The Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert, the most arid desert in the world, is like no where else in South America, let alone Chile. It is a compelling place to visit for the spectacular landscapes of El Tatio Geysers, Moon Valley, the Atacama Salt Lake and the Altiplano lakes of Miscanti and Miñiques. There is much culture and history in the region, and San Pedro de Atacama is a fascinating and accommodating place to serve as base.
Chile's Northern Altiplano
This fascinating area is right in the north of the country but easily reached by flying from Santiago to Arica. The extreme dry landscape, home to the Aymara Indians, is marked by geoglyphs, historic Pukaras or fortresses of the Incas, and the stunningly-beautiful Lauca National Park, with snow-topped volcanoes, emerald lakes and a wide variety of birds, from pink flamingos (parinas), to several kinds of ducks. The four South American camelids, guanacos, vicuñas, llamas and alpacas, complete this extraordinary scenery.
Norte Chico, Elqui and Hurtado Valleys, La Serena
The Norte Chico, 450kms to the north of Santiago, is famous for its attractive and fertile valleys stretching from the Andes to the coast. The main city, La Serena, has a charming neo-colonial character and is well-known for its mile-long beaches.
A major attraction is the Fray Jorge National Park, a rain forest in the desert close to the ocean and refuge for foxes, partridges, loicas and eagles. Other attractions are the Elqui Valley, surrounded by mauve, ochre and yellow mountains, and Hurtado Valley with its traditional villages and lifestyle.