Hidden throughout the immensity of the Atacama Desert, located in the northern region of Chile, are places of unique natural beauty. Here we list the main tourist attractions in the Atacama and the best tours you can take from the small town of San Pedro de Atacama.
The Atacama Desert is considered one of the most arid places on our planet. A place where the extreme climate challenges travelers from all over the world. In such a challenging setting, it is surprising to see the incredible strength that nature reveals in such different scenarios.
In a place where there seems to be only sand and salt, there’s no one who doesn’t fall in love with the sight of colorful lakes, boiling geysers and real oases hidden among ancient rocks, revealed between mountains and volcanoes.
Atacama is a destination that envelops the traveler with a unique energy. Whether it’s the presence of the volcanoes that line the Andes or the legends that the Andean peoples tell about “nature” and their ancestors. Being in this part of the world is a gift in the life of any traveler.
And for those arriving for the first time, it may seem hard to believe that a desert is home to so many fantastic and inspiring places.
So we decided to put together a list of the main tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert. The most incredible attractions and the most beautiful walks that you can include in your itinerary to live a unique and unforgettable travel experience.
- Important: although it’s a long list, we need to remember that we’re talking about a destination where weather conditions and other factors can interfere with access to each place. Many tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert are managed by local communities who, in order to protect the region and visitors, can decide whether or not to open certain places.
Despite the extreme force of nature that we can see on the one hand, on the other the Atacama Desert reveals itself as a delicate and sensitive destination, especially when it comes to protected areas. Many wild species survive in the arid climate of the Atacama and, with our presence, many repercussions can occur.
Therefore, when organizing a trip to the Atacama, it is very important to be aware of what you are doing and, above all, to be accompanied by an accredited guide or a responsible agency.
Our recommendation for those who are going to hire an agency to visit the main tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert is FlaviaBia ExpedicionesflaviaBia Expediciones is a serious agency with an excellent structure and offers tours with accredited guides, great cars and safety for your trip.
We have a special discount for you to do the tours with FlaviaBia Expediciones and we have left a form to send a direct message to the agency and receive all the details for your trip.
18 Main tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert
San Pedro de Atacama
The town of San Pedro de Atacama is your main base for visiting the sights of the Atacama Desert. With its charming dirt streets and old buildings, many made of adobe and cactus wood, the pueblo, as it is called by the locals, is worth exploring on your trip.
Along Calle Caracolesthe main street that runs through the center of San Pedro, countless craft shops, restaurants and agencies share space with travelers echoing the most diverse languages in the world.
Walking along Caracoles from end to end is always a unique experience, even more so at sunset, when the colors of the Atacama sky reveal their most impressive beauty.
- See here for more information about San Pedro de Atacama
Valle de la Luna – Moon Valley
Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) is one of the main tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert. Formed by salt rocks, sculpted by the action of the winds and the weather, it is the most famous desert scenery in the destination and deserves to be part of any itinerary.
With its main access about 6 km from San Pedro de Atacama, and also because it is at the same altitude as the town, 2,500 meters above sea level, it is one of the best tours to include in the first few days of your itinerary.
- See here for more information on Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Muerte – Death Valley
Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), also known as the Valley of Mars, is one of the most popular sights in the Atacama Desert. Between dunes and ancient formations, a large canyon reveals an exuberant view of the Andes.
Like Valle de la Luna, Valle de la Muerte is located near the town of San Pedro de Atacama, at an altitude of around 2,500 meters. This is why this attraction is a great choice for the start of your trip, during the acclimatization period.
- Find out more about Valle de la Muerte here
Among the most beautiful sights in the Atacama Desert, the Altiplanic Lagoons are undoubtedly at the top of the list. In our opinion, this is an attraction that cannot be left out of your itinerary.
Located at more than 4,000 meters above sea level, Laguna Miscanti and Miñiques are some of the most incredible postcards you can see on your trip.
- See here for more information on the Altiplanic Lagoons
Piedras Rojas – Red Rocks
With a beauty that is difficult to describe and easier to show in pictures, Piedras Rojas (Red Rocks) is one of the sights of the Atacama Desert that fills the eyes of any traveler. With a volcanic soil that vibrates in reddish tones, the contrast with the blue lakes and volcanoes in the background creates a unique setting.
The attraction was closed for a while by the local community and recently reopened with a good structure to welcome travelers. As well as toilets, trails have been marked out to preserve the region. It is a tour that agencies usually combine with other attractions, such as the Altiplanic Lagoons.
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Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache
The Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache (Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache) form one of the most surreal settings of all the tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert. Located in the Cordillera del Sal, the lagoons appear in the middle of the Atacama desert landscape in exuberant colors ranging from turquoise to emerald green.
Depending on the time of year, the intense colors change and you can see the salt crystals at the bottom of the lagoons going from orange to blue, like in a surrealist painting.
- Find out more about the Lagunas Escondidas
Vallecito and the Desert Bus
In recent years, an iconic abandoned bus has become a symbol of the Atacama and a tourist attraction for many travelers. The bus, completely decayed, is remembered by many as a reference to the movie “Into the Wild” and therefore the perfect backdrop for many photos.
The Atacama bus is located in the so-called Vallecitoa site that used to be exploited by a salt mining company. Today, when you take guided tours, such as those offered by the agency FlaviaBia Expediciones which is our recommendation for your trip, you can learn more about the history and curiosities of this place.
Miragens And inas is, in fact, an itinerary that encompasses various tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert. Since access to the Salar de Tara was closed, a very famous place in the region, the FlaviaBia agency sought an alternative so that travelers could not only see a similar region, but also get to know other incredible spots in the Atacama that few agencies offer.
Among the sights of the Atacama Desert that you can visit on Andean Mirages are Laguna Lejía, Salar de Aguas Calientes and the Mysterious Crater. A truly incredible tour of the desert that you can book with our special discount using this form.
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El Tatio Geysers
This is undoubtedly one of the most incredible ways of observing the power of nature. The El Tatio Geysers reveal incredible scenery in the Atacama Desert. Considered one of the most active and intense geothermal fields on our planet, visiting the Atacama Geysers is an unmissable experience.
As it is a very high point, above 4,000 meters above sea level, and its activity takes place in the early hours of the day, it is very important to be well sheltered for this tour. Having an agency with well-prepared guides and safety equipment is even more important in a place like this, which is why, once again, we reinforce our recommendation to FlaviaBia Expediciones: a responsible agency for you to carry out your tours safely.
Puritama Hot Springs (Termas)
Of all the tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert, this may be the most incredible oasis you can visit. Between rock formations and a canyon that defies the limits of nature, the Puritama Hot Springs (Termas de Puritama) are an irresistible invitation for travelers to relax and recharge their batteries.
Speaking of one of the most arid destinations on our planet, it’s hard to imagine a place like the Puritama Hot Springs. While the dry desert landscape envelops us on the one hand, the thermal waters that spring up in this region form a perfect paradise on the other, revealing a gift for any traveler.
- See here for more information on the Puritama Hot Springs
Visiting and getting to know a place like the Atacama Desert is truly a privilege that few people in the world have the opportunity to achieve. So why not take advantage of this trip to not only see the beauty of the landscapes, but also get to know the local culture in a more intimate way?
On the llama caravan, a tour offered by the agency FlaviaBia Expediciones agency, you will have the opportunity to listen to the stories of an Atacameño family and understand the importance of llamas in their history. As well as being a symbol of the Andean peoples, llamas are much more important to them than you might think.
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Cejar and Tebinquiche Lagoon
Located about 35 km from San Pedro de Atacama, Cejar Lagoon and Tebinquiche Lagoon offer travelers one of the best places to watch the sunset in the Atacama Desert. With the Andes Mountains in the background, being there is as if you could touch each of the volcanoes you see on the horizon.
Another interesting point is the high salt content in the waters of Laguna Cejar, which means that your body doesn’t sink. The same experience is also had in the Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache which, unlike this one, has more lagoons and different colors, which may weigh on your decision between the two attractions – if you don’t have enough time to see everything.
Imagine a valley full of mountains in the desert. Now imagine that each of these mountains has different tones and colors. That’s what this tourist spot in the Atacama Desert is like, and it’s one that few people know about.
The Valle del Arcoiris is an attraction of singular beauty and unlike any other in the Atacama. It’s a very light, enjoyable walk which, if you take it with a good guide, allows you to travel through the ancestral history of the people who once lived there. Our recommendation for this tour, as we’ve emphasized throughout the content, is the FlaviaBia Expediciones agency. Take the opportunity to send us a message in the form to receive information about your trip.
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No matter how many days you spend in the Atacama Desert, do your best to include the Astronomy Tour in your schedule and prepare yourself for one of the most extraordinary experiences of your life.
Because of the climate in the Atacama, where there are few days with clouds or any kind of pollution in the sky, this destination is considered one of the best places on the planet for stargazing.
During the tour you will have the opportunity to learn a little about stars, constellations, planets and our Milky Way. The agency FlaviaBia agency recently launched a new astronomy tour in Atacama so that you have the best structure and an incredible experience on this night tour. We highly recommend this new tour!
- Report on the best astronomy tour in Atacama
For the more adventurous who want to push their limits in the Atacama Desert, the experience of climbing a volcano is one of the most fantastic achievements you can have. The tour is not easy, it’s not a joke and, more than any other attraction, you need the support of a responsible agency.
The Lascar Volcano, some 5,600 meters high, challenges the limits of any traveler. It is extremely important to be well prepared and acclimatized for this tour. If it’s your dream and you’re up for it, talk to the FlaviaBia agency team for details of how to prepare and information about the climb.
- See the report on the blog Um Viajante (BR) about climbing Lascar Volcano in Atacama.
Cerro Toco is a mountain you can climb in the Atacama Desert. Like the Lascar Volcano, it is an activity that requires overcoming obstacles and the accompaniment of an accredited guide or responsible agency.
Although it doesn’t have the crater of a volcano, the view from the top of Cerro Toco is one of the most beautiful you can have in the Atacama Desert. Often, when the climbs up the Lascar Volcano are interrupted, Cerro Toco is the main choice for travelers. You can also take this tour with the FlaviaBia agency.
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Garganta del Diablo
For those who love cycling and want to get to know the beauty of the Atacama Desert in a more intense way and with a special contact with nature, the Garganta Del Diablo is the perfect place for a bike ride.
Cycling at altitude in the Atacama is not like cycling in other places, but it is still an incredible experience. For this attraction, we recommend the Sorbac agency, which we also have a lot of confidence in.
The tour organized by the Sorbac includes both cycling through the Garganta del Diablo and a final hike to an incredible viewpoint in the desert. Having a guide on this tour also makes a big difference to your experience.
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Trekking Guatin Puritama
And to close the list of tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert, why not live a unique and incomparable experience in the middle of one of the most arid landscapes on our planet: walking and feeling the energy of the desert. For those who love hiking and the experience of having closer contact with nature, or for those who are thinking of climbing one of the volcanoes, this trek is a good choice for acclimatization. Sights in the Atacama Desert
The Guatin tre k follows a beautiful valley in the Atacama and takes you to the Puritama Hot Springs. It’s a contemplative walk, with a lot of beauty, where you can really feel the desert. It’s ideal to do it before any volcanoes as a way of preparing yourself. Tourist attractions in the Atacama Desert
The 5 must-see tours in Atacama
The list of sights in the Atacama Desert is long and there are many activities you can do. We know that not everyone has the necessary travel time to see everything, but remember: the Atacama Desert is not a one-trip destination! Any reason is a good reason to return to the Atacama, believe us!
Even so, these are the 5 sights in Atacama that you can’t miss on your itinerary:
- Moon Valley and Death Valley
- Altiplanic Lagoons and Red Rocks
- Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache
- Andean Mirages
- Geysers El Tatio
We’ve included some combined tours, as these are the formats you’ll usually find with the agencies. If you have extra time, our recommendation would be to include the Puritana Hot Springs to complete your itinerary.
And, of course, for a complete trip, regardless of how many days you’re staying in Atacama, include the Astronomy Tour in your schedule. You’re sure to love the experience!
Recommended agency with discounted tours
The local agency we recommend for visiting Atacama’s tourist attractions is FlaviaBia Expediciones. As we’ve highlighted throughout this article, we have a special discount on tours with FlaviaBia. To receive the discount, simply send a direct message to the agency using the form below. The agency will get back to you with all the information you need for your trip.
- Here’s a post about FlaviaBia Expediciones in Atacama and also the opinions of travelers who have already taken tours with the agency.
We hope this content helps you organize your trip and get to know most of the sights in the Atacama Desert. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment!