The Atacama Desert is known as the driest place on Earth. I wanted to come here because it is such an extreme environment.
At some weather stations, it has never rained in more than 500 years since Europeans first arrived. Some scientists think it may not have rained in thousands of years.
Why so dry? Here’s how Cascada Travel explains the phenomenon:
The Atacama lies directly to the west of the towering Andes Mountains, so rain clouds sweeping across the continent from Argentina get trapped on the other side and never make it as far as the Atacama. At the same time, very few rain clouds come from the Pacific Ocean in the west because the very cold currents along the coast mean very little moisture is picked up by the cool winds.
We’ve been here 24 hours and it’s so dry our lips are already chapped. It’s so dry our hands feel like sandpaper. It’s so dry everything’s getting just a little itchy. Hell, it’s so dry you can’t get wet in the shower.
Without rain, life is tough. But it can also be incredibly beautiful.
Environments like this emphasize the sharp line between earth and sky.
The sun was going down so tourists parked their cars on the west side of the road, casting some very cool shadows on the east side.
I can hear everyone asking the same question: Where does the water come from if it hasn’t rained in 500 years? Simple answer. Run-off from the snow-capped Andes Mountains. Salty lagoons dot the landscape until they eventually dry up and leave behind salt flats as the only evidence that they ever existed.