THE ATACAMA DESERT
The Atacama Desert is the driest desert outside of Antarctica. But more than a desert it is a dramatic geological world of rugged mountains, snow capped peaks, sheets of salt, mountainous sand dunes, and colorful mountain lakes. Pictures from our hikes show the austere varied beauty better than words can.
ALTO ATACAMA LODGE
The Alto Atacama Lodge is a luxurious and beautiful resort with multiple daily excursions and hikes. We flew from Santiago to Calama where we were picked up and transferred to the Lodge.
The Lodge is in a dramatic setting and has pristine artistically decorated grounds. And several Llamas including Manny who loves being fed carob seeds.
HIKING IN THE DESERT MOUNTAINS
On your first hike you will experience the amazing terrain. Wind blown sand dunes in the mountains, crystalline salt deposits looking like snow, craggy rock formations, with snow capped mountains looming on the horizon.
In the late afternoon you can see amazing sunsets. When the sun sets, the dramatic viewa are away from the sun - seeing the sunset lighting up the mountains in progressively more interesting shades.
EXCURSION TO MOUNTAIN LAGOONS
Another amazing excursion takes you up to mountain lagoons. On the way you will pass Rheas and see more great vistas.
Along the way we stopped in a town and visited its heritage church, and its craft shop. We picked up some super-soft vicuna mittens knit by this lovely native woman.
When you get to the lagoons you are treated to their incredible hues, the color due to micro-organisms in the water. Guanacos love the lagoons.
CAPRICORN AND THE INCAS
We came to a spot where the Tropic of Capricorn crosses an ancient Inca trail that is over 1000 kilometers long and was used by the Incas to control the area and to conduct trade. .
BACK AT THE LODGE
Nothing goes with exploration like a nice cookout, and the Alto Atacama's featured an abundance of perfectly grilled meats, fish and vegetables, accompanied by great wines and a full bar. Delicious. All the meals at this lodge were truly wonderful and inventive – the best of this trip to South America.