Take the Trek Toward Chile’s The Hand in the Desert

Are you tired of the usual tourist stops?  Are you looking for something strange or unusual to add that special something to your vacation plans?  Then this is the place for you… The Hand in the Desert.


The Hand in the Desert or Mano del Desierto is what some refer to as an “Instagram haven” for the adventurous world traveler.  The famous sculpture is a large-scale sculpture of a nearly 37 foot-high human hand in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.  The Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on the planet, making it the perfect place for such a sculpture. 


No place in this barren desert is perhaps more weird and unearthly than the area between kilometer marker 1309 and 1310 on the Pan-American Highway. There, a small, nondescript gravel road will lead you to a colossal cement hand rising 36 feet out of the hot, dry sand.  The world-famous sculpture can be found on the Pan-American Highway approximately 46 miles south of the city of Antofagasta, the heart of Chile’s copper mining industry.  From Antofagasta, you take either Route 28 or Route 26 as both routes connect to Route 5. But, if you’re worried about getting lost, there’s plenty of tour guides to lead the way. 


The sculpture, which is taller than an NFL goalpost, was created by the Chilean Santiago sculptor Mario Irarrázabal.  His artwork is often related to human suffering. The theme of hands rising from the earth is said to be an obsession. Irarrázabal’s other well-known works are also over-sized sculptures. Go figure!


Over a quarter of a century ago, the local booster group known as the Corporación Pro Antofagasta commissioned Irarrázabal to build a monument to the Atacama Desert’s vast emptiness. The Hand in the Desert, four outstretched fingers, and a thumb was officially unveiled in March 1992.

Since that day, it has become a famous point of interest to visitors driving on Route 5.  Unfortunately, the sculpture often falls victim to graffiti artists.  Thus, city employees are required to wash their hand. But don’t fret, while this may be far, it’s free and definitely worth the trek.

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