The Atacarma desert in Northern Chile is the driest place on earth.
How dry?
Some parts have not had any rain for 400 years.

Ironically it is situated next to the Pacific ocean which is the wettest place on earth (well it is largest body of water). Very little of the water vapour rolling off the Pacific carried on the Easterly trade winds make it to the Atacarma desert because of the Rain Shadow Effect cast by the Andes mountain range which runs along the western coast of Chile.

The desert reaches high into the Andes and on the freezing high plateau there are salt water lakes where flocks of pink flamingos and Chilean black flamingos gather to eat algae. Down on the lower plaines dust devils are common sights. The chupacabra or goat sucker is said to roam the land at night.

In the nineteenth century the Atacarma desert was of global importance due to the huge reserves of nitrate which was mined for export to Europe to make agrochemicals and munitions until the discovery of the Haber-Bosch Process.
Some nitrate extraction still goes on but almost all of the nitrate mining towns are now ghost towns.

Viva Chile!

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