Highlights & main attractions of the Atacama Desert & northern Chile
Chile’s northern reaches are now famous worldwide due to the rescue of the 33 miners from the San Jose mine in Copiapo in August 2010. It is home to the highest and driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert, and stretches roughly 500 miles from Copiapo to the northern tip of Chile. Flanked by the Andes, it plays host to hot springs, geysers, salt flats and dramatic scenery that has been compared to that of the Moon and Mars and there are parts of the desert where rainfall has never been recorded.
A number of National Parks protect the beautiful landscapes of this area, home to a variety of unusual wildlife. Wild vicunas and guanacos roam the Puna de Atacama whilst herds of domesticated alpaca and lama graze on the desert vegetation. Small rabbit like creatures scurry around on rocky outcrops, flamingos frequent mineral lakes, and Andean condors soar above the snow-capped volcanos.
The area also boasts fertile ravines and the remnants of past Incan and Spanish cultures are apparent in villages and local festivals, attracting visitors throughout the year.