Exploring the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is a land of extremes. Located along Chile’s Pacific Coast, the 600 mile stretch of land is one of the driest places on the planet. It is so dry in fact, that much of the region has not seen rain of any kind in hundreds of years of recorded history. And the places that do see rain, average just 1 millimeter of precipitation per year.

This remote, seldom visited region, is found west of the Andes Mountains, and in recent years it has become a popular destination for adventure travelers who are drawn to the extreme conditions. The desert is located at high altitude, and there are very few permanent settlements there, which adds to the solitude of the setting. Some of the surrounding mountains actually reach above 20,000 feet, but because of the lack of moisture, they remain free of snow and glaciers.

The solitude and silence of the Atacama is exactly what impressed travel writer Sankha Guha, of the U.K.’s Independent, the most on a recent visit to the desert. While touring the Atacama, Guha found that it was a place that continually challenged your notions of what you know about it. For instance, upon arriving there, it immediately began to rain, which was completely unexpected in a place often described as the “driest desert on Earth.” But even more surprising to Guha was the silence found there, something that is compared to a sensory deprivation chamber, as the place is empty and still. There is little life to be found in this Atacama, but the writer did find plenty of beauty in the bold colors and rock formations that cover the area.

If you’re an adventurous traveler looking for an off the beaten path destination, then perhaps the Atacama should be on your list. If you do go, you’ll find a land of stark beauty and quiet calm, that will stay with you long after you have returned home.