Atacama Desert | A Magellan Odyssey World Tour Destination

Bucket List Destinations | The Exploration of The Atacama

May 13, 2022

Get ready for a destination that takes all its stereotypes, and flips it on its head by proving to vacation goers that “secluded” and “driest”, doesn’t always mean boring.

It’s crazy to think that the Atacama is known to be the driest place on Earth, but as this Chilean desert has gone through many stages, experiencing semiarid conditions for the past 150 million years. Scientists believe that the desert’s inner core has been hyperarid for the past 15 million years, all thanks to a combination of unique geologic and atmospheric conditions in the area.

The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is a unique combination of environmental extremes. Its extreme dryness, high levels of saline and oxidizing soils, as well the highest UV radiation levels on Earth, give us a little insight as to why Nasa chooses this location year after year in order to test-drive its new Martian rovers.

The overwhelming aridity of the Atacama can be attributed to three factors; Its location within the southern hemisphere’s dry subtropical climate belt, the pronounced rain shadow effect created by the Andean Mountains that prevent the incoming of humid masses of air coming from the Amazon Basin, and the presence of the upwelling, north-flowing, cold Humboldt Current, which significantly helps with seawater evaporation and cloud formation.

FunFact: Since the South American plate has maintained its latitudinal position relatively in the same place for the past 150 million years, as a consequence, rains in some regions of the Atacama are as infrequent as once every 20 years!

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Where and What to Explore in the Atacama Desert

The Atacama is a rare gem of natural beauty, composed of geysers, multicolored rock formations, lagoons and salt lakes. The region is a sight to behold, and with no shortage of activities, the location is perfect for adventurers and those interested in archeology.

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Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains)

The Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains) dates back 23 million years, and originated when the bottom of an old lake was pushed and folded by the movements of the earth’s crust that lifted the Cordillera de los Andes, leaving layers of sediment and rock in an upright position.

Over the years, the formation of the landscape has continued to change, being shaped by rain and wind, resulting in impressive forms and mineral shines, composed of hills of salt, gypsum and clay, astounding natural sculptures and an array of various mineral colorations that add to this region’s natural beauty.

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Puritama HotSprings

Located in the heart of the Atacama desert, more than 19 miles (30 km) North of San Pedro de Atacama, the Puritama Hot springs are known to be warm, refreshing, and revitalizing, and flow up from the underground at temperatures near 91.4°F (33°C).

FunFact: Puritama Hot Springs are sulfuric and recommended for the relief of rheumatic illnesses and to combat stress and fatigue.

The surrounding area of the Puritama Springs have become world-famous for its archeological deposits, and for housing some mysterious places like the Moon Valley as well as unique landscapes like the Atacama Salt flats.

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The Tatio Geysers

Travelers are recommended to venture to the Tatio Geysers at the break of dawn, as the geothermal pressure is high at dawn, meaning that the geysers are shooting out more water. It is also said that the landscape at the break of dawn is shrouded in a mystic beauty that can only be found in the Atacama.

TravelTip: Wear comfortable shoes and pack in a bathing suit if you wish to enjoy the hot springs.

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Exploring the Flavors of the Desert

In order to fully experience a destination, we believe that eating ‘local’ should be on your checklist when visiting a new country or region. Apart from visiting the historical landmarks, the museums and other cultural sights, trying foods from the local regions is just as important when it comes to learning a region’s history.
One of the best places to find authentic Chilean dishes is the San Pedro de Atacama, known as the oasis of the Atacama desert. This small touristy town with an endearing charm that allows travelers to enjoy a slower pace of travel.

Grabbing a Bite in San Pedro de Atacama

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Franchuteria

Run by a young talented Frenchman with a love for all things baked, travelers can find Franchuteria situated 500m east of the plaza.

With beautifully baked goods, including baguettes with a rare combination of fillings like fig and Roquefort cheese, or goat’s cheese and oregano, and buttery-rich croissants – also available stuffed with unusual things like manjar.

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Las Delicias de Carmen

Moving on from the best bakery in all of San Pedro de Atacama, we now move to a restaurant that offers us a break from the pastries, and complements the healthier eater. For those who enjoy a fresh salad, we highly recommend the famous empanadas made of cheese, sweet basil, and tomatoes (with special dough).

Offering great breakfasts, mouth-watering cakes and empanadas, brick-oven pizzas (you get to choose your own toppings) and different daily dishes, this light-flooded restaurant with leafy views is a must when visiting San Pedro de Atacama.

Travelers can find daily specials such as Cazuela (stew) or carrot-ginger soup – as well as a filling menú del dia (three-course lunch) that always seems to pull in a big crowd!

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La Casona

This quaint, yet traditional Chilean restaurant houses a large dining room that faces the main street, where customers can enjoy the live music being played from the street.

With an internationally recognized chef at their helm, La Casona invites you to sample and taste delicious dishes à la carte and different typical Chilean menus at reasonable prices.

FunFact: La Casona houses one of the extensive wine menus in the country to pair with your meal.

However, if you and your party are just looking to grab a drink, La Casona also has a pub inside the restaurant. The atmosphere is warm and cozy as the room is warmed by a bonfire. This makes for the perfect environment to enjoy a conversation over a drink or an appetizer.

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Where to Stay in the Dry Paradise

Nayara Alto Atacama – This luxury hotel situated in San Pedro de Atacama is fast becoming a highly sought after destination and for good reason.

The hotel is a mixture of modern accommodation and traditional design. The terracotta building blends perfectly with its surroundings and offers guests some of the best views of the area.

With their own observatory and stargazing platform, Nayara offers their guests one of the best places to take in the Atacamaño skies.

Tierra Atacama – Located just outside of San Pedro, the Tierra Atacama is a relatively new hotel to the area, but has already started to grab the attention of travelers with its great views, great food, great service, fantastic facilities and value for money.

With Wonderfully spacious rooms that look out at the volcanoes of the Andes, and with a wide range of activities to choose from, what more could you ask for from a luxury destination?

Awasi Atacama – The Awasi Atacama is a small and private property, located closer to town than its competitors, perfect for travelers who want a good feel of this charming village.

The Awasi has taken a different approach to experiencing the Atacama Desert. Rather than having views from everywhere, and large, communal areas, they believe in a more exclusive and private experience that encourages intimacy as their driving attribute.

Awasi aims to create a comfortable, peaceful ‘sanctum’ aimed at relaxation and recovery from the heat and bustle of the desert.

For more travel inspiration, explore our catalog of Curated Journey’s, designed with top-class experiences in mind. What are you waiting for? Make 2022 and 2023 more memorable by booking a life-changing experience with us today.

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