Chile is known as the land of contrasts for a reason: The thin country stretches for 2,700 miles and encompasses some of the Earth’s most breathtaking mountain peaks and deserts. In the south, Patagonia stands as an iconic adventure traveler’s dream. The region is well known for the Torres del Paine National Park, and trekkers flock to the area in the December and January months for Chile’s summer. On a recent trip to the country, however, I found unmatched beauty in Chile’s northern desert of San Pedro de Atacama. The lunar landscape is an ideal backdrop for outdoor (and Instagram!) enthusiasts. Here are 7 things you must do when you visit.
3. Hike through the Quebrada de Guatín
The Quebrada de Guatín (also known as cactus valley) is the perfect place for an afternoon hike. A river flows through the valley, and vegetation can be seen all along the trail. Massive cardon (cacti) can be seen at every turn, and tiny waterfalls are sprinkled throughout. The end of the trail leads to a level plain that can be perfectly timed to view the sunset.
4. View the Wildlife of the Salar de Tara
No trip to San Pedro de Atacama is complete without a visit to the High Plateau of Salar de Tara. The drive is almost as beautiful as the destination, with massive rock structures that could easily be mistaken for Rapa Nui’s moai. Flamingos, foxes, and other wildlife are abundant in the area, and the view is best enjoyed over a picnic lunch.
Try to say this volcano’s name three times in a row. It took almost the entire week for me to get it right, but Volcán Licancabur is hard to forget. The stratovolcano inhabits both Bolivia and Chile, and dominates almost every picture of the San Pedro de Atacama landscape.
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