The Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley, is probably the most frequented attraction in the Atacama desert. The valley is in the Salt Mountain range and for millions of years floods and winds have formed incredible rock formations throughout the area. It’s heaven for a geologist, but more than that, it is just an astoundingly beautiful and unique place, like nothing I’ve seen in the world. It’s namesake also comes from it’s resemblance to the barren and somewhat eerie surface of the moon. I cannot recommend enough a visit to this incredible place.
On New Years Day, I joined a tour leaving downtown San Pedro at 4 in the afternoon, enough time for a few hours of hiking in the hills before sunset. We stopped off first in the Moon Valley itself, to hike up the Great Sand Dune and continue along the ridge traverse to reach an incredible viewpoint at the end.
Hiking here is not for the faint of heart. While the hikes were not too tasking in and of themselves, it is seriously dry, hot, and the sun is unrelenting. Sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water is a must. Our group furiously snapped millions of photos and then hustled back to the bus to head towards Valle de la Muerta, Death Valley or sometimes also known as Mars Valley. We hiked through the hills here, again passing through amazing rock formations, each one different from the last.
The last stop of the evening was to a viewpoint to watch the sunset. As it was New Years day, the tour guides kindly treated us to glasses of champagne at the top of the hill. We sipped and watched the sun slip behind the hills, making the rock mercurially change colors within the blink of an eye. The Andes Mountains turned pink in the background with the dwindling light. An incredible end to an incredible day, and one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had.