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A Journey to the Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna), Chile

I’ve always been fascinated by the Moon. While I still hold out hope of one day travelling there (check out this post), the Valley of the Moon, or Valle de la Luna as it is known in Spanish, is as close as I’m going to get for the foreseeable future.

Valley of the Moon from above

After organising a tour in San Pedro de Atacama, we started our moon adventure. It actually looks more like a cross between the Moon and Mars — 2 extraterrestrial worlds for the price of one isn’t bad! The first stop was at a viewpoint overlooking the Valley of the Moon. The panoramic view of the jagged red cliffs and bone dry valleys was pretty incredible. In the other direction were the snow-capped volcanoes close to the border with Bolivia, where we had arrived from a couple of days before.

The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile from aboveThe Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- a view of the volcanoes close to the border with Bolivia

Death Valley

Next up were the fiery red landscapes of the Death Valley (Valle de la Muerte). According to our guide, it got its name from a mistranslation (it was supposed to be called Valle de la Marte, or Mars Valley). The bus parked by the side of the road and we proceeded to walk through a section of this desolate desert. It reminded me a lot of the Tatacoa Desert in Colombia. After about a kilometre we turned around and headed back to the bus; the Valley of the Moon was waiting…

Further reading: A Night in the Tatacoa Desert, Colombia

A jounrey to the Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- Death Valley

Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna)

A long, straight road cuts its way through the Valley of the Moon. After a short drive we exited the bus and were greeted by a white world of salt — the ground, and several small hills, were covered in it. It looked like icing sugar sitting softly on a delicious dessert.

The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- salt covered hills

We made one more stop to look at some sand dunes, and from there we were informed that we would meet the bus a kilometre or 2 down the road. I couldn’t have been happier — walking through a natural wonder such as this is definitely better than seeing it slide by your tour bus window. We walked past massive rock formations, sand dunes and lots of salt-covered desert. It’s a really surreal and beautiful place — similar in spirit to the landscapes across the border in Bolivia.

Further reading: The Uyuni Salt Flat Tour: The Surreal South of Bolivia

The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- snow-capped volcanoesThe Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in the Atacama Desert, ChileThe Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- a road through the valley

Sunset in the Valley of the Moon

Most tours finish with a desert sunset at one of the viewpoints overlooking the valley. We climbed up a small hill to find a quiet spot to watch it. The sunset itself wasn’t that special but the soft light gave the whole area an otherworldly glow — it was the perfect end to an entertaining short tour.

The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- a sand dune at sunsetThe Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- salt-covered earthSunset in the Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is a quaint, romantic little tourist town in the midst of a harsh desert. The adobe architecture, excellent (and sometimes quite cheap) restaurants and the desert setting make it one of the more appealing small towns in South America. We found a double room in a hostel for 22,000 pesos after trying and failing to find anything cheaper. There are lots of travel agents who advertise the Moon Valley tour (and many others) — we paid 5000 pesos each plus 2000 for the entrance ticket. It’s a great half-day tour and for Chile it’s fantastic value.

The Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- San Pedro de AtacamaThe Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) in Chile -- the streets of San Pedro de Atacama

Have you seen any alien landscapes like the Valley of the Moon? Let me know in the comments below.

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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