The Atacama Desert is a rainless plateau extending 966 km between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It was created by the rain shadow of the Andes east of the Desert. Its area is of 181,300 square kilometers, in northern Chile. It is made up of salt basins (Salares), sand, lava flows, and is more than 20 million years old. It is 50 times more arid than California’s Death Valley.
In this desert rain is almost unknown and in some places, it has never rained at all. However, an oasis may be formed thanks to the waters that flow down from the Andes Mountain Range, either through rivers or underground waters and creates life.
In the oases located in the basin of the Salar de Atacama, there have been human settlements since time immemorial, which in time, have originated the Atacamenian culture or Lican-Antay: “people of the Oasis”.
It has been estimated that the first indigenous people who journeyed through these lands more then 10 000 years ago were hunters and food gatherers. In this era, the desert offered a different landscape with more vegetation and a greater number of animals and birds.
The first constructions appeared around the 4th century B.C. They were circular in shape and located in ravines or close to the rivers.
The transition from a nomadic life to a sedentary one, stimulated development of agriculture which was also boosted by important advances in irrigation systems which have lasted to the present day.
Atacamenian settlements developed their own rituals and customs which were enriched through contacts with groups on the high plateau.
Due to its climate and its altitude in the Atacama desert you can find a very special flora and fauna.
In this high altitude habitat of salt deposits and wetlands, you will encounter a great variety of Flamingoes. The most outstanding animals found are: Flamingoes, Vicuñas, Guanacos, Lamas, Foxes, Vizcachas and more.
The most abundant plants found in its flora are: Llareta (Yareta), Chañar, Algarrobo, Rica-rica, Pingo-Pingo, Fox tails, Cactus.