Overview

Chile's Atacama desert is the world's driest desert and is at once both an inhospitable rugged environment and a stunning lunar landscape. Volcanoes and geysers steam and hiss into life. Pink flamingos haunt the featureless white salt flats, cacti stride towards the horizon and oases splash the tawny landscape with vigorous vegetation, especially after rare flash rainfall.

The culture and settlements of San Pedro de Atacama echo with the legacy of the desert’s pre- and post- Columbian inhabitants, with ruined temples and dusty colonial villages. There are some top quality hotels and the area is becoming a favourite for adventure activities such as volcano climbing and horse riding. If coming from Santiago or Patagonia, you may notice the high altitude as you explore the Atacama desert: however, all hotels are in San Pedro - at a comfortable 2,450m.

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Holidays Atacama Desert

Browse our selection of unique and memorable holidays visiting the Atacama Desert. Book now with Journey Latin America.

Portillo Ski Resort

Private Journeys

Chile

Active Chile: Andean Skiing and Atacama Desert Adventures

12 days from £5,890pp

(based on two people sharing & excluding flights)

BOL_UyuniSaltFlats_iStock_173828378

Group - Classic

Peru / Lake Titicaca / Bolivia / Chile

Andean Flamingo: Andes laid bare

17 days from £5,528pp

(based on two people sharing & excluding flights)

Hotel Owned ©

Private Journeys

Chile

Luxury Chile: Exclusive lodges and untamed landscapes

13 days from £10,700pp

(based on two people sharing & excluding flights)

Uyuni Salt Flats

Group - Discovery

Argentina / Chile / Bolivia / Lake Titicaca / Peru

Pato Andino: Panorama of the Andes

20 days from £4,860pp

(based on two people sharing & excluding flights)

Things to do

Enjoy a range of activities in the Atacama Desert, from seeing flamingos in the salt flats to exploring the Valley of the Moon. Book with Journey Latin America.

Accommodation

After a memorable day exploring the rugged Atacama Desert landscape, relax in our selection of comfortable hotels. Book now with Journey Latin America.

Where to go when - our guide to Atacama Desert

Atacama Desert

The weather in Atacama Desert is wide and varied

This lunar landscape is the world’s driest desert, where rain falls an average of six days a year. Its hissing geysers, sprawling salt flats and otherworldly valleys of magnificent amber rocks are accessible throughout the year, with daytime temperatures remaining mostly in the 20°Cs thanks to the surprisingly high altitude. Chilean summer runs from December - February, offering warmer, sunnier weather by day and the best conditions for viewing the milky way at night. During this time flocks of wild flamingos, which are scattered across the salt flats year-round, gather together in huge numbers. The resultant haze of magenta feathers against orange and purple-hued mountains is spectacular. In the run up to Lent you may catch the regional festivities of el Carnavalón.
Though chances of rainfall are very slim, it is worth bearing in mind that January has seen some downpours in recent years which are best avoided as they may restrict access to the salt flats.
March - May and September - November are pleasant shoulder seasons with somewhat cooler temperatures and fewer visitors. The winter months of June - August bring chilly nights which reach below zero degrees, and the added possibility of snowfall in July means this could be a less ideal time to visit. Then again, July coincides with the Fiesta de la Tirana, where locals don flamboyant costumes for the dance of the devil in the Tarapacá region.

View our Atacama Desert weather guide

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Meet our team

Real Latin american experts

  • Kathryn
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Maggie in LATAM
    Maggie Wilson - Travel Expert

    Maggie visited Latin America on her first backpacking trip when she was 19. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to travel, and has managed to explore a lot of the region in subsequent trips.

  • Ben
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Millie
    Millie Davies - Travel Expert

    Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.

  • Charlotte
    Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert

    Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.

  • Sallly
    Sally Dodge - Travel Expert

    A former Journey Latin America tour leader, Sally spent 7 years working, travelling and living throughout Latin America before returning to the UK to help people arrange their own adventures to this wonderful destination.

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