The Atacama Desert is a plateau in South America, covering a 1,000-kilometre strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of theAndes mountains. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world with an average rainfall is about 15 millimetres (0.59 in) per year.
The Desert is probably also the oldest desert on earth and has experienced extreme hyperaridity for at least 3 million years, making it the oldest continuously arid region on earth. Geographically, the aridity of the Atacama is explained by it being situated between two mountain chains (the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range) of sufficient height to prevent moisture advection from either the Pacific or the Atlantic oceans.
In a region about 100 kilometres (60 mi) south of Antofagasta, which averages 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) height, the soil has been compared to that of Mars. Owing to its otherworldly appearance, the Atacama has been used as a location for filming Mars scenes, most notably in the television series Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets and James Bond Quantum of Solace.
The Valle de la Luna is another area of the Atacama Desert which is said to look like the surface of the moon.