Categories: Travel photography

The 10 best places to photograph in the Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular destinations I have ever visited. It is one of the aridest places on the planet, with an average annual precipitation of less than 2 mm.

A trip to the Chilean desert reveals stunning scenery, with landscapes and colors of unique clarity, a place where time seems to have stopped. An ideal destination to completely reconnect with nature.

Are you preparing a photographic trip to Chile? Below you will find a list of the 10 best places to photograph in the Atacama Desert:

1. Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)

Located 13 km west of San Pedro de Atacama, it is characterized by a lunar landscape with high sand dunes and rock formations of different colors and shades eroded by wind and water.

If you take the road from San Pedro towards Calama by car, at some point, after a few kilometers, you will be able to enjoy a panoramic view from the top of the valley with the mountains in the background. A great postcard!

2. Laguna Chaxa

Situated in the “Salar de Atacama”, 7 km far from Toconao, it forms part of the “Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos”. A unique place, where several types of flamingos live. With a good telephoto lens, you should be able to get very interesting wildlife pictures, helped by the colors of the landscape in the background.

3. Laguna Miscanti and Miñiques

These plateau lagoons are located at more than 4000 meters of altitude, one at the foot of the stratovolcano Miñiques (5910 meters) and the other of the Miscanti mountain. Their blue waters contrast with the ocher-colored rocks and the yellow desert flora.

A place of meditation, immersed in silence.

4. El Tatio geysers

It is a field of more than 80 geysers, the third largest in the world, located at 4320 meters above the sea level. Ideal for a visit at dawn when a steam column raises over every thermal spring and condenses in contact with cold air creating an evocative atmosphere.

5. Piedras Rojas

150 km far from San Pedro de Atacama, at an altitude of over 4000 meters, there is a unique landscape made up of rocks of intense red color (due to iron oxidation), that with the “Salar de Aguas Calientes” compose a wonderful travel postcard with vivid and contrasting colors.

6. Laguna Verde

Turquoise water-colored mirror at the foot of the “Ojos del Salado” volcano, the highest in the world; with its 6891 meters of altitude is the second peak of the Andes after the Aconcagua (6962 meters). It is worth venturing into this place, on the border between Argentina and Chile, where you can take advantage of a regenerative bath in its natural open-air spas, with temperatures that can reach up to 40 degrees.

7. Moais de Tara

These impressive natural monuments also called “Monjes de la Pacana” or “Centinelas de Tara”, standing solitary on the plateau at an altitude of over 4000 meters, modeled by the wind erosion over millions of years. They are called “Moais” for the close similarity, as vertical stone pillars, with the most famous ones on Easter Island.

8. Salar de Tara

This salt flat, accessible only by off-road vehicles, forms part of the “Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos” and is located at 4300 meters above the sea level, near the border between Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.

An otherworldly landscape, with infinite panoramic sceneries, where you will be able to capture with your camera flamingos and vicuñas, as well as other species that live wildly in the Andean mountains.

9. VLT (Very Large Telescopes)

The VLT complex, located in the middle of the desert, belongs to ESO (European Southern Observatory). An ideal place for astronomical observations, due to dry weather, the abundance of serene nights and the distance from sources of light pollution. The four immense optical telescopes are located on the top of Paranal, a mountain that reaches 2635 meters of altitude. A lot of countries from all over the world participate in the project.

It is possible to visit the site for free with a guided tour only on Saturdays, at 10.00 or 14.00, by registering previously through a form on the ESO website. The tour is very interesting and photography is allowed inside and out.

10. Mano del Desierto

It’s a classic photo from the Atacama Desert and, although its largeness, some may find difficulties to locate it. This huge hand-made concrete sculpture created by the Chilean artist Mario Irrazabal is located on the Pan-American highway, 75 km south of Antofagasta, in a rather isolated place.

Certainly a singular work, which deserves a photo!

Did you like the article? If you are preparing a trip to Chile, take a look at the link below, you will find a lot of useful information, including maps, temperatures, and activities.

View Comments

  • I really like to share your all these most impressive images which views very fabulous and cool. I also enjoyed myself while I was visiting this kind of places.

    • Thanks for your comment Mareen! It is a dream destination with stunning sceneries and many things to see: wildlife, landscapes, history. Absolutely a trip to remember!

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