The Atacama desert, Chile

Atacama: English

The Atacama Desert, Chile

Travel and Excursions in the Chilean Atacama Region

Museo Virtual, Atacama

W. Griem, 2020

The Andes and the Atacama desert, Chile

View of the Andes chain from the San Francisco Pass in the Atacama region, Chile

Information about Atacama:
• Population: 285,000 people
• Size: 75.573 km2
• Population density: 3.1 persons / km2
• Elevation: 0m - 6890m
• Region's capital: Copiapó
• Distance from Santiago: 800 km (Copiapó)
• Clima: Desert, semi-desert
• Rainfall: 12 mm/year

Road through the Atacama desert , Chile

Road in the Andes of Atacama - near the salt flat of Maricunga at 3200 m altitude.

The town square of Copiapo, Chile

The square of Copiapo - Chile

The Atacama Desert 

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The Atacama Desert as a tourist destination

The Atacama desert captivates with its unique landscape, the Andean chain with its striking Stratovolcanoes invites you to extensive excursions.

The Atacama Desert, Chile, or more precisely the Atacama region, is an exciting destination for people who want to enjoy a unique landscape. Here the Andean main chain, the pre-cordillera, the driest desert of the earth, should serve as references. But also, the historical background of mining and industrialization can be observed here.
Visitors can observe the unique, climate-related fauna and flora without any particular danger in the desert.

Pelikan in the Chilean Atacama Region

Finally, of course, we have to mention the beach and the coast. The Atacama Region has various beaches that are not yet connected to mass tourism but with unforgettable scenery waiting for their visitors.

The best choice for excursions into the desert is an off-road vehicle. Often "camionettas" (pick up) or jeeps can be rented from car rental companies. An SUV is also enough in most cases. The roads are generally good (asphalt, salt, or gravel) but often a little lonely or not too frequented. If you follow some safety tips, nothing can go wrong.

The peak season is between September and April. In February, almost all of Chile has holidays, which means it can get a little bit crowded on the coast. In the cordillera, however, this is hardly noticeable.
Due to the Humboldt current, the water is relatively fresh (18-19°C). Travelers can explore the Andes from September to April. In January and February, clouds and rainfall can occur (Bolivian winter). From May to August, of course, trips are also very friendly, the temperatures during the day are pleasant, and it is warm. Only the length of the day is shorter, and nights can get cold.

The coast of the Atacama desert

There are simple, good restaurants in most of the villages and towns of Atacama. Good restuarnts, which can satisfy higher demands you find in Copiapó, Vallenar, Bahía Inglesa, Caldera, Huasco, Chañaral. Prices are moderate, mainly below the European average.
Accommodation is also available in all major cities.

Some information:
The east-west stretch of the Atacama region at its most extensive point is about 250 km (airline), the north-south distance at the coast is about 390 km in the cordillera about 460 km. The surface area is approximately 75,573.3 km2 (roughly that of Ireland). The highest elevation is 6842m (Ojos del Salado). With a population density of 3.1 inhabitants on 1 km2, We must address the Atacama region as very sparsely populated. The amount of precipitation is extremely low (about 12mm/year in Copiapó), the temperatures are similar to the desert climate: hot during the day (about 31°C in summer), the nights are remarkably cool (about 12° in summer; in Copiapó).

More information:
Behavior in the desert
Specific terms
Travel instructions


Any new publication not authorized by the authors is expressly prohibited. This applies in particular to electronic publications:  Usage guidelines.
If you have old photos or other (historical) material of the Atacama region, we would be very pleased to implement this in our pages: Contact

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Published: 24.12.2010 / 17.9.2017; updated: 17.9.2017, 30.01.2021
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