Atacama Desert


1. The north of Chile
2. Chilean Altiplano
3. Archaelogy, History and mistery
4. The desert is life and adventure
5. The North is entertainment and relaxation
6. Flowering Desert
                                                  Credit: David Walker


The north of Chile

The region known as the North of Chile occupies an area equivalent in size to two thirds of Italy. It stretches from the highlands of the Andean Altiplano over the golden sands of the Atacama Desert as far as the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Diverse, surprising, majestic and untouched... this is the place for those in search of adventure with its breathtaking salt flats, geysers and Andean volcanos, vast expanses of land and here and there, occasional signs of life... llamas, vicunas, flamingos and alpacas, all unperturbed by the presence of man. Here you can find museums which record man's presence over the last 10,000 years, sea and long sandy beaches, relaxation and entertainment in casinos, restaurants and hotels, and above all the friendly hospitality of the Chilean people.

The North of Chile... in fact... has everything!


The desert in the highlands

The Chilean Altiplano, situated in the foothills of the Andean Mountain Range, 4.000 meters above sea level, is a treasure chest of natural phenomena set in surroundings of unspoilt beauty. Here, you simply must visit the Lauca National Park, a natural monument now declared a World Biosphere Reserve. Incredible landscapes, with volcanos, lagoons, salt flats, tiny pre-Hispanic settlements, as well as a wide variety of animal life such as llamas, vicunas, guanacos, alpacas, flamingos and wild duck, create a lasting impression of sheer beauty.


Archeology History and mystery

For over 10,000 years these lands have been inhabited by man and evidence of his presence can be found throughout this area from the Pacific coast to the high Andean Mountain Range 6,000 meters above sea level. In the Azapa Valley 12 kilometers from Arica, the museum of San Miguel de Azapa exhibits especially 'prepared' mummies dating from 18000 BC, the oldest in the world yet to be discovered. The museum also houses a fine archeological collection of some 20,000 objects discovered in this area.

From the road the huge geoglyphic paintings which adorn the hillsides are still visible through the olive groves and from the air they stand out even more clearly. These gigantic drawings of which the most important are those of Lluta, Azapa, Pintados, Cerro Unitas and Tiliviche remain wrapped in mystery to this day. Another world-famous museum, San Pedro de Atacama, is located 100 kilometers from the city of Calama. The small village from which it takes its name was once the center of the Atacamanian civilization. This museum contains a collection of over 300,000 pieces which include pottery, woven fragments and mummies discovered in this area The ruins of Indian fortresses or 'pukaras' such as Quitor, Lasana and Turi remain to this day in the North of Chile, where every step leads to discovery and a new understanding of the history of man.


The desert is life and adventure

...Discover for yourself the many wonders of the Atacama Desert, the most arid desert in the world. Spectacular landscapes and natural phenomena abound wherever you look.

And in all this immensity, tiny villages such as Parinacota, Caspana, Socoroma, Surire or Isluga still maintain the traditions of their Aymara ancestors, and the influence of Spanish colonization is still evident in the architecture of their churches. The city of Calama, 214 kilometers from Antofagasta, is an oasis in the middle of the desert. With its fine selection of hotels, this in an ideal basecamp for sightseeing trips to nearby places of interest such as the El Tatio Geysers 3,550 meters above sea level, where great pillars of water and steam which rise up some 10 meters high and reach temperatures of 85oC. 100 kilometers to the southeastlies the arid wasteland of the Valley of the Moon. Towards the north, the village of Chiu-Chiu has several attractions including the nearby 150 meter deep Chiu-Chiu Lagoon, an astonishing natural phenomenon in the middle of the desert.

From Calama, you can also visit the huge amphitheatre of the biggest open-cast mine in the world-Chuquicamata. As the largest of the twelve salt flats in the Northern Region, the Salt Lake of Atacama is especially interesting. It stretches out like a vast white lake as far as the eye can see and its banks are the habitat of unique species of fauna.


The North is entertainment and relaxation

The main cities of the North, Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta are situated on the coast. They all have airports linking them to the rest of the country, and are connected by road to each other and to the most important sightseeing areas. Comfortable hotels, motels and hostels, usually located on or near the sea in these towns, are available for your enjoyment and relaxation. There's no time for boredom in the North... every day you can choose from the delicious variety of local dishes usually based on fish and seafood. For those who like shopping there are lots of local markets in Arica where you're bound to come across that unexpected treasure, or you can visit the Duty Free Zone in Iquique.  Spend the afternoons sunbathing on one of the numerous beaches lulled by the sea breeze and the feeling of endless space! At night enjoy a game of back gammon, roulette or even the slot machines in the Casinos of Arica or Iquique where you can also dine and dance. The choices are endless!

The North of Chile is much more...