Is Atacama Desert Worth Visiting?

Chili’s Atacama Desert is not the kind of place you visit every day. It is the driest desert in the world, but there are tons of things to visit in the nothingness of this area. So, is Atacama Desert worth visiting?

Atacama Desert is definitely worth visiting, considering the fact you can enjoy both stunning landscapes in Valley de la Luna and see rare animal species like vicuñas, and flamingos. Spending one week in San Pedro de Atacama during January is the best plan to visit Atacama Desert.

What can you see in Atacama Desert?

Atacama Desert is, as mentioned inside its name, a desert. When we think about deserts, we imagine sand dunes with a little oasis in the middle of nowhere. We imagine eagles and camels. This is because we usually think about the Sahara Desert.

However, Atacama Desert has nothing to do with the Sahara Desert. The only thing the Sahara Desert and the Atacama Desert have in common is the fact they are deserts.

Indeed, according to Wikipedia, “A desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation occurs and, consequently, living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life.”

Atacama Desert is definitely an arid place, where there is almost no precipitation. Life conditions are not easy, but they are possible. I will tell you about the climate and the best moment to visit Atacama Desert later in this article.

For now, I will tell you about what you can see in Atacama Desert.

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is the major town in Atacama Desert. It is definitely the best place to stay if you want to visit the desert. The city itself is great and you will love walking in the streets. You will be able to see cathedrals and traditional adobe houses.

low-angle photography of a church bell under a calm blue sky
San Pedro de Atacama’s church built in adobe. Picture from Paal Ultra

Mining Ruins

Historically, Atacama Desert was a place exploited for its resources. From nowhere, ruins will arise in the desert. This is the result of a mining history that occurred earlier in human history.

Old factory buildings in the abandoned city of Humberstone, Chile
Old factory buildings in the abandoned city of Humberstone, Chile. Picture from Wikipedia

Traditional villages

From San Pedro de Atacama, you can drive and visit traditional villages in the area.

Caspana is one of the villages in the area. It is a little oasis which shows you that oasises do not only exist in the Sahara Desert.

Chiu-Chiu is another village you can choose to visit in the area.

traditional village with terracota houses
Caspana is a traditional village close to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Picture from Wikipedia

If you want to know more about the villages in the area, and about Atacama Desert overall, I recommend that you read the other article I wrote about the subject.

Valle de la Luna

Atacama Desert is not only known for its villages and for its human buildings. Indeed, nature has also done incredible work at making Atacama Desert a beautiful place.

To understand what I mean in the previous paragraph, you should simply head to Valle de la Luna “Valley of the Moon” and enjoy the stunning view.

landscape photography of rock mountain
Valle de la Luna, Valley of the Moon in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Picture from Vinícius Henrique Photography

What is the best season to visit Atacama Desert?

When I was looking for information about the best season to visit Atacama Desert, I was confused by one simple thing: I am from France and summer is from June to September.

However, in Atacama Desert, summer is from December to February, and it is the best season to visit Atacama Desert.

To understand why, I found the average temperatures, precipitations, and humidity throughout the year. This data comes from Weather & Climate. To be precise, it comes from an article giving the weather conditions in the Antofagasta Region.

Average temperature in Atacama Desert

As you can see, the temperatures can fall under 0 degrees in June and July. Picture from Weather & Climate.

After viewing this graph, you probably agree that the temperatures are not that warm. Indeed, they do not exceed 30 degrees, which is good for visiting.

In fact, cold can be more of an issue during the winter season. The temperatures can fall under 0 degrees in June and July. Hence, visiting Atacama Desert in January sounds like a great idea.

Monthly precipitation in Atacama Desert

It does rain in Atacama Desert in February, but not that much. Picture from Weather & Climate.

When you look at this graph, you first say “Wow I should really avoid the month of February”. In fact, 15 mm is not that much at all.

Average humidity in Atacama Desert

The humid months are the ones when it rains, and the ones after the months it rained. Picture from Weather & Climate.

After looking at those three graphs, we can safely say that January is a good moment to visit Atacama Desert. It is summer in all Chile. The weather is perfect for hiking.

3 reasons why you should visit Atacama Desert

Atacama Desert is worth visiting for tons of reasons. While doing my research, I found an article finding 12 reasons why Atacama Desert it worth visiting.

After reading it, 3 reasons really stood out for me. Here they are.

The Fauna

Atacama Desert is full of different species to see. First, you can see flamingos in some water pounds.

two flamingos getting food on water photo
Two flamingos in Salar de Atacama, Chile. Picture from Thomas Griggs

Then, you can also see vicuñas, which is a camelid living in the area.

The great empty spaces

Visiting a desert is always a curious experience. It definitely helps to realize how little we are. Humans are nothing compared to Nature, and visiting Atacama Desert will help you to step back and realize our fragility.

Realizing this may affect you and help you to respect the planet we live on.

The sky at night

Finally, Atacama Desert is a great place to observe the stars. In fact, it is one of the best spots on Earth to do that. Hence, there are several observatories in the area. As a tourist, it is also lovely to be able to enjoy such skies at night.

I hope that this article was helpful and that you enjoyed reading it. If you want to learn more about Atacama Desert, you can send me an e-mail or ask your question in the comments section below.

See you somewhere in the world!

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