The plane took us from Chile‘s capital Santiago to the Atacama Desert in the north of the country. We flew in over the desolate desert and landed just before dark in Iquique, our starting point for our exploration of the Atacama. Iquique is located right on the Pacific coast, but it hasn‘t seen a drop of rain since 1987! Cars have no need of windshield wipers and there‘s no sight of storm gutters anywhere to be seen.
We then got started on our journey through the seemingly empty Atacama Desert. We only see a couple of other vehicles on the road – we definitely didn‘t want to have a breakdown out here.
Valle de la Luna
The Valle de la Luna (Spanish for “Valley of the Moon“) is a unique desert landscape in the Atacama, 10 miles from the town of San Pedro. With next to no vegetation, the area looks like the surface of the moon, hence the name.
El Tatio geysire
The volcano El Tatio is one of the Andes mountains to the east of the desert in the Antofagasta region of Chile. The crater is approx. 14,000 feet above sea level. At the foot of the volcano crater is a geothermal area with geysers and hot springs, the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere. When we arrived at the geysers at around 6 o‘clock in the morning, the temperatures were below freezing and things were still quite icy!
Región de Antofagasta
The geysers are on an Andean plateau 6,500 feet higher than San Pedro de Atacama. We enjoyed the vastness of this barren landscape, catching sight of large flocks of flamingos in the saltwater lakes nearby. Due to the desert climate, though, the water evaporates quickly.
Tocopilla is a port city on the Pacific coast with approximately 24,000 residents. The port ships out copper mined at Chuquicamata and many of the miners live here in modern housing.
On the road…
Iquique Golf Country Club
A golf club without grass, unthinkable? Not in Chile! Granted, you kick up a lot of dust when teeing off…