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When to go
The desert’s not for rain-lovers or snow-seekers (obviously); but the temperatures aren’t scorching: the mercury normally doesn’t rise above 25°C. Try to book for either autumn (October to November) or Spring (March and April) as there are fewer tourists and clearer skies – ideal for stargazing.
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Tales from our travels
PlanesMost international carriers, including British Airways, operate frequent flights to Santiago (www.ba.com). From here, domestic airline Latam Chile fly up to five times daily to the mining town of Calama; it’s then an hour’s drive to San Pedro de Atacama (www.latam.com).
AutomobilesAs there isn’t much by way of public transport, a car will be invaluable if you plan on exploring the desert solo – in other words, without the help of tour guides, who’ll often provide their own transport. Hire a motor from the airport in Santiago and take the Panamericana Norte to San Pedro de Atacama (you may want to stop off in Caldera or Bahía Inglesa, as the full journey takes a mammoth 17 hours). If you’re coming from Calama, there are various minibus services to San Pedro de Atacama which cost between $3 and $10.