The Atacama, the oldest desert in the world

This is one the driest places on Earth. Yet, life in the Atacama Desert has adapted to thrive in these extreme conditions. 🌷

The oldest desert in the world

This is Atacama Desert. Situated to the north of Chile, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, this region of around 180,000 km² is also considered to be the most arid, non-polar region on the planet. In some areas, less than 1 mm of rainfall is recorded per year.

But in this hostile environment, oases offer pockets of life for the plants, the animals and the humans that have lived in this desert for more than 12,000 years. Mineral resources like copper, iron, gold and silver have long attracted humans to this region. Today, it’s lithium that is particularly sought after, even though the extraction of this mineral damages the region’s water resources.

Over the last few years, another industry has developed in parallel: tourism. In the town of San Pedro de Atacama, thousands of people come from across the world to discover the region’s sumptuous and diverse landscapes, like the Moon and Death Valleys, the Cejar, Tebenquiche and Chaxa Lagoons, the Salar de Tara, the Lascar and Licancabur volcanoes, the El Tatio geyser, the flowering desert… All are protected from light pollution. It’s also an excellent place to see the stars. To prevent the influx of tourists from endangering this fragile ecosystem, several tourism agencies from the region are raising awareness among the visitors and are now proposing more gentle modes of exploration, like horses or bikes.