Atacama Desert

Atacama Desert Biome & History

The Atacama Desert situated in Chile of South America is a plateau of dry land. The eco region called Atacama covers a 600 mile strip on the Pacific coast. It occupies about 40,000 sq. miles in northern Chile and has salt lakes, sand and lava in its diverse ecosystem.

Geography & Eco Regions

The Atacama Desert is an eco region that is surrounded by the Sechura Desert eco region of Peru in the north and the Matorral eco region of Chile in the South.  To the east of the Atacama lies Central Andean eco region.

Facts

Countries Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina
Area 105,000 km2 (40,541 sq mi)
Biome Desert
Altitude Between 3,000 meters (9,842 ft) and 5,000 meters (16,404 ft).
Nearest Airport San Pedro de Atacama
Continent South America
Humidity Sufficient
Mountains Andes mountains
Population 284,992 (As per 2012)
Postal Code / Zip Code 1399001 (Calama)
Area code(s) 56 + 55

Climate / Weather Forecast

The Atacama Desert is the driest place on the earth. It receives an annual precipitation of 1 millimeter and on some occasions there have been no rains at all. Even the highly elevated mountains show no signs of glaciers. Some of the river beds are said to have been dry for more than 120,000 years now.  This high aridity of the Atacama can be explained as due to:

  1. Failure of moisture from the coastal range reaching the desert since it is located on its hind side.
  2. The Height of the Andes blocking the rain clouds from reaching the desert.
  3. An inversion that is created due to the South Pacific High and the Humboldt Current.

Average Temperature

  HIGH (Day) LOW (Night)
  (° C) (° F) (° C) (° F)
January 24,1 75,4 5,1 41,2
February 24,1 75,4 5,5 41,9
March 23,6 74,5 4,4 39,9
April 23,0 73,4 2,2 36,0
May 22,1 71,8 -0,7 30,7
June 20,6 69,1 -0,5 31,1
July 20,9 69,6 -0,9 30,4
August 21,5 70,7 -0,9 30,4
September 22,6 72,7 -0,4 31,3
October 23,7 74,7 1,7 35,1
November 24,2 75,6 2,8 3,6
December 24,4 75,9 3,6 38,5

Plants

The plants of this desert include deep rooted, thorny plants with fleshy leaves. Mesquite trees are the common vegetation of this desert. Salt bush, buckwheat bush, tufted grass, black bush, ferns, rice grass, black sage, tola shrubs and chrysothamnus are the plants commonly found in Atacama. Some types of cacti are also known to inhabit this landscape. Cacti of the genus Copiapoa are native to this desert. Some hypolithic lichen and algae are also found in regions with relatively higher moisture content.

Wildlife Animals

Among the animals Llama and the Gray fox are notable while birds such as Flamingo, Giant humming bird and the Chilean wood-star are commonly sighted in the Atacama.

Birds

  • Humboldt penguins
  • Hummingbirds
  • Sparrows
  • Burrowing owls
  • Chimango caracaras

Mammals

  • Darwin
  • American gray fox
  • Lizards
  • Scorpions
  • Viscacha
  • Chinchilla
  • Guanacos
  • Vicunas

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Vallenar toad
  • Iguanas
  • Lava lizards
  • Salt flat lizards

Biotic Factors

  • Scorpions
  • Coyotes
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Lizard
  • Cacti

People and Culture

The Atacama is sparsely populated owing to its harsh climatic conditions. However, the ancient days have witnessed Pre-Columbian societies in the regions with oases and valleys. In Pre-Hispanic times the interiors of the desert were inhabited by the Atacameno tribe that was noted for its fortified towns known as pucaras. The modern times since the 18th century has seen the evolution of small mining towns due to the large nitrate and copper mines within the Atacama Desert. The most predominant language of this region is Spanish.

Hotels, Lodging & Spa

Hotel Names
Casa Solcor Boutique Bed & Breakfast Awasi Atacama - Relais & Chateaux
Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa explora Atacama
Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa Lodge & Cabanas Ancar Atacama
Hotel Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama Hotel Pascual Andino
Hotel Noi Casa Atacama Lodge Andino Terrantai
La Casa de Don Tomas Hotel Altiplanico
Parina Atacama Apart Hotel Hotel Poblado Kimal
La Rose d'Atacama Hotel Tulor
Hotel Kimal Atacamadventure Wellness & Ecolodge
Takha Takha Hotel Hostal Paloma Celestial
Hosteria San Pedro de Atacama Hostal Kirckir
Hostal Corvatsch Don Raul Hotel
Hotel La Aldea Hotel Tambillo
Hotel Geiser del Tatio Portal Andino Lodge

Tours & Travels

Tourism Places
Magic of the Atacama Magic of the Altiplano Explora Atacama
Cultural Adventure Awasi Tierra Atacama
Atacama Desert Trek Atacama Hiking Atacama Biking Adventure

Excursions

  • Tatio Geysers
  • Valle de la Luna
  • Altiplanic Lagoons
  • Atacama Saltlake
  • Archaeological Tour

Tourist Attractions

Things to Do

  • Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains)
  • Moon Valley
  • Padre Le Paige Museum
  • Pukará de Quitor
  • Toconao and Atacama Salt lake
  • Tatio Geysers
  • Puritama HotSprings
  • Valle de la Muerte
  • Altiplanic Lagoons

Day Tours

  • Moon Valley Tour
  • Tatio Geysers & Puritama Hot Springs
  • Cejar Lagoon
  • Archeological Tour
  • Atacama Salt Flat & Miscanti-Meniques Lagoons

Andes Mountains

Highest Point
Peak Aconcagua (Las Heras Department, Mendoza, Argentina)
Elevation 6,962 m (22,841 ft)
Coordinates 32°39′10″S 70°0′40″W
Dimensions
Length 7,000 km (4,300 mi)
Width 500 km (310 mi)
Naming
Native name Quechua: Anti(s/kuna)

Astronomy Tour

  • Duration : 1 hour (approx.)
  • Intensity : Medium
  • Altitude : 2.490 meters above sea level
  • Acclimatization Required : None
  • Maximum Participancy : 6 guests per tour
  • Timings May-September : 18:30-19:30 (Before dinner)
  • Timings October-April : 21:00-22:00 (After dinner)

Hiking

Name Duration Level Altitude Acclimatization
Moon Valley half day medium 2450m none required
Quezala Gorge 2 hours medium 3500 m none required
Los Colorados half day medium 2700m none required
Kari Gorge half day medium 2600m none required
Los Cardones Gorge half day medium 3166 m one full day
Alto Katarpe half day easy 2721m none required

Itinerary

Day 1 : Arrive in San Pedro, Valle de la Luna
Day 2 : Archeological tour, Laguna Cejas
Day 3 : Visit Tatio Geysers
Day 4 : Toconao, Miscanti & Miñiques Lagoons
Day 5 : Leave San Pedro

Mining

  • Escondida Copper
  • Gold
  • Silver

Resorts

  • Hotel Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa
  • Tierra Atacama Hotel Boutique & Spa
  • Atacama Desert Luxury Hotels and Resorts
  • explora Atacama
  • Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa
  • Awasi

Atacama Desert Images / Photos

Atacama Desert Alien Skull
Atacama Desert Alien Skull
Atacama Desert At Night Sky
Atacama Desert At Night Sky
Atacama Desert Flamingos
Atacama Desert Flamingos
Atacama Desert Fog
Atacama Desert Fog
Atacama Desert Google Map
Atacama Desert Google Map
Atacama Desert Hand
Atacama Desert Hand
Atacama Desert Map
Atacama Desert Map
Atacama Desert Oasis
Atacama Desert Oasis
Atacama Desert On World Map
Atacama Desert On World Map
Atacama Desert Snow
Atacama Desert Snow