The Atacama Desert, in northern Chile, spans 70,000 square miles and is widely regarded as the driest desert on Earth. Most of the Atacama receives little to no precipitation because it is sandwiched between the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, two of the driest regions on Earth.
The oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama was founded by the Spanish in 1577, and it is well worth a trip to see the R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum and the Church of San Pedro. There’s no better place in Chile to experience the rugged outdoors than here.
Some of the other things you can do in the Atacama Desert are sandboarding, stargazing, hiking, and mountaineering. El Tatio, an active geyser field; the Salar de Atacama, a giant salt pan with the Chaxas Lagoon; Moon Valley, with its eerily beautiful lunar landscape; Fort Quitor, a fortification built by the indigenous Atacameo people in the twelfth century; and the Puritama Hot Springs are just some of the natural and archaeological sites worth seeing. Visiting the Atacama Desert is a highlight of any trip to Chile.
The winter months of December, January, and February are the best season in the Atacama Desert. It is a wonderful time to go exploring in the desert because the daytime temperatures are pleasant and the nights are warmer.
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