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Chile’s Magnificent Atacama Desert

October 2, 2009

By Dian Hasan | October 1, 2009

Explora Atacama-Hotel de Larache-CHILE 7 Chile’s Atacama Desert one of the driest areas in the world; in certain sections, this desert does not register any rainfall at all. Average monthly temperatures range at sea level between about 20.5° C during summer and about 14° C during winter. Most of the population lives in the coastal area, where the temperatures are more moderate and the humidity higher, and therefore Atacama is virtually void of any significant population.

The main town is San Pedro de Atacama (elevation 2,400 m), a charming little town with adobe buildings and dirt roads surrounded by stunning landscapes.

This is no ordinary monotonous desert scenery but is made up of unusual rock formations, deep valleys, boiling geysers and extensive salt flats dotted with flamingoes. The mountains come in all shapes and sizes, each with a unique hue depending on its mineral composition, its distance from the observer, and the time of day.

Alto Atacama-CHILE-7Atacama Desert-CHILE-Flamingo Chileno

Beyond the coastal bluffs, there is an area of rolling hills that encompasses the driest desert land; this area ends to the east with the Andes towering over it. The edges of the desert in some sections have subterranean aquifers that have permitted the development of forests made up mainly of tamarugos, spiny trees native to the area that grow to a height of about twenty-five meters.

Valley of the MoonAlto Atacama-CHILE-5

Most of those forests were cut down to fuel the fires of the many foundries established since colonial times to exploit the abundant deposits of copper, silver, and nitrate found in the area. The result was the creation of even drier surface conditions.

desierto%20de%20atacama.jpgExplora Atacama-Hotel de Larache-CHILE 11

During the summer the area receives considerable rainfall in what is commonly known as the Bolivian winter forming shallow lakes of mostly saline waters that are home to a number of bird species, including the Chilean Flamingo.

Explora Atacama-Hotel de Larache-CHILE 9

Inspiration: Szandra Gonzales, Central European University

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