This vast, high altitude region, the driest non-Polar area on Earth, is an extraordinary place to visit. NASA says the desert landscape closely resembles Mars – and tested the Mars Rover here – and the landscape is simply amazing. At over 2,300m above sea level, it is set amongst the Andes, with a backdrop of even higher peaks. Active volcanoes tower over salt flats and sandy plains, and geysers send tall columns of steam skywards. By day you can explore traditional villages and towns, visit lakes of the deepest blue and ancient archaeological sites and geoglyphs or drive out onto immense, white salt flats. And at night, relish being in one of the world’s greatest stargazing centres, where the views above you are every bit as astonishing as those around you.
Read Paul's blog about his experience of stargaving in Atacama after his recent trip to Chile.
Reasons to visit Atacama include:
This is a year-round destination, at its warmest in December and January and its coolest in July. To get the best stargazing, try to avoid travelling during full moon.
A peaceful and picturesque setting on the edge of San Pedro de Atacama, ideal for exploring the area.
Experience the wonders of the Atacama Desert and return to the hotel to relax at the spa, swim in the pool and enjoy delicious local cuisine.
An exclusive hotel offering private guided excursions into the Atacama Desert, lovely guest cottages and open air social areas.
Comfortable accommodation, 3 pools and a spa make this a popular hotel from which to explore the Atacama Desert on guided activities.
Experience the beauty and majesty of the desert and Andes highlands as you explore on foot, by bike and horse, returning to the hotel's creature comforts.
Noi Casa Atacama offers good value for money in San Pedro town, a pool, spa and restaurant and choice of guided tours in the Atacama Desert.
A stylish hotel offering small group excursions into the Atacama Desert, with a spa and infinity pool where you can relax between activities.
Time: GMT -4 hours
There are direct flights from London Heathrow to Santiago, which operate 4 times a week and take 14 hours 40 minutes. The Chilean airline, LATAM, flies via Madrid.
Language: The official language is Spanish. but other local languages are also spoken. English is spoken quite widely.
Visas are not currently required for British passport holders staying for up to 90 days, who are issued with a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo-Tourist Card’ on arrival. You must retain this and present it to immigration on departure.
Generally none is compulsory but we recommend the following: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, diphtheria, meningitis, tetanus, rabies and polio. There is no malaria in Chile. A yellow fever certificate is required if you are coming from an infected area.