Atacama Overview - Chile's Other Adventure DestinationPosted on the 06 June 2011 by Kungfujedi @Kungfujedi
This morning I posted the first of what is sure to be several articles on Chile's Atacama Desert, over at Gadling.com. In the article I call the Atacama Chile's other adventure destination, because most travelers head to the South American country to experience the wild and beautiful Patagonia region or use Punta Arenas as a launching point for their Antarctic adventures.
Located in the far north region of Chile, the Atacama is an amazingly diverse and beautiful region in its own right. The area is ringed by mountains which serve to create a rain shadow, preventing storm clouds from moving in and delivering rain to the area. As a result, there are places in the Atacama that haven't seen rain in centuries. Rain does fall in the mountains however, and that runs off into certain areas of the desert below, making lush oasis's in unexpected places. Those areas are green and vibrant and very different from the dry, desolate portions of the desert.
Fans of high altitude adventures will love the Atacama. The town that I stayed in, San Pedro, was situated on the desert floor, which is found at 8000 feet (2438 meters) above sea level. But San Pedro is just base camp for Atacama adventures, and there are literally dozens of mountains and volcanos (some still active!) worth climbing, just a short distance away from town. Some of these mountains are non-technical walk-ups, while others offer a far more challenging, full blown mountaineering experience.
In short, the Atacama is an adventure travelers dream. There are fantastic options there to hike, mountain bike, climb, and explore. The landscapes vary from starkly beautiful, but incredibly dry deserts, to geyser basins, salt flats, snow capped volcanoes, and more. One day you can be trekking through narrow, twisting canyons, and the next you'll be on your way to the top of an 18,000 foot (5480 meter) volcano. In between you can visit small villages that eke out a living in the harsh conditions and stroll a local market in search of handcrafted treasures.
I have plans for several more articles about my Atacama experience, and I'll be sure to link to them here as well. To read this first article, click here and to view some of my photos from the recent trip, click here. Hopefully I'll inspire some of you to want to visit this fantastic place for yourselves and discover why Chile's northern region is just as spectacular as its more well known southern domains.
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