Planning some Atacama travel for one? We don’t blame you. (The Atacama Desert is one of the most beautiful sights in the world!)
Here are some can’t miss-spots during your solo Atacama Desert travel:
San Pedro de Atacama is a cozy, Bohemian town—a haven of adobe buildings on dusty streets, with a museum and a pretty church—that’s ideally located between the Tatio geysers, the Atacama Salt Lake, Moon Valley and countless lagoons. It’s small, but with more than 30 hotels, it’s the perfect base for travelers to explore all that the Atacama Desert has to offer. You can get there by flying into El Loa Airport in Calama, which is about an hour outside.
Head north from San Pedro and go across the flat desert to find Yerbas Buenas, a Chilean town and commune in the Linares Province with mountainous piles of rocks. On those rocks, you’ll find hundreds of petroglyphs, or images carved into the rock and marked with red pigment. These petroglyphs stem from thousands of years prior, when men drove animals across the desert, and its images reflect that. (Think: cartoonish drawings of leaping llamas.)
This beautiful valley sits in the craggy Salt Mountain range, and is where grand dunes, sharp cliffs and intricate salt formations abound. As beautiful as the landscapes are, however, there’s nothing that compares to the sunsets in this part of the world. Break away from the crowds gathering at the big dune and watch the sunset from a private hollow in the rock; seeing the colorful sunset over Moon Valley’s otherworldly landscapes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Drive to Atacama’s Salt Lake and watch the world change right before your eyes. Your journey will start with pink mountains in the distance and translucent blue lagoons, and as you drive, you’ll see volcanoes, throngs of flamingos balancing on the water, and finally, sparkling white salt lakes. It’s a peaceful drive, and a critical part of any Atacama travel adventure.
Leave San Pedro early in the morning, and make your way to the geyser field of El Tatio. Hovering 4,200 meters above sea level, these geysers create billows of white steam that spout highest between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. While you’re there, keep an eye out for everything else the area offers: there are countless bird species, giant cacti, plants and even healing hot springs.
The lagoons in and around the Atacama Desert can only described in one word: celestial. Visit the deep blue Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons to see many rare birds, or drive out towards Tara Salt Lake and see the Andes, unbelievable rock formations, hot springs and lakes dotted with flamingos.