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Up in the Air
Mark Bechtel
February 12, 2010
THE WORLD'S HIGHEST, DRIEST DESERT IS A GARDEN OF OTHERWORLDLY DELIGHTS
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February 12, 2010

Up In The Air

THE WORLD'S HIGHEST, DRIEST DESERT IS A GARDEN OF OTHERWORLDLY DELIGHTS

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In the Atacama Desert, it's hard not to feel like you're on the moon, or maybe another planet. The crystallized-salt flats, craggy peaks and craters give the place such an extraterrestrial vibe that NASA used the desert as a proving ground for its Mars rovers.

Not only is the Atacama the world's highest desert (altitude: 8,000 feet), it's also the driest. They measure rainfall in millimeters per decade, so there's no risk of having a sightseeing trip (or a Swimsuit shoot) ruined by the weather. And there's plenty to get out and see—geysers, hot springs and ruins, which are incredibly well-preserved due to the arid climate.

The most breathtaking sight, though, doesn't require you to leave your hotel. All you have to do is wait for the sun to go down and then look up. The Atacama has the clearest skies in the Southern Hemisphere. The Alto Atacama has an observation deck with several telescopes, but even to the naked eye, the stars (and meteor showers and even nearby galaxies) seem so close that you can almost reach out and touch them.

Indeed, the hotel offers several cozy vantage points for gazing at the sky, and there's plenty to do during daylight hours as well. The Alto is a striking adobe structure that was designed to blend into its environment. It has six swimming pools, a spa, a lounge, an outdoor bar (the site of a nightly bonfire) and grounds with green alfalfa (tended to by a small herd of llamas and alpacas).

Taking it all in with a glass of Chilean wine in hand makes for an experience that is—like the surroundings—out of this world.

Info

Alto Atacama

+562-912-3900

altoatacama.com

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

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