) is a unique experience. I just love the Atacama region.

Devoid of Life and Interest...

Personally I was yawning the entire time on the tour. Yes, it is interesting but only for the first hour. I would suggest going on your own if possible (you can hire bikes but it is a wee way out of town). The sunset wasn't worth it either, it also gets very cold. The rock formations were interesting, along with the salt deposits, however if you have travelled through Bolivia or through the deserts in Peru you may be bored...

The driest place on earth

Known as the driest place on earth - in some places rain has never been recorded and it's hard to believe that over 1 million people inhabit this bare landscape. Most residents live along the coast in towns like San Pedro where extinct volcanoes surround the village and inhabitants keeping them separated from the vast expanse of empty interior. Although the Atacama Desert is mostly a barren wasteland, there are still places of spectacular beauty: the Reserva Nacional Flamencos has the Chaxa Lagoon with its huge flamingo breeding colony for example. Because of the bone dry land and air, preserved artefacts from the Pre-Columbian, Incan, and Paleo-Indian cultures have been discovered.

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