The Atacama Desert is one of South America’s most unique attractions. Located in the cool arid region that stretches from Peru’s southern border into northern Chile, it is referred to by climatologist as an “absolute desert.”

The Atacama Desert
National Geographic

The annual rainfall (or lack of it) defines a desert, but that doesn’t mean that it never rains in the Atacama. Every so often a warming effect over the Pacific Ocean around the equator changes the weather. In late 2015, flowers blossomed in the desert after some unusual rain.

The Atacama Desert offers some of the most surreal adventures. From lunar-like landscapes to dune surfing and more, the activities in the desert are unlike anywhere else.

The small town of San Pedro de Atacama is the main base for exploring the region. You will find many tours and expeditions ready to take you on some of the most spectacular excursions in the desert.

For a wide range of activities to suit every taste, here are five you should not miss.

Read more: The Not-So-Safe Places in South America

small town of San Pedro de Atacama
Authentic Food Quest

1 – Go to Mars on the Moon Valley

Moon Valley or Valle de la Luna is one of the most visited places in San Pedro de Atacama. The landscape is characterized by unique sand and stone formations and a series of colors and textures.

It resembles the surface of the moon, and it used by NASA for staging and testing instruments and vehicles to be used in Mars missions.

Moon Valley or Valle de la Luna
Authentic Food Quest

This is also one of the most popular spots to watch the sunset. After the sun goes down, the uninterrupted vistas provide a dramatic display of a kaleidoscope of colors. Amazing shades of brown, grey, pink, and purple reflect on the Andes Mountains as the moon rises in the night sky.

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