Chile has established itself as one of the best adventure destinations in the world and a big part of that is the Atacama Desert found in Northern Chile. However, the vast desert terrain doesn’t call just Chile home. Deserts in South America spread from the Northwest of Argentina, the Northeast of Chile, and throughout the South of Bolivia. This area is some of the driest land in the world, so be sure to bring your chapstick and lotion, step off the grid, and explore the desert.
1. Argentina—Salta & Jujuy Region
One place you can’t miss when you travel to Argentina is the town of Purmamarca. Besides being a charming desert town with many colorful local textiles and hand-crafted gifts, the Hill of Seven Colors is an amazing piece of natural art situated right outside the town. Also in this region, Argentina has its very own salt flats.
Salinas Grandes, located in the midst of the colorful desert peaks is a vast deposit of salt. Unique to the much bigger Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, Salinas Grandes has small pools dug out that are filled with water year-round. Although hard to grow crops and raise animals in the rocky hills of the Salta and Jujuy region, the area is chock-full of domestic llamas!
2. Chile—Atacama Desert
Crossing over into Argentina’s best frenemie, Chile is home to the famous Atacama Desert. This nature’s work of art stretches 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) between Los Andes mountain range and the Cordillera de la Costa. Let’s see what to find on the driest nonpolar desert on the planet.
This desert is known for its impressive Geysers, rock formations, and lagoons. Lago Cejar has almost the same salt concentration as the Dead Sea, so floating in its waters is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
The best part of this desert in South America? The Atacama Desert has been named the best place in the world to stargaze. The only thing out there dotting your views of dusty landscapes are the occasional native vicunas galloping by.
3. Bolivia—Uyuni Region
As you travel into Bolivia, there are even more desert treasures awaiting you. The seemingly never-ending miles of stark sandy territory are spotted with brightly colored lakes—vivid red, green, and purple waters brightly contrast the white salty earth. The region is very carefully preserved; the only way you can visit is with a Bolivian guide in a private four-wheel drive vehicle.
The only life forms out there will be you and hundreds of flamingos in the salt lakes. The views in this desert wonderland are completely surrealistic; no wonder Salvador Dali got so much inspiration from his travels there! The salt flat itself, Salar de Uyuni, will make you feel like you’re on another planet. An enormous white field of salt stretches for miles: Bring your sunglasses, you are in one of the most impressive deserts in South America and the largest on the planet!