60 Second Geography: The Atacama Desert with Marnella Tours | Travel Research Online


60 Second Geography: The Atacama Desert with Marnella Tours

Deserts are areas of intensely dry terrain where very little precipitation falls during the course of the year and the environment can be extremely hostile to plant and animal life not specifically adapted to the living conditions. Chile’s Atacama Desert exemplifies the concept in a most extraordinary manner. Situated between the two mountain chains of the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, the area is one of the driest regions on earth, as the mountains form a near perfect rain shadow.

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60-Second Geography

The Atacama Desert

  • Most climatologists agree Chile’s Atacama Desert is the most arid place on Earth. These scientists define “deserts” as environments receiving less than 250mm of rain annually – the Atacama Desert receives less than 1mm each year. Some areas have had no rain since measurement began.
  • Situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, the 41,000-square-mile Atacama Desert is made up of salt flats, sandy arid deserts, craggy rock peaks and active volcanoes. There are lagoons in some areas populated by flamingos and the vast salt flats of Salar de Atacama are covered with large pools of water reflecting the surrounding Andes. Small villages dot the landscape but the region is sparsely populated. There are few plants and only a few well adapted animals: Viscacha, a species of fox and the leaf-eared mouse. The soil is so dry and devoid of life NASA uses the Atacama Desert to tests their Mars rovers.
  • The El Tatio geysers sit 14,173 feet above sea level. Early morning trips from San Pedro treat the visitor to the eruptions of approximately 80 geysers in the cold morning air.
  • The oldest naturally mummified human remains ever discovered in the Atacama Desert predate the Egyptian mummies by thousands of years, as the arid climate preserves the remains of animals and humans alike. Recreational activities and opportunities to take in the startling landscapes abound. The giant sand dunes of Valle de la Muerte are the venue for sand boarding excursions near San Pedro. At Cejar Lagoon, the high concentration of salt creates an impressive ability to float in the buoyant waters.
  • The clarity of the air and lack of atmospheric moisture and light pollution makes for some of the best stargazing in the world. Some of the most advanced telescopes in the world are located in the Atacama Desert, including the Very Large Telescope Array at Cerro Paranal and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array. Though stargazers like to avoid full moons, spectacular moonscapes are visible from the Valle de Luna near San Pedro de Atacama.

Book Your Next Trip to Chile and The Atacama Desert with Marnella Tours



In harmony with the surroundings and local traditions, explora Atacama offers the discovery of the essence of nature and a philosophy of travelling that seeks to satisfy the desire of adventure in an intact universe.

On foot, bicycle or horseback, our over 40 explorations inmerse our travelers in the natural and cultural wealth of the Atacama Desert.

The hotel’s 17 hectares are part of our conservation program, with which we aim to restore the area’s historical and scientific value.


Tierra Atacama is a boutique hotel on the edge of San Pedro de Atacama. It was created by the Purcell family, long time owners and operators of the Ski Portillo, famous in Chile for its excellent skiing, food and warm hospitality. Like Portillo, Tierra Atacama provides guest experiences that combine outdoor adventure and sports with indoor comforts, hospitality and excellent service.

Tierra Atacama’s architecture, interior design and gardens were designed by some of Chile’s leading creative talent. Our objectives were to be as authentic as possible, using furniture and accessories handmade with local materials while also creating a place that allows guests to relax, spoil themselves and enjoy the good-life in this magical part of the earth.

Our ambiance is casual and friendly; we want our guests to be comfortable in our common areas just as if they were in their own homes. Enjoy one of the welcoming private corners of the hotel such as a seat by one of the terrace fire pits, lounge next to the pool or relax on one of the shady outdoor decks. When night falls, take in the brilliant stars, bask in the peace and wonder that is the Atacama Desert.

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