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Atacama Desert

Much of northern Chile is covered by the Atacama Desert, considered the driest in the world.  The desert is clearly visible from Copiapo up to the border with Peru. This area offers spectacular desert views such as in Valle de la Luna, Valle de la Muerte, Cordillera de la Sal and Atacama Salar. The Atacama Desert covers nearly one third of Chile's surface. It offers a great range of attractive areas.

Atacama Salar, this is the biggest salt flat lake in Chile (80 km by 45 km). Its surface is covered with a thick crust of salt shaped in places into strange formations due to erosion. The San Pedro River that flows and ends in the salar is responsible for the few 'lagoons' where the Chilean Flamingo dwells (Phoenicopterus Chilensis).

Valle de la Luna and Cordillera de la Sal (Moon Valley and Salt Cordillera)

They offer spectacular lunar landscape scenery, the result of erosion and natural rock formations. They are best visited during late afternoon to see the often-dramatic shadow effects of sunset.

Tatio Geysers

Chile's main geyser field is a most impressive one. Located north-west of San Pedro de Atacama at an altitude of 4,321 m/14,173 feet, the geothermal phenomena of the Tatio volcano produces jets of water that reach up to 6 meters each morning at dawn. The resultant clouds of steam against the backdrop of the cool air of the Andean morning, makes for a most memorable and atmospheric visit on a journey through bleak but beautiful mountain desert terrain by 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Ghost Towns: Humberstone, Santa Laura and Chacabuco

These abandoned towns are evidence of the intense mining activity and the splendour of a bygone era when civilization arrived in the desert. In 1910 Chile produced 65% of the nitrate consumed in the world. These three towns are national monuments.


Northern Chile has the most important areas of archaeological interest in continental Chile. Concentrated in oases and irrigated valleys, we find evidence of the Chinchorro, the Atacameños and further south, the Diaguitas.

The Chinchorro culture, based in the Arica area and in the Azapa Valley, is famous for its mummies. These people developed a complex mummification technique using mud, ashes and sand. The San Miguel de Azapa Museum, near Arica, has an excellent collection of textiles and artifacts of this culture, the focal point being its mummy collection, which include the oldest mummies in the world.

The Atacameño culture flourished in the area of the Atacama Salar and developed skills in production of pottery and textiles, as well as in metallurgy and irrigation systems. The Archaeological Museum in San Pedro de Atacama contains the most important collection of the Atacameños, attractively presented and including the "beautiful" so called "Miss Chile" mummy.


They represent geometric patters, local fauna and anthropomorphic themes. Geoglyphs can be most readily seen in the Azapa Valley and at Pintados, inland from Iquique, where there are some 400 "drawings".

The Altiplano

The Chilean Altiplano offers superb panoramas, snow-capped volcanoes, intense blue skies and a yellow steppe-like landscape. Here lie the main national parks of northern Chile: Lauca and Isluga, and the national reserves of Las Vicunas and Los Flamencos.

Lauca National Park  (World Biosphere Reserve)

This natural park is very rich in flora and fauna. There are a total of 130 birds, some of them unique to this habitat. Great herds of Andean camelidae can be seen: guanacos, llamas, alpacas and vicuñas. In the park we also find Lake Chungara (the world's highest at 4570 m/14,990 feet) and Parinacota, a picturesque ceremonial village located at 4450 m.

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