Atacama Desert tours usually start from the pretty town of San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile, close to the borders with Bolivia and Argentina. Stay at least three nights in the Atacama and take tours into the desert each day. Atacama tours offer an adventurous vacation in the world’s driest desert, with diverse landscapes and beautiful scenery. We recommend travelers include these tours while in the Atacama Desert:
Moon & Death Valley tour – a perfect introduction to the Atacama Desert, if you arrive into San Pedro in the afternoon, you can take this tour on your first day. View the eroded desert badlands. Test drives for the Moon and Mars rover expeditions took place here. Explore Moon Valley’s ridges, the salt caves, and the sand dunes, while watching the sunset. Atacama Salt Flats tour – this tour takes you to a subterranean lake that has sunk and become a salt flat. Nearby are the lagoons of Miscanti and Miniques. You’re likely to spot flamingoes, coots, grebes, and other birds. Also stop at the town of Tocanao, which was built using volcanic stone for much of its architecture. Tatio Geysers tour – take this trip early in the morning, when the geysers are most active. Plumes of smoke rise up out of the ground, some over 7 meters tall. Wrap up warm as this tour starts before dawn and reaches an altitude of over 4300 meters (14,000 feet) so temperatures can be very low. A great addition to this trip is a swim at the Puritama hot springs. Atacama Desert Stargazing tour – the desert usually has extremely clear skies making this a perfect place for an astronomy tour. Visit an observatory where you can view the stars through telescopes and learn how to read a sky map.
Read on for more tour options and tips on planning a trip to the Atacama Desert. All our Atacama Desert tour packages can be completely customized to your travel interests and preferences.
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Depending on your interests and how long you are staying in San Pedro de Atacama, you may enjoy taking some extra tours to these places:
The Pukara de Quitor fortress was built into the side of the cliff and watches over the San Pedro river valley. The Tulor village and the Pukara de Lasana are also interesting to visit. These ruins are well-preserved because the arid climate has prevented deterioration over the centuries. The Padre Le Paige Archaeological Museum features artifacts gathered from throughout the region, many collected by a Jesuit priest for which the museum was named. Padre Le Paige spent much of his life researching the Atacameno people and cataloging thousands of artifacts found in the 1950s. Visit the Cejar Lagoon, a beautiful turquoise lagoon rimmed with salt. Often you’ll see flamingos and other migratory birds roosting here.
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Combining a trip to the Atacama Desert with other destinations
Tours in other areas of the Atacama DesertWhile San Pedro de Atacama is the main center for Atacama tours, the desert is vast and there are other regions that can be visited.
Tours from IquiqueIquique is on the Pacific Coast, to the west of the Atacama Desert. Tours from here can take you to the Atacama desert ghost towns such as Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works which are a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are more than 200 former saltpeter works in the area and this is an intriguing and unusual destination for an in-depth Atacama trip. Workers lived here in company towns that developed a distinct culture of their own. The industrial ruins here are bleak yet fascinating especially for people interested in the industrial revolution.
Tours from Arica & PutreThe far north of Chile has some of the Atacama Desert’s less visited regions. Take a tour to Vicuña National Reserve and Salar de Surire for some other worldly landscapes and wildlife including llamas, alpacas, flamingos and many other birds.
Atacama Desert tours from CalamaFor almost all visitors, San Pedro de Atacama is a much better base for tours than Calama, the two towns are about 45 minutes apart. Chuquicamata Mine is near Calama and can be visited on a guided tour. It is a massive open pit copper mine.
Best time to visit the Atacama DesertAtacama Desert tours run year-round. Most of the year the skies are clear and sunny. June to August is considered winter in the Atacama and this brings the lowest temperatures with nights and early mornings often below freezing, the strong sun raises temperatures to around 20°C by day. In summer, from December to February, nights are less cold, but still take warm clothing. Day time temperatures are around 24°C on average. Occasionally in January and February, heavy rain moves in from the Andes and can impact on tours.
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Atacama Desert Travel FAQ’s
Thinking about an Atacama Desert trip? Here’s a list of frequently asked questions we often hear from our guests.
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