Road trip along Chile’s North Coast – Pan de Azucar National Park

One of my highlights while driving along the north coast of Chile from La Serena to Antofagasta was the little detour from Ruta 5 to visit the Pan de Azucar National Park. 

There is a very well maintained gravel road (it's almost like a regular paved road) from Chanaral leading to the small fishing village Pan de Azucar where you can also find the rangers' office and the park's information center. There are several camp grounds, a few cabanas, and some restaurants. 

If you're heading north, you can continue driving on the same road all the way through the park to get back to Ruta 5. I highly recommend driving the complete road through the park. It's very scenic and passes by some stunning landscapes. 

Zoo de Piedra / Sone Zoo - A quick fun stop along the road between Caldera and Chanaral

Large stone sculptures formed by wind, water, sand, and time.

Another sign of the special "desert bloom" phenomenon. 

What animal does this rock remind you of?

You can find many different small shrines at the entrance of the park.

The light tower over Chanaral. It's a small town and the last place before the national park to fill up on petrol and supplies. 

The road to and through the national park is made out of pressed soil and gravel. It's in great condition and leads through stunning landscapes. 

There are lots of empty beaches but to protect the environment camping is only allowed at allocated campsites.  

The campgrounds are all located on the two bays around the little town Pan de Azucar. Each camp side has sun and wind protection. I loved the view over the ocean and small island from our campsite. 

You can go on several different hikes in the national park. Just get your entrance ticket at the information center and a ranger will give you all the details. 

Extremally dry soil at a canyon created by a flashflood several years ago.

Amazing round cacti 

Felt like I am walking on the moon. 

It was fascinating to see all the different colors of the rocks. 

Looking for Guanacos along the hike. This time however without success.  

The beach and village in the distance. Don't make the same mistake as we did and take some food and lots of water on the hike with you. 

Already the smallest amount of water brings life to this inhospitable area.

After visiting the national park we continued driving towards Antofagasta. Large areas are literally just sand and rocks, with no sign of life. There aren't even any small grass bushes or cacti. It's just nothingness all around. In the background you can see the fog covering the bay below us. 

Sealions enjoying the sun on the sidewalk in Antofagasta. 

A modern building painted the way it used to look like. 

View from the outdoor restaurant area at the Mallplaza Antofagasta. I usually try to avoid visiting malls but in Antofagasta we had pretty much no other option when looking for coffee and a nice restaurant in the center of the city. 

The beautiful stone arch "La Portada" a few kilometers north of Antofagasta. 

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