Lunar landscapes, snow-capped volcanoes, bubbling geysers… A two-hour flight from Santiago, Chile, the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, offers breathtaking landscapes. The red ocher of the cliffs, the alpacas roaming free, the clarity of the sky make this desert of extremes a magical place where it is good to recharge your batteries. Five top-of-the-range hotels invite you to discover the desert in exceptionally comfortable conditions.
- 1 Atacama Hotels: Hotel Altiplanico
- 2 Awasi Atacama
- 3 Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa
- 4 Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa
- 5 Elqui Domos
- 6 TRAVELING TO THE ATACAMA DESERT, WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW?
- 6.1 1-HOW TO GET TO THE ATACAMA DESERT
- 6.2 2-CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT
- 6.3 3-SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
- 6.4 4-HOW TO MOVE AROUND THE ATACAMA DESERT
- 6.5 5-WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO ATACAMA?
- 6.6 6-THE STARS IN ATACAMA
- 6.7 7-WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN THE ATACAMA DESERT
- 6.8 8-WHAT TO BRING IN YOUR LUGGAGE TO TRAVEL TO ATACAMA
- 6.9 Related
Atacama Hotels: Hotel Altiplanico
Boasting modern interior design and stunning landscape views from every angle, Altiplanico Atacama features an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub for ultimate relaxation. Its minimalist-inspired architecture, inspired by a typical Altiplano village, gives it a warmth and an exceptional atmosphere that makes you feel at home. Each room has a panoramic terrace on which it is good to enjoy the sunset, swaddled in a warm woolen blanket, on very cool evenings.Located a few steps from the impressive Licancabur volcano, the Altiplanico hotel enjoys a great location. Don’t forget to visit the marvelous Tatio geysers…at 4,280 meters above sea level! Change of scenery guaranteed.
> Address: Calle Domingo Atienza – Esq Caracoles, San Pedro de Atacama
Are you looking for a cozy hotel with remarkable personalized service? Look no further, the Awasi Atacama will meet your expectations. This stone, wood and clay house, inspired by a century-old indigenous village, accommodates travelers looking for an unforgettable experience in the Atacama Desert. Its philosophy is simple: Provide each guest with unique and exclusive experiences. On the menu: a personal guide, a 4 x 4 and a driver are dedicated to each room. Located in the heart of the village of San Pedro, the Awasi has only eight rooms and suites, built in adobe with a straw-covered roof.
> Address: Caracoles, San Pedro de Atacama, Region of Antofagasta
Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa
No one could predict that behind an ocher brick wall hides a 5-star hotel with a contemporary design. The air-conditioned rooms with four-poster beds and a large lounge area will provide you with the necessary comfort in the middle of the desert. All have a private terrace with a view of the red-orange cliffs of the Atacama. In each room of the Tierra Atacama, there is a real play with the materials: the concrete and the wood of the floor contrast with the stone and the metal on the wall. In the lounge area of the hotel, long painted wooden tables or sofas arranged in an arc facing the fireplace make you feel good there.
Not to be missed: the zen space and its cocoon chairs that hang in the trees, the jacuzzi or even, at the end of the duckboard path, a terrace shaded by a fabric, a real invitation to meditate in the silence of the desert. Want to explore the surroundings of the desert? Every day the hotel’s minivans take guests to get lost in the marvels of the Atacama which lie between 2,500 and 6,000 meters above sea level.
> Address: San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagasta Region
Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa
A few kilometers from San Pedro, the Alto Atacama is nestled in a peaceful valley near Pucará de Quitor. Surrounded by ocher cliffs sculpted by water and wind, the Alto Atacama looks like a chic ranch and seduces with its rustic and elegant decoration where local art is present in all the rooms of the hotel. 42 rooms overlook the valley from their terraces, 10 suites equipped with an indoor AND outdoor shower have a terrace offering breathtaking views of the lagoon which attracts many aquatic birds. In their barn, alpacas and llamas live side by side. Curious travelers approach them to caress their warm, thick wool.
But the highlight of the establishment is certainly the Puri Spa which provides treatments and massages using regional ingredients such as quinoa or Altiplanic mud. This spa has six outdoor swimming pools, indoor and outdoor hydromassage baths, a sauna and a hammam. In the outdoor lounge, a bar, a jacuzzi and six turquoise swimming pools and their deckchairs are available to those who, on returning from an excursion, would like to bask there. Also, the hotel is the only one to have set up a space for observing the stars. There is therefore no need to go to one of the private observatories around San Pedro. The Atacama is the best place in the world for stargazing. Settle down in one of the 360° swivel beds at the top of a hill to observe the stars and the purity of the sky. Your space journey can begin.
> Address: Camino Pukara, Ayllu de Quitor, San Pedro de Atacama
Here is a hotel that will appeal to those wishing to observe and appreciate the grandeur of the Elqui Valley in the heart of the Atacama. Far from the classic dwellings, the Elqui Domos offers domed rooms with geodesic construction. Inside, the bed is located on the upper floor, near a removable roof that can be opened to watch the stars in the sky with exceptional clarity before closing your eyes and falling asleep. The goal ? Offer a real astronomical experience in the heart of nature. For a breathtaking mystical and magical experience, put down your suitcases at the Elqui Domos, you will not be disappointed.
> Address: Camino Publico a Horcon, Km 3.5, Pisco Elqui, Paihuano, Region of Coquimbo.
TRAVELING TO THE ATACAMA DESERT, WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW?
If you are planning a trip to Chile or South America, remember to write down the Atacama Desert as a mandatory stop.
Although it is an incredible place, it is not just any destination or a standard destination. That is why in this post we want to guide you on some questions that you may have, such as knowing what to see and do in Atacama, how to get there and how to move from one place to another, where to sleep, what clothes to pack or some tips to overcome the Extreme weather.
Shall we start?
1-HOW TO GET TO THE ATACAMA DESERT
As in all destinations, it will depend on your place of departure, but what you should know is that the base city to visit the Atacama Desert is San Pedro de Atacama and that the cities that best communicate with it are Calama and Santiago de Chile.
Let’s see both:
Belonging to the Antofagasta region and considered the Capital of Large Copper Mining, it has the closest airport to the Atacama Desert and San Pedro de Atacama (about 100km).
So once you get here, you would have to use a transfer ( Licancabur or Transfer Pampa ), rented car or taxi to get to the base city to see all the attractions: San Pedro de Atacama
SANTIAGO DE CHILE
The capital of the country and therefore the best communicated. You can get here by plane from your country, and then take another internal flight to Calama, a direct bus to San Pedro de Atacama or rent a car.
So, what are the best transportation options to get to the Atacama Desert?
- Santiago de Chile – flight to Calama – transfer/car/taxi to San Pedro de Atacama
- Santiago de Chile – bus/car to San Pedro de Atacama
2-CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT
The climate in this area is very extreme and living here entails harsh conditions for its inhabitants.
As for temperatures, there is not much difference between winter and summer, but there is a wide range between daytime and nighttime. During the day, the thermometer can rise to 25º or 50º and at night they drop to 10º or in some areas to -25º. However, thermal sensations may be different from the degrees marked by the thermometer.
And in terms of rainfall, a rain that can be measured can take place once every 15 or 40 years, and there have even been periods of up to 400 years without rain in its central sector.
All this causes the relative humidity to reach levels as low as 18%.
And why does this climate occur in the Atacama Desert? Very easy. The Foehn effect occurs on its slopes , that is, the clouds coming from the East, discharge only on a slope of the Andes Mountains, blocking the precipitations to the desert.
For all this, the biggest enemies here are the sun, the cold night, the very dry environment and altitude sickness.
But don’t be scared! It is perfectly possible to travel to the Atacama Desert in Chile and spend a few days escaping and adventure, as it receives a large amount of tourism and is adequately prepared for it.
3-SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
San Pedro de Atacama is a commune city of only 5,600 inhabitants, but it is home to the vast majority of tourists who visit the area.
For this reason, it has most of the accommodation, tourist agencies, shops, places to eat… And it is usually used as a base point to visit all the tourist sites of the Atacama Desert.
However, it is still a small population, so the offer of accommodation is limited and therefore prices rise.
Our recommendation is to book accommodation in San Pedro de Atacama as soon as possible while you are planning your trip. You will find good accommodation with all kinds of benefits, but you will also find many hostel or guesthouse type accommodation with more affordable prices.
Of course, always following the type of infrastructure peculiar to the desert, with one-story buildings built with rudimentary materials.
As extra data, San Pedro de Atacama is located at 2,408 meters above sea level and its temperatures are quite bearable within what is the desert. Perhaps this is why its population settled here.
4-HOW TO MOVE AROUND THE ATACAMA DESERT
To tour the Atacama Desert you have different options and choosing between one or the other will depend on your interests and priorities.
The usual thing is to move with an organized tour or with a rental vehicle, since public transport is barely non-existent. There are also some routes that can be done by bicycle taking some precautions.
TOUR THE ATACAMA DESERT WITH GROUP EXCURSIONS
This is the most common option and the place to find these tours is in San Pedro de Atacama. This population is not lost and in the central street there are many offices and agencies. Here you can compare prices and conditions.
If, on the other hand, you want to ensure the places and the date, you can book the excursions that interest you the most online and in advance.
The prices will depend on the activity in question and the duration is usually half a day or a full day. The most common is that they pick you up by bus or van directly where you are staying.
Please note that the entrance fees to the venues are usually not included in the tour fee.
TOUR THE ATACAMA DESERT WITH PRIVATE EXCURSIONS
Obviously, being able to visit the Atacama Desert and its tourist places in a particular way will have a much higher price, so there is usually less offer and it is necessary to reserve it in advance. But if you can afford it you will get personalized and exclusive excursions.
TOUR THE ATACAMA DESERT WITH A RENTAL VEHICLE
If what you are looking for is to explore the desert on your own, without schedules, setting your own pace and reaching completely lonely areas, your best option will be to rent a vehicle.
You can rent a car and come and go every day to sleep at your accommodation, or you can rent a camper and sleep under one of the clearest skies on the planet to see the stars.
The only drawbacks of this option are the precaution of driving on more complicated and sometimes completely lonely roads and the scarcity of gas stations.
So what is the best way to get around the Atacama Desert?
It will depend on whether you prefer not to have schedules, move freely, be alone anywhere, not depend on a group of people, or on the contrary, you prefer not to worry, spend less money and be taken from one place to another.
Also whether you prefer a purer adventure trip or a more exclusive type of trip.
And, of course, the budget you have.
5-WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO ATACAMA?
Although Atacama is one of the areas where it rains the least in the world, it does not mean that it does not rain at all. In fact, there is a rainy season between the months of January and April.
If you travel from October to March, you will travel in the high season of Spring – Summer, therefore, the temperatures will be higher, the influx of tourists will be greater and the prices will be higher.
If you travel from April to September, you will travel in the low season of Autumn – Winter, and therefore, the thermal oscillation will be greater, the influx of tourists will be less and the prices will be lower.
In this way, the best time to travel to the Atacama Desert will depend on your budget and availability, and although it can be visited all year round, probably the best season is between the months of October and December, Spring in the Southern Hemisphere.
Summer is beginning at this time, the days are still not as hot as they were in January and, furthermore, it is not the rainy season.
6-THE STARS IN ATACAMA
Due to the dry climate, the altitude of the area, the low light pollution and the absence of clouds and rain, the Atacama Desert is one of the best places on the planet to observe the stars.
In fact, here are the main astronomical observatories in the world, some of them open to the public.
This activity can be done practically every night of the year, both on your own and with one of the activities or astronomical tours offered in Atacama .
There are also some more exclusive hotels dedicated to this type of tourism and with accommodations that allow the observation of the sky.
7-WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN THE ATACAMA DESERT
Atacama is, without a doubt, a destination for lovers of extraordinary landscapes, worthy of another planet, and therefore, it is a great destination for adventure trips.
Valleys, lagoons, flamingos, guanacos and vicuñas strolling through the area, dunes, volcanoes, salt flats, hot springs, starry skies, endless esplanades… Get ready to visit one of the most amazing places on the planet!
These are some of the best activities to do in the Atacama Desert :
- San Pedro de Atacama. This will be the base town where you can stay, go out to eat, hire excursions, buy some food, exchange money…
- Visit the Valley of the Moon
- Visit the Valley of Death
- Visit the Altiplanic Lagoons: Miscanti and Miñiques
- See the Piedras Rojas Salt Flat
- See the Chaxa Lagoon
In addition to seeing the essential places in the Atacama , you can also complete your trip with other activities offered, such as sandboarding in the desert dunes, doing yoga, receiving massages or visiting nearby places such as the Quebrada de Humahuaca in Argentina or the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.
8-WHAT TO BRING IN YOUR LUGGAGE TO TRAVEL TO ATACAMA
The main factor that tells you what to wear to the Atacama Desert is the weather: very high daytime temperatures, low or very low nighttime temperatures, areas with strong winds, a very dry environment and no clouds.
Therefore, do not forget in your luggage to the Atacama Desert:
- Travel backpack . Leave the suitcase on wheels for other types of trips and get a good 50L backpack to be able to carry it in your cabin luggage without having to check in.
- Thin, breathable shirts and pants to cover up from the abrasive sun. Much better to cover the skin than to leave it exposed to the strong UVA rays of the desert.
- Comfortable, closed, breathable, sporty shoes, and of course, you don’t mind staining it completely with sand 😉 Trekking shoes are ideal.
- Cap, scarf or hat to cover the head and face from the sun.
- High factor sunscreen.
- Swimsuit or bikini.
- Thermal leggings for under pants when necessary.
- Sweatshirt, fleece or sports jacket for the evening.
- Neck warmer and winter hat.
- Travel first aid kit with the essentials.
- Your toiletry bag.
- Your camera.
In short, be prepared for extreme heat and cold.
As there are such variable temperatures between night and day, you will have to wear both summer and winter clothes. However, if you travel in the middle of winter, thermal and wool clothing will be good allies.
In San Pedro de Atacama there can be a thermal sensation of up to 50º during the day and in the Tatio Geysers there can be a thermal sensation of up to -25º before the sun rises.