Atacama is a destination of extremes, not only in terms of the beauty of its landscapes, but also in terms of altitude and temperatures. These two points combined, plus the intense winds, can result in conditions that require the traveler to prepare in advance.
To have a good travel experience, the biggest secret is to pack well. Take what really matters and what will make a difference to protect you, especially on high-altitude tours.
If you’re traveling in the winter months, you’ll need to be extra careful when packing. And make no mistake, even in the hottest months of the year it is possible to encounter low temperatures when we talk about places above 4,000 meters of altitude.
In this guide you can get an idea of what is most important to take to Atacama and what you can’t leave out of your suitcase. Take advantage of our list to get your luggage right and enjoy the best of this destination.
What to take to Atacama Desert
When it comes to extreme conditions and low temperatures, the most important thing for travelers is to be properly equipped. And more important than the amount of clothing, the traveler must choose the right items to wear.
As the tours usually start very early in the morning, some even before sunrise, the temperatures tend to be even lower at these times. As the hours go by, due to a characteristic of the desert climate, temperatures tend to rise.
That’s why we’ve talked about the “layered” way of dressing for the trip: you start the day with as much protective clothing as possible for the lower temperatures. Over the course of the day, the sun gets hotter and you can remove layers as you feel the need.
Regardless of the time of year you plan to travel to Atacama, there are a few items that we always advise you to pack. If your trip is in winter, consider these items a must.
Essential items in the Atacama:
Also called the first skin, as it is the first layer of clothing you will wear.
Wind Pants and Wind jacket
This is the last layer you’ll wear, on top of everything else. It’s not necessarily warm clothing, but it will protect you from freezing winds.
Protecting your feet from the cold is very important, especially at altitude. If possible, take socks suitable for low temperatures. Alternatively, I wore more than one pair at a time to stay well protected.
Cap and gloves
Despite being a basic item for cold places, we’ve seen travelers struggle because they forget these accessories. A cap that covers your ears well is an excellent choice.
An optional item, but one that makes a difference, especially for those who suffer a lot from low temperatures.
Prioritize closed and comfortable shoes. Lightweight hiking boots are an excellent choice. If you have specific low-temperature footwear, it can be a great ally for your trip.
Ideal clothes to take to the Atacama
In addition to the second skin and windproof clothing, the clothes you will wear between these two layers should be comfortable and practical to take off or put on.
As we mentioned, temperatures rise throughout the day and drop again as the sun goes down, so you’ll have to take off and put on your layers of clothes a few times.
It’s also worth noting that some tours, such as Termas de Puritama and Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache, involve swimming in lagoons and hot springs. For this reason, don’t forget to take bathing suits.
Pants/shorts are also a good choice, as they have zippers on the legs and are super practical during a hike. If you’re considering activities such as sandboarding in the Atacama or bike rides, these pants are ideal!
To keep warm, a light down jacket or similar is highly recommended. You can even find some items like these in the specialist stores on Calle Caracoles, but don’t expect a huge selection.
Other items that shouldn't be missing from your luggage
As you already know, the climate in the Atacama Desert is very dry. And our bodies tend to feel this climate characteristic very quickly.
To avoid suffering from the desert’s extremely dry climate, in addition to staying hydrated at all times, some items are very important:
The sun in the Atacama is very intense and sunscreen is recommended at all times of the day.
As skin dries out easily in the desert, having a good moisturizer will help you on your trip.
Lips tend to crack and even become sore from lack of moisture. Having a good lip balm is essential for your days in the desert.
If your eyes suffer in arid conditions, having eye drops in your backpack is a good idea.
Sunglasses and hat
Super important for sunny days in the Atacama.
Which electronics to take to the Atacama
Every traveler wants to take beautiful pictures of a destination as incredible as the Atacama Desert. That’s why being well equipped is essential.
It’s worth noting that the range of electronics on offer in San Pedro de Atacama is very limited, so take everything you’ll need.
Water-resistant cameras are a good choice for tours such as Termas de Puritama. For tours such as Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache or Laguna Cejar, keep an eye on your equipment because of the high concentration of salt in the water.
The voltage in San Pedro de Atacama is 220 V~ and the socket standard is the same as in Brazil. Even so, we always recommend a universal socket adapter to avoid any problems.
If you don’t have an adapter or need to buy a memory card for your camera, you may be able to find simple models in some shops in San Pedro de Atacama. For more modern and specific items, you’ll only have to travel to Calama to find a wider range of options.
For those who want to take night photos and record the Atacama sky, a tripod is essential. For lovers of aerial photography, the use of drones is quite limited. Flying is forbidden inside the National Parks and fines are high for those caught breaking the rules.
Flying on roads and outside National Parks is allowed and can yield beautiful records. It’s worth noting that local communities can create new restrictions and we should always respect the local rules, taking great care when traveling in the wilderness.
Have you booked your hotel yet?
When you arrive in Chile, it is very common for the immigration officer to ask you for your accommodation details. We always recommend that you leave for Chile with your hotel reservation in hand.
As well as ensuring greater security by arriving in the country with a confirmed reservation, booking your stay in advance guarantees the best options and prices for your trip.