[well]Atacama Desert Quick Facts
- Driest non-polar desert in the world
- A 600 mile long plateau (1,000 km)
- A surprising cold climate
The Atacama Desert is a 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) long plateau that sees almost no rainfall whatsoever throughout the entire year. In fact, some parts of the desert haven’t seen any rainfall for over 400 years. This makes the Atacama Desert the driest non-polar desert throughout the entire world. The desert consists of mostly stony and sandy terrain, salt lakes and even felsic lava that flows towards the mountain side of the desert.
Although with scarce rainfall and it being by far the driest desert, the Atacama surprisingly experiences a rather cold climate. Sometimes extreme weather and phenomenon’s occur such as the time of July 2011 when an Antarctic cold front came in and brought a shocking 31 inches (80 centimeters) of snow. Although quite rare for the plateau, these weather changes can occur and without barely any warning as to when.
With little rainfall and several other factors of desert life, there is only a very sparse population residing in the Atacama Desert with most towns being along the Pacific Coast. One of the ways that they do gain precipitation is through the heavy fog that the desert accumulates nearly every early morning.
Where is Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert can be found starting and ending from the southern border of Peru all the way up into the northern parts of Chile. On the western side, the desert lies next to the Pacific Ocean and against the other, its lands crawl up into the Andes Mountains. This creates a rather high elevation of over 20,000 feet (6,000 meters).
Within the interior of the desert you will find the Tamarugal Plain with an elevation of more than 3,000 feet (900 meters). Also toward the northeastern parts of the desert next to Argentina and Bolivia is a much higher elevation of 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). Though these are the tallest in elevation throughout the desert, there are several more that are located within the Andes Mountains region.
Best Ways to See and Experience Atacama Desert
Most people hoping to see and experience the driest place on earth head to the town of San Pedro de Atacama that has a population of about 2,500. This is where you will find backpackers, tourists and travelers hoping to explore the geysers, red canyons as well as the beautiful sunsets that occur every night.
There are tour companies that can take you on various excursions that allow you to witness the magnificent and unique beauty of this world wonder. In fact, many travelers get much more out of their trip to the Atacama Desert than they were expecting.
With plenty of accommodation options and guides willing to take you out for several days of exploring, you are guaranteed to have nothing short of an amazing and unforgettable time in the Atacama Desert. Of course, while visiting the driest place on earth be sure to stay extremely well hydrated and rested with plenty of water bottles close by you at all times.
Best Times to Explore Atacama Desert
The climate for Atacama Desert is fairly consistent year round. This means that opportunities for accessing and exploring the desert are available year round. The weather actually rarely changes, however the month of July has the greatest possibility for cooler nights. On a cultural note, the local Saint’s Day Festival occurs during the month of June.
Atacama Desert Travel Tips
Insider travel tips and recommendations are coming to help you better explore Atacama Desert.