This is the driest place in the world, but tourists aren't put off: the views make it worth it. You'll see buried villages, pre-Inca fortresses and salt deserts as you travel around the region by car. This small town of 5,000 people preserves the dirt streets and rustic houses of the past. The first inhabitants reached this region 11,000 years ago.
You have two options to get to San Pedro de Atacama: you can fly to Calama, which is 98 km (60 miles) from the town, or go by car from Santiago on Route 5. But prepare yourself – it's 1,162 miles.
Going by car is a good idea if you want to avoid local tour operators. Most of the attractions are outside of town and you'll have to hit the road to see the most interesting places. The main things to see are Pukará de Quitor, the ruins of a pre-Columbian fortress; Termas de Puritama, where you can enjoy natural hot springs in the middle of the desert; and Valle de la Luna, where you'll see a large number of iguanas that originally came from Africa and were brought here long ago by slaves. You also won't want to miss the Le Paige Museum to learn more about the culture of Atacama.
In addition to being dry, the Atacama Desert is very high, so you should give your body time to adapt. Be sure to eat well and drink plenty of fluids.