What’s the weather like?
Awasi Atacama, our 12 room Relais & Chateaux hotel, is situated in the quaint northern Chilean town of San Pedro de Atacama.
The scenery is remarkable, ranging from vast salt flats and otherworldly moonscapes to volcanoes and bubbling hot springs.
The Atacama Desert is the world’s driest desert and is renowned for its clear, star-studded skies. Visitors should prepare for a fairly cool, arid desert climate.
Daytime temperatures are pleasant, often rising to hot, but once the sun goes down in the evenings, it can become very chilly. The area rarely sees rainfall.
So, what should I pack?
Be prepared for a wide variety of weather.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Atacama sits at an altitude of 2,500 metres above sea level (just over 8,000 feet).
With very little rain or cloud coverage, the sun can be surprisingly powerful, so 50 SPF sunscreen, a sunhat and protective clothing are key. Mornings are cool, days are warm and nights are cold, so comfortable layers are the way to go.
Don’t take any chances – pack a warm hat or beanie for the cold mornings and nights, and a sunhat or cap to protect you from the heat of the day.
We recommend packing 1-2 pairs of trainers/ sneakers, 1 pair of sturdy, breathable hiking boots, 1 pair of evening boots for walking in the evenings and a pair of sandals or flip flops for when you’re poolside.
It’s worth investing in some good hiking socks – the best type cushion your feet and absorb moisture – you will be able to find some local alpaca socks (and hats).
Love those layers! Pack vests, T-shirts, polo shirts, short sleeved shirts and long sleeved tops. Solar protection tops that are loose, comfortable and breathable work well.
The temperature in the desert rises as the day goes on, so be prepared to shed your layers.
Lightweight hoodies and fleeces are always useful, while zip-up windbreaker jackets protect against cold winds and cool nights. A poncho or scarf can be handy for when the sun goes down.
Lightweight leggings are comfortable, airy and perfect for daytime hikes.
Pack jeans for the evenings and layer leggings under these if you feel the night-time chill.
A couple of pairs of lightweight shorts always come in handy during for daytime excursions or you could opt for pants/ trousers that zip off into shorts, allowing you to release those legs as the temperature rises during the day.
Whether you’re plunging into the Awasi Atacama swimming pool, or refreshing yourself in a hot spring or lagoon, be sure to come prepared with a swimsuit or two.
A lightweight canvas backpack for daytime excursions is essential. P
ack sunscreen and sunglasses, water in a refillable bottle, snacks such as nuts, fruit and protein bars, extra layers, camera and binoculars. Be sure to bring chargers and adapters for electronic items (although we always have extras at reception should you need).
First Aid Kit and Medicines
Our private guides always have a first aid kit at hand. It be a lifesaver when you’re in the desert. We also carry oxygen in our vehicles for the high altitude excursions. Aloe vera is a great way of soothing skin that’s taken a hit from the sun.
Altitude sickness can be a challenge for some visitors to the Atacama; thankfully symptoms are usually mild and recede once you have adjusted to the elevation.
You can tackle altitude sickness by keeping hydrated, slowing down and taking deep breaths, eating light meals and avoiding alcohol. Our team is always on hand for suggestions and support.
It’s always worth packing some Chilean Pesos – ATMs can be few and far between and cash remains king if you want to buy a souvenir in a local market.
What should I wear for which activity?
There’s so much to do in the Atacama Desert.
You’ll scale sandy dunes, hike across salt flats, marvel at giant cacti, kick back in hot springs and gaze at stars in some of the clearest skies in the world.
These diverse experiences combined with the dry, dusty days and cool nights mean that it’s well worth planning ahead and packing wisely.
It would be unthinkable to visit the Atacama Desert and not go hiking, so be sure to bring a pair of hardwearing and comfortable hiking boots.
Breathable boots with a thick sole work best teamed with cushioned, moisture-busting hiking socks.
Opt for lightweight leggings and comfortable layers on top that can be shed as you heat up over the course of the hike.
If you’re planning on mountaineering, see above, paying special attention to packing clothes that are functional, breathable and non-itchy.
At high altitudes and in cold climates, your lowest layer of clothing is crucial, which means thinking carefully about base layers, underwear and socks.
You’ll need some top quality mountaineering boots which you should wear in with your chosen socks in advance of any trip.
Plus a hardwearing pair of outdoor trousers, plenty of middle layers and an impenetrable outer layer which should be both breathable and waterproof.
Plan ahead and pack wisely and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in the Atacama Desert.
Any further questions? We’d love to hear from you, so do get in touch to plan your trip.