The Hand of the Desert: A Backpacker’s Guide to Chile

The Hand of the Desert: A Backpacker’s Guide to Chile

The Hand of the Desert, or Mano del Desierto, is an image many associate with the Atacama desert in Chile. Built by Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal in the early 90’s, its larger-than-life size is said to symbolize the helplessness and vulnerability of humans.

There’s good news and bad news if you want to visit this iconic sculpture. It’s located on the Panamerican Highway about 75km south of Antofagasta, a city in the north of Chile. If you’re coming from San Pedro de Atacama, you can make a stop here on your way south towards Santiago. The bad news is that although it’s only about an hour’s drive from the city, there are no buses that go here.

You have a few options to get to the hand:

  1. Rent a car. There are several car rental agencies in Antofagasta where you can rent small cars at a good price (~$24 USD/day). Just be aware that most of them are closed on Sundays.
  2. Hitch a ride. We got lucky and ended up meeting some Brazilians in our hostel that had a car, so we drove with them. However, it’s also possible to try to hitchhike from the Panamerican Highway. In general, hitchhiking in Chile is considered to be safe.
  3. Go with a tour. We found one or two tour agencies online. Here’s the catch: they are very expensive and the ones we found only did tours at night.

The good news is that unless you go with a tour, there are usually very few people there and you can enjoy the grandness of the sculpture without people shoving selfie-sticks in your face. Also, it’s extremely easy to find. A straight shot down the Panamerican and you’ll be able to see it from the highway.

The Hand of the Desert Antofagasta
The Hand of the Desert

Worth it? Yep. If you’re passing through Antofagasta it’s definitely worth a stop.

What to bring: camera, sunscreen, water.

– Iris & Roi

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