Chile The Calama airport in Chile is an architectural beacon.

Published on April 30th, 2017 | by Mark Chesnut

The Calama airport in Chile is an architectural beacon.

Why Can’t All Airports Be Like This Amazing One in Chile?

People love to hate airports. After all, these much-used transportation centers tend to be congested, outdated hotbeds of frustration, where stress levels take off more frequently than shuttle flights on the Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo air bridge. But during my most recent visit to Chile, I experienced an airport designed to inspire, delight and relax: El Loa airport, which serves the city of Calama and San Pedro de Atacama, in the heart of the Atacama Desert.

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The current terminal, which debuted in 2014, is a case study in how airports should be designed. It also proves that an airport terminal doesn’t have to be big and sprawling — or even located in a major city — to impress. Here are some of the ways that El Loa airport makes the travel experience more pleasant — and some of the lessons it can offer to other airports around the world:

Eye-catching Architecture. El Loa’s architecture mimics the surrounding geographical landscapes, with pleasing curves and and soaring angles that reflect and complement the mountains and dramatic terrain.

High Ceilings and Big Spaces. With its gallery-like design, the Calama airport is the kind of place you wouldn’t be surprised to see original artwork or photography gracing the open spaces. This is a space that’s designed to stimulate the senses and provide memorable visuals.

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Giant Windows & Natural Light. The vast expanses of glass walls at this Chile airport allow oodles of calming natural light to enter the terminal during the daytime. The windows also allow passengers to fully appreciate the stunning mountainous geography of the Atacama desert.

An Ambiance of Calm. Granted, this is greatly related to the relatively small population that this Chile airport serves. There will always be more people in the lines at the Santiago airport, of course. But it sure is nice to travel through a quiet airport that — even though it doesn’t serve too many people — still grasps the beauty and excitement of travel.

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If you’re planning on a Chile vacation that includes a visit to the dramatically beautiful Atacama Desert, you will likely experience the Calama airport (it’s about an hour or so from San Pedro de Atacama, where most of the lovely desert lodges and hostels are located, and where most of the Atacama tours are based). For more information about Chile travel, visit the Chile tourism Website.

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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