Northern Chile, with the beauty of the desert and the high plains, is truly a wonder.
In the extreme north, in the middle of the high plains, you find Lauca National Park, declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It is one of the planet’s major ecosystems, with abundant and exotic wildlife that exists far from human contact, in its lakes, salt flats, volcanoes and plains. Lake Chungará is found in the park’s highest area, an emerald-colored lake surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of two volcanoes, Parinacota and Pomerape.
The mountains are peppered with small towns and agricultural terraces, many of which date from the period of the Incan Empire and even earlier; while the white churches, built centuries ago and declared National Monuments, are undeniable evidence of Spanish influence. Vestiges of the first indigenous inhabitants are also found in the area, they left cave paintings and mysterious hieroglyphs and petroglyphs.
The Atacama Desert, located between the Pacific Ocean and the majestic peaks of the Andes, is the most arid desert in the world. San Pedro de Atacama, a remote oasis in the middle of the desert, can be easily reached by highway from Antofagasta. Centuries ago, San Pedro was the center of a Paleolithic civilization that built stone forts in the precipitous mountains that surround the valley.
San Pedro is currently the departure point for excursions to its impressive surroundings, such as the El Tatio geysers, at 4,572 meters above sea level, which erupt every day at dawn. Another area attraction is the Valle de la Luna, with a unique and surreal landscape. This valley, which looks like the bottom of a crater, possesses strange rock and salt formations, which have been formed by the wind and the drastic temperature changes between night and day, creating an inalterable cycle of contraction and expansion in the earth’s surface.
Climate in the North:
Coast: Subtropical, practically without rain all year long. Very little difference between the seasons. Average temperatures between 15ºC and 24ºC.
Inland: Desert, without annual rain fall. Very pleasant climate, with average temperatures between 15ºC and 24ºC.