It’s summertime. Which, as you know, is the best time to visit a Chilean desert in its winter.
Instead of trying to beat the oncoming waves of humidity here, spend a balmy 75 degree winter in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest spot on the planet. The otherworldly landscape is more Martian than Saharan, so instead of cacti and camels, you’ll find canyons to trek and enormous dunes you can sandboard down—think snowboarding, minus the cold feet. Volcanoes (some active) also mark the desert, making it possibly the most unpredictable hike you’ve taken this century.
If you want to get a little wet, the Atacama also boasts the El Tatio Geysers: dozens of small geysers which erupt every morning, spurting water about 40 feet into the air to create an intense shower to walk through. The surrounding field also has bubbling pools with water naturally heated to about 100F—bring your suit and relax in nature’s Jacuzzis.
In the nearby town of San Pedro, the new Hotel Awasi offers an oasis of luxury (and the only WiFi for 100 miles). The clay-and-thatch guest cottages have no roofs, so you can lounge, drink and shower under the desert sky. The upscale hotel restaurant is also roofless (and the cocktails bottomless), so you can enjoy your freshly baked empanadas and piscolas under the stars—which, with no clouds or city lights to get in the way, are truly spectacular. Their only competition: the eerie red lights of volcanoes glowing in the night.
Take our word for it, it sure beats fireflies.
San Pedro de Atacama