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The Salar de Atacama is a large salt flat that holds nearly 30% of the world's lithium reserves.

Trapped between the Andes to the east and the Cordillera Domeyko to the west, the runoff water from these mountains have no way to go but to evaporate, leaving behind huge deposits of salt and minerals.

The climate is extremely dry and sunny with cold nights.


Shallow lagoons sport flamingos and other birds that feast on the abundant tiny shrimps in the saline water. 


Paleo-indians showed up around 10000 BC, at the end of the last Ice Age, when melt water from the Andes glaciers had created favorable conditions with lakes and large rivers. They hunted camelids and rodents and by 2000 BC had settled in little villages along the Rio San Pedro, growing maize and breeding llamas.


The Atacama culture developed from 500 AD onwards and was strongly influenced by the Tiwanaku empire.

At the end of the15th century the Incas took over and incorporated the region into their empire.

But a century later Spanish conquistadors showed up and defeated the locals in a bloody battle at the Pucara de Quitor fortification.


Despite Christianization and harsh economic times the atacamenos kept their culture alive and in 1993 they got legal recognition as an indigenous people.


Most visitors use the little oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama as base for excursions into the Salar de Atacama, the Valle de la Lune and the nearby El Tatio geyser fields.

Pukara de Quitor
Laguna Chaxa
El Tatio
Laguna de Cejar
Valle de la Luna
Salar de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama