“Wherever the crowd goes, run in the other direction. They’re always wrong.” – Charles Bukowski
You may have heard of the benefits of travelling outside the high season in terms of avoiding the crowds, but when it comes to travel to Chile’s Atacama Desert between May and October, there’s plenty of carrot not just stick.
First of all, the climate in Northern Chile is agreeable year round. This can be especially important for those travelling from the Northern Hemisphere who seek sunshine after the long months of winter.
The climate in San Pedro de Atacama stays warm during all the seasons with daytime temperatures of up to 20-25 °C (68-77 °F) during these months. A clear sign of the agreeable climate is that the communal areas at our lodge have nothing but the starry sky overhead. The temperatures at this time of the year are ideal for enjoying Awasi Atacamas’s private excursions that combine the best of Atacama’s nature and culture.
Optimal Stargazing conditions
Chances of rainfall in the Atacama Desert are minimal, after all, it is one of the driest places on earth. The low levels of humidity combined with the high altitude (2500 metres or 8200 feet above sea level) create ideal conditions for star gazing year round. However, the months between April and November have especially low precipitation levels, which makes the conditions even better. Coincidentally, the days are slightly shorter, so one can apprecitate the pristine dark skies right after dinner.
A landscape often called otherworldly, there is something even more incredible about seeing the desert under a coat of snow. As well as seeing snow-covered Andean peaks, if you’re lucky, you may also see snowfall on the high plateau. Snow in the desert is an incredible sight.
El Tatio Geysers
The contrast in temperatures that take place between night and daytime during these months also creates the best conditions for seeing the Tatio Geysers. For this very reason, during the high season many tours to Tatio leave at 5am: geysers can be seen in their best in the first lights of the day before the temperature rises too much. Between May and October the sun rises later and the temperatures stay cooler, so there is no reason to set your alarm so early!
Festivals and Events
There are several important dates in the Atacama Calendar during the months between May and October (we specify these dates because the traditional high season runs between November and April).
On the 1st August the local people have a Pachamama Ceremony during which they make payments to the earth to ask for good crops the following year.
At Awasi, we have an annual ceremony for our staff with a shaman, this is something for the team primarily but guests enjoy it very much (it’s authentic rather than a staged ceremony).
Dates of interest
May – Festival of Sana, celebrated in the small villages close to Chiu-Chiu.
June & July – These months are known for having the clearest skies. This is the best time to visit for star-gazing and astro-photography.
29th June – San Pedro Festival in San Pedro de Atacama and San Pablo.
15th July – Festival of San Santiago de Río Grande in the village of Rio Grande.
1st August – Pachamama payments to the earth, including a ceremony at Awasi Atacama
5-7th September – Festival of Aquina in Tirana Chica, Alto Loa
4th October – Local holiday to mark the Chiu Chiu San Francisco de Asis (one of few articulated Christ models in the world)
Less people, more space
Lastly, there is the point that less tourists flock to Chile between May and October so you will enjoy the sites and the village of San Pedro without crowds. At Awasi, we manage avoid groups year-round because our private excursions and off-road vehicles allow for greater access and flexibility.
And finally, with just 12 suites at our Relais & Chateaux lodge, Awasi Atacama, you may find it easier to find availability during the traditionally less popular months.