The Amazon Rainforest sees more than 9 feet of rain each and every year; the Atacama Desert receives 0.04 inches. The 40,600-square-mile strip of land in northern Chile is tantalizingly close to the Pacific Ocean, but the tall Andes keep convective clouds from pouring rain into the area, making it the driest spot on earth. Its otherworldly beauty is home to legends, myths, and very few people. In order to survive in the Atacama, you have to be tough and be resilient; to visit, you have to have an adventurous spirit. Can you handle the Atacama desert?
In the famous Spanish epic poem, La Araucana, it is written, “Towards Ataca, near the deserted coast, you see a land without men, where there is not a bird, not a beast, nor a tree, nor any vegetation.” That’s not completely accurate, but the desert is very sparsely populated, and the animals, including the llama, gray fox, and even the flamingo, that do call this home live close by the oases and the streams, as do its people. This famous desert has starred in films such as the planet Mars, and NASA also uses the desert as testing grounds for its Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program. The area really is like something from another world.
So what is it that draw visitors to this arid place? While it is a desert, the Atacama is definitely not barren. It is breathtakingly strange, incredibly vast, and resoundingly quiet. Visitors can see the incredible Atacama Salt, which is surrounded by the Andes and it overlooks beautiful large volcanoes, including the active Lascar. Tourists can find refreshment visiting the clear crystalline water of the Mescanti and Meniques Lagoons and the bubbling Tatio Geysers.
How do the people live and work here? See for yourself with a visit to the city of Toconao; its total of 546 residents depend on the oasis to deliver water for their crops, including figs and quinces, and to keep them hydrated in the driest region in the world. This area is known for its stone craftsman and the gorgeous Church and Bell Tower of San Lucas. A small fee allows you to enter this Chilean treasure, which is an absolute must when visiting the Atacama Desert.
The Atacama Desert is like no other destination on Earth. Discover this awe-inspiring, mystifying, otherworldly area; it is an experience that you will never forget.