The Atacama Desert in Chile is home to Mano de Desierto. The sculpture stands at 11 metres tall and is surrounded by miles of desert. I had seen this mysterious hand in the desert in my newsfeed over the past few years and always up for a photography challenge, added it to my road trip itinerary.

What is the Hand in the Desert?

Mano de Desierto (Hand in the Desert) is the work of Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal. Built in the early 1980s, it was financed by a local booster organisation. A sister sculpture (La Mano de Punta del Este) can be found on the other side of the continent in Uruguay. It is said they represent the hands of mother nature embracing South America.

Such a fun installation to photograph.

How to get to the Hand in the Desert (Mano de Desierto)

After visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia we made our way through Los Flamencos National Reserve on a tour into Chile. From San Pedro De Atacama we caught a bus to Calama. There is only one bus station in San Pedro De Atacama so it was easy to locate. In Calama we rented a car at the airport (a taxi to the airport from our hostel cost $5 AUD). We used the company Europcar which charged $150 AUD in total (not including fuel). I did not book the car in advance, but would advise doing so to get cheaper rates.

The rental car used to get to the Hand in the Desert.

From Calama we began our road trip through the Atacama Desert along the Pan-American Highway. It took me 3 hours to drive from Calama to the sculpture. From the sculpture it took another hour to reach Antofagasta.

Driving through the Atacama Desert

The Pan-American highway takes you directly from Calama to the Hand in the Desert sculpture. The highway is well maintained. The only thing to prepare yourself for would be the the giant trucks that speed along the highway and regularly overtake/drive in the middle of the road. This wasn’t a huge deal but something to keep in mind. It is a direct road with no turn offs making the trip really easy (especially helpful if like me, you are used to driving on the left hand side of the road).

Love the purple desert haze in the background.

What to expect at the Hand in the Desert

I think it is important to note that at the end of the day this sculpture is literally… a hand in the desert. So it requires less than half an hour to visit. Going out of your way may be a bit excessive but it is the perfect pit stop along the Pan-American highway. There were only two other cars that stopped to take pictures while I was there and for me it was worth it because I love capturing unique/quirky things in the destinations I visit.


This mysterious sculpture is one of my favourite images from my time in Chile. I also absolutely love driving so it was a chance to get out on the open road to take in the Atacama Desert.

Any questions? Feel free to comment below.

Suitcase And I was not sponsored to write this article. As always, the views expressed in this article are my own.