Northern Chile is home to the world's most arid desert and its salt flats, hot springs and geysers as well as large deposits of copper and other minerals and mines in Chuquicamata, Calama and other parts of the altiplano. It also boasts fertile ravines and oases whose unique fruits make for excellent culinary tours and is inhabited by some of the country's native peoples. Both Incan and Spanish influences can be seen in its villages and religious festivities, which attract visitors throughout the year.
Your visit to spots like San Pedro de Atacama will allow you to view valuable vestiges of native cultures at archeological sites and museums. Coastal cities like Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Coquimbo and La Serena will delight you with their beaches and warm, temperate climate. Winter in the desert is another story, however, as the temperature can go as low as 7ºC at night and as high as 26ºC during the day.
Near Copiapó, the desert becomes fertile thanks to the camancha, a mist that rises from the sea and allows for life to bloom in impressive natural reserves like the Pan de Azúcar and Fray Jorge National Parks. And you'll find some of the country's best wine and pisco valleys between the cities of Copiapó and La Serena (the latter 470 km from Santiago).
While northern Chile is known for its mining, it's also home to a number of astronomical observatories. The most impressive – Cerro Paranal and the Alma Project –confirm the region's status as a land of magical discovery.
|San Pedro de Atacama
| Antofagasta and Calama
|| La Serena and Coquimbo