Overview

The Atacama’s inhospitable desert landscape is harsh and rugged, but it isn't an empty wasteland. 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 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: 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.

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.

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

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Charlotte Daubeney (2)
    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.

  • Juliet Ellwood
    Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert

    After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    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.

  • Millie Davies Mono
    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.

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