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!!!!ATA chhurch.jpg (40356 bytes) ATACAMA DESERT

About the driest desert on earth

Map of the Atacama Desert Highlights

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Stretching over 765 miles north from the Rio Copiapo to the border with Peru, the Atacama Desert is considered worldwide as the driest on earth. Rainfall is so minimal (if at all) that it is not even measurable.

What used to be sea bottom a few million years ago is now sand, dunes, salt lakes and bizarre rock formations changing colors as the sun moves over them.

In the heart of this desert is the village of San Pedro, at an altitude of 7,000 feet and surrounded by a green oasis. Many years ago it was considered the center of a Paleolithic civilization that built impressive rock fortresses on steep mountains encircling the valley. With narrow streets and a church constructed in 1577, San pedro is a step back into the Spanish colonial times and even earlier at the Father Le Paige Museum which chronicles man for 10,000 years.

The area around San Pedro is filled with interesting sites:

  • Toconao, a small village devoted to the manufacture of souvenirs from white volcanic stone and from cactus wood
  • Pucara de Quitor, an old Indian fortress dating back more than 700 years
  • Chiu Chiu, a village known for boasting of one of the oldest, if not the first, church built by the Spanish Conquistadores
  • Pucara de Lasana, ruins of a pre-Inka pukara
  • Salar de Atacama, he third largest expanse of salt flats in the world, rich in minerals and home to several species of flamingoes and other birds
  • El Tatio Geysers, at 13,500 feet, with spectacular eruptions around dawn
  • Valle de la Luna, with fascinating landscapes caused by erosion
  • Tulor, with archaeological site where parts of a stone-age village (dated 500-600 BC) have been excavated
  • Caspana, with church dating from 1641 and interesting museum on the Atacameno cultures
  • Banos de Turi, luke warm thermal waters with nearby 12th century pukara which was the largest fortified town in the Atacama mountains

 

WHERE TO STAY

San Pedro de Atacama
Alto Atacama
Awasi
Explora en Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Casa Atacama


 


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