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With an extremely unusual ecosystem, this is one of Chile's top attractions, offering a plethora of excursions from the sedate to the most active, and excellent tourist infrastructure. In addition to the unique lunar landscapes, the region's Atacameño culture and history is fascinating, and the desert has spouting geysers, bubbling thermal springs, dazzling salt flats, and awe-inspiring dune valleys to visit.

Northern Chile's Atacama desert is the world's highest and driest and an adventure playground, with excellent hotels. The compact oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama provides true respite from the desert in the form of excellent hotels and a buzzing restaurant, café and bar scene. For culture vultures San Pedro town's Padre Le Paige Archaeological Museum houses over 380,000 artefacts as well as mummies, and displays depicting petroglyphs and rock paintings.

Nearby, the Valley of the Moon with its tiny but beautiful salt ponds and the backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes is a popular destination for sundowners, as the vast sweeping sand dunes glow with the sunset. South of San Pedro, the Los Flamencos Natural Reserve with its attractive highland lagoons Miscanti and Miniques is home to flocks of flamingoes and rare birds in their breeding grounds.

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When to go
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When to go
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Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert
Best time
Low season
Off season
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A Note on Price

Chile doesn't come cheap, but don't let that put you off! Many of the hotels are all-inclusive (meals and excursions included), so you usually don't need to worry about expenses when you are there. A two week trip to Chile staying at some of our top choice hotels could cost around £6,000 per person.