When it’s raining or snowing outside for half a year, it’s hard to believe that not a drop of rain has been shed for about 400 years. One such place is the driest desert on the planet, the Atacama Desert in Chile, located between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.
In the driest parts of the desert, there is nothing alive – even cacti and scorpions die there. But in some places evergreen thorny shrubs grow and even flamingos and wild foxes live, although for the most part the animal world of Atacama is unpretentious insects and reptiles. However, people also live here – there are about 1 million of them, most often they are farmers from oasis cities in the north of the desert.
In July 2017, a unique phenomenon was observed in the Atacama Desert: for the first time in many years, it bloomed. The reason for this was unexpected torrential downpours, which almost never happen here. The flow of tourists to the country at this time has increased dramatically.
How to get to Atacama
According to localtimezone, the Atacama Desert is located in northern Chile. The easiest way to get here is from the city of Calama. Regular flights fly to Calama from Santiago (about 3.5 hours on the way, a ticket costs from 150 USD one way).
The nearest city to the desert is San Pedro de Atacama, you can get to it from Calama by bus. Travel time is about 1.5 hours, ticket price is 3-17 USD. From San Pedro de Atacama you can book an excursion to the desert. It is much safer than traveling on your own as it is easy to get lost in the desert. The cost of the tour is 40-70 USD per person.
Weather in Atacama
In some parts of the desert, precipitation has not fallen for 400 years in a row since the beginning of observations (so, this period may be even longer). The average rainfall is 1 mm per year: the humidity is so low that glaciers have not formed in the mountains for 2.5 million years. The average temperature in January (summer in Chile) is +19…+20 °C, in July (winter) – +13…+14 °C. But in winter in some regions there is increased humidity and fog.
Entertainment, excursions and attractions of Atacama
According to elaineqho, Atacama is one of the best places in the world for stargazing, there are even special night tours for this. At any time of the day, you can watch the sky at the observatory on top of Cerro Paranal. The sky above the Atacama is almost always clear, and powerful telescopes allow everyone to see stars from neighboring galaxies.
The main attraction of this desert is unusual and even space landscapes. One such place is Moon Valley. Science fiction films about space are often filmed here, and NASA tests its rovers here. The local “lunar craters” look especially impressive at sunset.
The symbol of the desert is the sculpture “Hand of the Desert”, an 11-meter reinforced concrete structure in the shape of a hand, partially sticking out of the ground. As conceived by the author, Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrasabal, it symbolizes the injustice, fragility and vulnerability of man in the world.
The giant from the desert is already a miraculous landmark. This is a huge – 86 m long – an image of a humanoid creature. He is over 9 thousand years old, and where he came from is unknown. It is believed that ancient people painted it to make it easier for caravans in the desert to navigate the terrain, but the version of the invasion of extraterrestrial civilizations does not lose popularity.
The most popular pastime in the desert is sandboarding, snowboarding in the sandy valleys, and jeep safari. All this can be ordered in San Pedro de Atacama.
2 things to do in Atacama:
- Catch a rare moment when the desert wakes up. Once a year, thanks to a sudden accumulation of moisture, bright scarlet flowers suddenly break through from the ground.
- See the famous 11-meter sculpture “Hand of the Desert”, which depicts the left palm of a person, a quarter of which goes into the sand, and symbolizes the injustice of people, grief and torment. It is located 400 meters from Route 5 of the Pan American Highway near the city of Antofagasta.