San Pedro de Atacama
The Atacama Desert- a magical place that exists between the Andes Mountains and the Chilean Coast Range. San Pedro de Atacama is the driest, non-polar desert in the world, composed of sand, salt flats, rocky terrain, and dried lava flow. (I must say, some of my pictures really do not give San Pedro de Atacama justice, for it is one of the most breathtaking destinations I have ever seen!)
How to get there: The Atacama Desert is a short flight north of Santiago. You first fly into Calama, and from there take an hour bus ride into the town of San Pedro de Atacama.
Since I was traveling backpacker style, I stayed at a hostel called Hostal Rural- located in the town center (last pic above). The hostel was in a great location- super close to restaurants, shops, and attraction hubs. The town itself was tiny- comprised of mostly dirt roads and clay huts. The aesthetic and authentic feel of the small, but lively, town made me feel like I was in a different world.
Since San Pedro de Atacama is known for it’s breathtaking landscapes, I recommend booking tours upon arrival.
The first tour was the Tatio Geysers- a tour not for the faint of heart! The bus picked me up at 4:30am (yes, in the morning!) and we arrived at the geyser location around 6am in time for sunrise. The geysers were absolutely amazing, however, I was FREEZING. The temperature was about -5 Celsius, and I definitely did not bring enough clothing for the arctic temp. I was beyond cold during the duration of the tour, but still managed to take some pictures. (see below!) Once back on the bus, we were able to warm up with some hot tea/coffee. Our tour bus took us around to some other hidden gems in the desert, and eventually to a tiny town called Caspana- a town with only 400 people. The weather change is drastic (however, I went in July when it was winter) where the temperature is freezing at night, but about 23 Celsius during the day. I highly recommend to bring a mix of clothing- be prepared for frigid temps, as well as very dry, warm heat.
Below is a video from one of the tours through the desert. Pictured in the background is an active volcano!