The Atacama Desert is widely accepted as the driest place on earth, devoid of rainfall for hundreds of years. Here, ochre-coloured plains are interrupted by lakes, and vast mountain ranges and volcanoes stand vigil over the landscape. Pre-Inca ruins are dotted throughout the desert, promising dozens of routes across the desert.
Embark on a half-day trek through the desert. Ascend Kari Canyon where, from a lookout point, you can marvel at the views of the Salt Range. Afterwards, navigate your way through a narrow trail bordered by a ravine. Descend past dunes and walk through the canyon to explore caves, caverns and gorges. The hike can continue on to Moon Valley if desired. For those who wish to extend their trek, hop aboard a 4×4 Jeep to Guatin Valley before disembarking for a scenic hike alongside a creek of the Vilcama River. An hour into exploring the natural wonders of the river bed, will lead toward the archaeological site of Gatchi, an old pastoral range. This attraction has an abundance of cacti, various geological formations, small waterfalls, and bubbling brooks.
The full-day, five-hour hike to Patos begins from the town of Talabre. Follow an age-old road, crossing several ravines en route to an ancient cave, illustrating millennial old paintings that depict the lives of shepherds. After topping up your energy levels with a delicious lunch, proceed along a creek, reaching Patos, which has its own unique history and is home to well-preserved stone constructions. The especially recommended afternoon journey to Moon Valley, allows travellers to make the most of a glorious sunset in a place of incredible beauty and solitude, literally mimicking the outlay of the moon.
The nearly 5 kilometre outing runs through abandoned salt mines, where hikers can trek over salt layers, sand dunes and clay before arriving at an impressive dune in the middle of the Salt Range. The ample hiking routes dotted throughout the Atacama Desert promise breathtaking views from every direction, fully immersing travellers into a different world, reminiscent to a fictional landscape awash with harsh plains, sprawling volcanoes and contrasting views.