If getting off the beaten track is your intention (and you don't want to risk wet weather), northern Chile's Atacama Desert might be worth considering? Most parts of this vast arid lunar-like landscape - wedged between the Andes and the Pacific - have not seen rain since records began.
White salt flats, rust-coloured valleys and snow-capped volcanoes dominate the vista, making for extraordinary changes in light. Sunrise is golden; midday is blinding white; while sunset oozes from red to pink.
Clear, clean skies also make this part of the planet perfect for star gazing. This explains why some of the world's major observatories are located here.
Rich mineral deposits (and adventurous tourists) support the few villages scattered throughout the region, where both Incan and Spanish influences can be seen.
San Pedro de Atacama makes a great base for exploring. Apart from several archaeological sites and museums, just out of town you can sandboard down giant dunes then wash the desert dust off in Cejar Lagoon.
But it's not all dust and desert. Near Copiapó, the camancha mist lingers over the land, nourishing natural reserves like the Fray Jorge and Pan de Azúcar National Parks.