The 4 most beautiful places in the Atacama desert

| Petra Horsch

Earlier Petra wrote about her visit to the special Nayara Alto Atacama hotel. Not only the accommodation, but also the surroundings of the Atacama desert, the driest place on earth, is breathtaking. In this blog Petra takes you to the most beautiful places of this area.

After a visit to the town of San Pedro de Atacama, our driver drops us off at Nayara Alto Atacama, where we spend the night. We can immediately join for lunch and are curious what's on the menu today. The culinary pampering here is anything but annoying, every eating moment becomes something to look forward to. This time it's a three-course menu, where we choose the tip of the chef who uses fresh local products for his dishes.

1. Metre-high Cacti

After a delicious lunch we are taken to the cactus valley on the banks of the Puritama river. We pass cactuses that are higher than six metres, impressive! We've never seen anything like it before and our guide tells us that he can still enjoy this hike too. The landscape is so beautiful and varied, unreal. We walk on and in the distance we see the snowy volcanoes and around us steep rocks and gigantic cacti. We also see cacti that have dried out by now and are sometimes used as wood by the locals. The guide tells us that each time the cacti form new arms to keep themselves standing. After the trip we return to the hotel. We are well in time to freshen up before dinner. This evening there is a buffet waiting for us.

2. Active geysers at an altitude of 4,300 metres

We go to bed on time, because the next morning we get up early for a visit to the El Tatio geysers. In the cold morning air the steam that is coming out of the geysers is best visible and this gives special photo opportunities. We are well dressed and warm, because the geysers are at an altitude of over 4,300 meters. Once we arrive at the geysers we first take a warm bath in one of the natural thermal baths. It is a bit of a challenge to brave the fierce wind in our bathing suits. Even more annoying is leaving the warm bath and shivering in the cold towards the changing room, but for this beautiful experience it is worth it. Once we put our warm clothes back on we walk back to the car where our guide has prepared a delicious breakfast. The sun slowly rises and we enjoy the beautiful views.

The area consists of no less than 40 geysers and a number of mud pools. It is special to see how the steam and boiling water from the geysers swirls and sprays. The special sulphur air from the geysers is very noticeable here. After we have seen several geysers and the guide told a bit about the area we walk back to the car. On the way back in the car we see an Andean fox, which lies here enjoying the first sunrays. We stop for a Viscacha. An animal that looks like a cross between a mouse and a rabbit and we meet a shepherd who walks through the dry landscape with her herd of llamas and dogs. Our guide gives her what's left of our breakfast, it's not easy to survive in this area. Finally we make a stop at a lake where flamingos with their beaks in the ground are looking for food.

3. Impressive salt plains

In late afternoon we go out again, visiting the salt plains of San Pedro de Atacama. Perhaps the highlight at a destination full of literal and figurative highlights. Once again we will set off in a 4x4 through the desert landscape. At a safe distance we follow the line of volcanoes that border the plateau. The peaks tower so high above the horizon that it's hard to realize that we're really at an altitude of about 3000 metres on this flat land. 

The plateau has been pushed up over millions of years by unimaginable geological forces. In some places the former sea has been lifted up and slowly dried up. What now remains is a thick white layer of salts and minerals, partly covered with a layer of rainwater. It may sound like a poor remnant, but the view is astonishingly impressive. After a while the salt plain appears in front of us. A beautiful white plate with on top of it a water table that reflects the line of snowy volcanoes behind us. Because of this we see a double horizon. As children so enthusiastically we walk along the salt plain and discover an even more beautiful place each time.

4. The most colourful sunset we've ever seen

When our guide tells us that he can see from the clouds that today is going to be a beautiful sunset, we are not that impressed. It can't get much nicer than it already is, can it? But then comes the sunset. Slowly the sun goes down and clouds pass by so the colours of the sky change continuously. It is without a doubt one of the most colourful sunsets we have ever seen. We take a moment to enjoy everything that happens around us. What a finishing touch to a stay in the Atacama. And as if this isn't enough our guide sets up a picnic table with small snacks and delicious wines, enjoy! We both smile at each other and my boyfriend Paul says; 

"I've regularly had goosebumps at beautiful music, a note or a song that goes right through your soul, but this is unprecedented. I've never had this feeling with a view. The colours change from blue, green, red to purple and everything in between. Not only the clouds, but also the mountains and the water and even the birds are special. Like a masterly symphony, the beauty of the colours is rounded off by a golden glow. Our journey is already a success!"

The next morning our stay in Nayara Alto Atacama comes to an end. We travel on with a wonderful travel experience in our pocket and yet also the feeling that we would have liked to stay here longer. A next adventure is on our planning; the Bolivian plateau.

Travel through Chile? - With a visit to the Atacama desert

Are you curious about the Atacama desert, would you like to know more about a trip through Chile and are you curious about the possibilities? Then take a look at the travel itineraries that we have put together for inspiration. You can book these trips directly, but we are also happy to create a personal programme based on your wishes and ideas.

Do you have a question or would you like to receive a tailor-made travel proposal? Feel free to contact us. We will be happy to work out a suitable itinerary for you. Call us on +31 73 610 62 04 or send an e-mail to

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