Placed between the mountain range of the Andes (Cordillera de los Andes) and the Pacific Ocean, the Atacama Desert stretches from the south of Peru to the northern regions of Chile. It is regarded as one of the driest coastal deserts of the world, with exceptionally low rainfall due to its geographical position, which generates a stable area of high pressure.
But why is it a special place and what does it hide between its dunes?
This is a place of many surprising aspects which, when crossed by motorbike, has a mysterious and singular fascination. We offer our clients the chance to penetrate the Atacama Desert during our Machu Picchu and Uyuni Salt Flat Tour, reaching the desert in its Peruvian stretches. In the course of our itinerary, we shall cross the desert by motorcycle, with the enormous sand dunes only a few metres from the asphalted road.
If, by extreme good fortune, our crossing should happen to coincide with one of the very few and rare periods of rain, we shall also have the exceptional privilege of being able to admire the Atacama Desert completely covered with an explosion of flowering, in tones of lilac and violet. This is not only an extraordinary sight, but truly very rare, which only happens on average once every four or five years: the cause is an unexpected heating of the ocean waters, caused by a periodic climatic variation that takes place in this region.
The Atacama Desert extends as far as the city of Nazca where we shall leave it to climb towards higher regions. Later on, in the final days of the tour, when we leave the Uyuni Salt Flat, we shall return to the desert from San Pedro de Atacama, this time seeing it from the higher points of the plateau. From there we can also observe the infrastructures placed in the Chilean desert, where there are copper mines and large extraction works, with the characteristic traffic of an industrial area.
After reaching the far end of the Atacama Desert we shall visit the oases and stop for a break near the world-famous Hand of the Desert: an iron and cement sculpture 15 metres high, created by the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrazabal and representing a human hand which appears to emerge from the sand. While not having any particular historical or cultural significance, the sculpture, as well as being very evocative, has acquired a strong symbolic value in travellers’ imagination. In fact, our travellers too are often eager to reach the renowned Hand by motorbike, park and take a photograph.