Take a walk through majestic natural scenery.
The Domeyko Range of the Andes Mountains fills northern Chile with spectacular peaks, including eight volcanoes (at least two still active) that are visible from Tierra Atacama. The Atacama Desert unfurls from these foothills to the sea, an ever-changing, otherworldly landscape of wild red-rock formations, vast salt pans scattered with flamingos, and aquamarine lakes.
Tierra Atacama is situated on the outskirts of San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis village fed by two rivers and surrounded by outstanding natural beauty. The lodge is set at an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,440 meters), and is just a 15-minute walk from the center of the village.
The charming village of San Pedro de Atacama has an excellent museum, restaurants that capture the character of the area, a historic church, and a town market where locals sell a variety of crafts. Outlying streets are shaded with twisted trees and lined with hand-hewn fences.
Chile’s largest salt flat is home to three varieties of flamingos, salt-crusted lakes, and ethereal landscapes.
From caves to bizarre rock formations, the lunar landscapes of Moon Valley have been whittled by the elements for millennia.
Dozens of geysers and steam vents bubble from a geothermal field nearly 14,000 feet above sea level.
The high plains of the Atacama Desert feature rivers, green canyons, lakes, geysers, salt flats with flamingos, sand dunes, and natural hot springs.
Stretching some 600 miles along the length of northern Chile, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth. The moon-like landscapes here harbor salt pans and gem-colored salt lakes, and volcanoes crop up among the foothills of the Andes. The desert air is clear and the light is magical here, and it is among the best places on the planet for stargazing. One of the world's largest observatories is situated nearby in the Chilean Altiplano.
The Altiplano is rich in species that have adapted to its extremes. Wildlife includes three varieties of flamingos and many unusual birds including the Andean goose, the golden-spotted ground dove, and a variety of ducks. Mammals in Atacama include llamas, suri alpacas vicuñas, and rabbit-like viscachas. Trees and plants range from cacti to rica rica, or “tasty-tasty,” used locally to make an herbal tea infusion.
Civilization in the area dates back 10,000 years and today's indigenous population descends from the Inca, Aymara, and Atacameña. Having learned to live in this harsh and beautiful high country, the local people have a rich cultural heritage and a great respect for nature. Traditional lifestyles in the outlying villages reflect a close connection with the Earth and the cosmos.
A wonderful museum in San Pedro de Atacama showcases the early cultures of the region, as well as the nearby Tiwanaku and Inca people, in a collection amassed during the 20th century by a Belgian Jesuit priest, Father LePaige. Nearby archaeological sites include traditional adobe churches and the Pukará de Quitor, a fortress built by the region’s native people more than 700 years ago. Festivals and religious ceremonies occur throughout the year and handicrafts and other folk arts continue to be created and sold at the local markets.
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