Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

The Driest Place on Earth– the Atacama Desert

Well this past weekend was yet another adventure. This time, I headed north, to the driest place in the world: the Atacama Desert. We left Wednesday night and slept yet another night in the Santiago airport (that place is starting to feel like home) and had a flight early Thursday morning to Calama. From Calama we took a bus and arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, and were greeted with a lot of sunshine and warmth. While planning this trip and investigating things to do we really wanted to try and do a Jeep tour across the desert to Bolivia, however, once arriving we realized we really didn’t have enough time and that it’d be better to stay in San Pedro and explore what it had to offer—Bolivia would have to wait.

Since we had taken such an early flight, we arrived at our hostel at about mid-day which gave us the whole afternoon to either nap or take our first tour. We opted for the tour! To a laguna where we could swim—well float actually! We signed up for a tour to Laguna Cejar. I’ve never been in water salty enough to float but it is an incredibly interesting feeling. The water was 4x the salinity of ocean water! We watched the sunset over the desert and headed back to our hostel for the night.

The next day we decided to rent bikes and head to a nearby canyon! What a fun day! We spent the day exploring the canyon, finding a tunnel, and swimming in the rivers! Well worth the heat we experienced and the $6.000 it was to rent the bikes.

We decided that instead of spending a ton of money on a tour to the salt flats, we would head to the nearby National Flamingo Park and another laguna, called Laguna altiplanicas. This tour started out really early in the morning—6 am! Especially after the night-before’s asado (Chilean BBQ, but way better!). The sunrise over the mountains with the flamingoes and salt field was incredible! We were surrounded by volcanoes which was awesome and I learned that Chile has nearly 1,500 throughout the country.

The following day we lounged around for the day and visited with our new friends in our hostel. Decided to do an afternoon tour to la valle de la muerte (Valley of the dead..happy place 😉 ) and Valle de la luna… a location that bears resemblance with photos of the Moon’s craters. Lucky for us we were a small group and got to explore a cavern at valle de la muerte and timed the tour perfectly that while we were watching the sunset over valle de la luna we could turn around and watch la luna llena (full moon) rise behind us. What a sight!

We headed back and I have spent the week getting slammed with homework! Chileans do it like there is no homework until the last month of classes. The last month of classes–that alone is crazy! Time to start planning the next trip (Peru…Bolivia…Argentina…anyone?). Anyways, San Pedro was awesome. I was at first hesitant because I wasn’t sure how attractive the desert was as compared to the south but it was incredible to see the variety in Chile and just another type of beauty. The Chileans say Chile is the country where God just plopped everything when he finished the rest of the world!



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