Spread across northern Chile, the Atacama Desert—one of the world’s most impressive natural wonders—spans 600 miles wide and sits nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. And with its Martian landscapes, dry terrain, limited residents and zero light pollution, this part of the world has become known as an incredible place to see the stars.
A magnet for both travelers and professional astronomers alike, the Atacama Desert has spurred a type of travel known as “astro-tourism.” On your next trip to Chile, spend some time in the Atacama Desert and book an Atacama astronomy tour to see what it’s all about. Trust us: you won’t be disappointed.
Read below to find out three ways you can see the stars in northern Chile.
Stargaze in the Atacama Desert the best way possible: with food! Various tour companies offer outdoor dining experiences that double as an Atacama astronomy tour, letting you fully immerse yourself in Chile in more ways than one. Get picked up from your hotel and dropped off in the desert, where you’ll indulge in a traditional Chilean menu (ceviche, anyone?), sip on good Chilean wines, and listen as your local astronomer points out different constellations and gives you a roadmap of the enchanting sky above. At the end of the night, you’ll be driven back to your hotel, where you can sleep under the stars you now know so much about.
If you can’t get to Mars, do as NASA does and visit the Atacama Desert. The area’s dry, red landscape looks so much like Mars that NASA actually bases one of its programs, Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies (ARADS), there to make their studies of the planet as lifelike as possible.
You may not be able to participate in the actual study, but you can certainly rove around Chile’s “Mars!” Hire a bike and ride through the Chilean Salt Flats, around the El Tatio Geysers and to Los Flamenco National Reserve, or pretend you’re on the moon with a trip through Valle de la Luna. Thrillseekers may also choose to bike around Valle de Marte and Quebrada del Diablo, where narrow canyons and otherworldly landscapes abound.
San Pedro de Atacama is filled with classic stargazing tours that you don’t want to miss. Let Surtrek, the leader in custom South American travel, find the best Atacama astronomy tour for you. Many of them include a naked-eye tour, a lesson in the history of celestial discovery, and even a little telescope action. During the latter of the trio, you’ll (hopefully) get to see Jupiter’s moons, the Jewellery Box star cluster, coloured nebulae, Saturn’s rings and more.