Nestled in the upper right corner of Chile, one of the longest and skinniest countries in the world, is this freak of nature — the driest place on our planet, only few hundred miles from the Pacific, where some places have no registered rainfall since they started measuring such things, over 400 years. It is a remarkable place, unlike any other, with landscapes like the surface of the moon. In fact, they have even practiced for Mars exploration vehicles here in the Atacama. Butted right up against the Andes and a string of a dozen or so volcanoes that make of the Ring of Fire, the altitude quickly goes from nothing to 16,000 ft. It has it’s own microclimates, from section to section, so you get to see lots of different ecosystems — from barren lunar landscapes to salt flats and flamingos to hot spring oases, to steam-spewing geysers at 14,000 feet above sea level — so it’s not just some boring stretch of miles of sand dunes.
The best part: nobody really knows about this place….which I like…. and you’ll feel like you have the entire planet to yourself and some excellent foreign travelers who are there to discover, just like you. In these pics, you’ll see there aren’t many people except a handful of other intrepid explorers, that’s because there aren’t any other people, really. This place is cool. And hot. And dry.