About 13 kilometres west of San Pedro de Atacama lies the beautiful area of Valle de la Luna. This is a wild valley that, according to experts, resembles a moonscape. NASA has tested prototypes for space missions here in the past. The rock formations and sand dunes have changed over the centuries as a result of climate changes and erosion. As a result, you can now enjoy an amazingly beautiful area that is second to none.
Tours to Valle de la Luna
In San Pedro you can book organised tours to Valle de la Luna at the many travel agencies that you will find on every street. These all leave for the valley from about four o’clock in the afternoon. At the end of the tour you will see the sunset in special places, which is definitely worth the experience! The other side of the coin is that you go through the area in large groups. If you want to avoid large crowds, you can go on your own.
Mountain bike to Valle de la Luna
We did the tour by mountain bike. You cycle on good, paved roads to the entrance of the area. At the entrance, you can get a map with the most important sights. After that, the roads are unpaved and sometimes uphill making it a sporty outing. Sometimes it is better to get off and walk a bit further pushing your bike by hand. However, because you have the area for yourself, you soon forget all the inconveniences. It is truly beautiful and the views are just as spectacular everywhere.
From 4:30pm you can see it slowly getting busier in the nature reserve. Then all the tourists who have booked an organised tour appear. They mainly come before sunset. And rightly so, because it is truly very special. It is important to find a good spot just before all the tourists arrive. On the map you got at the entrance of the park, some spots are indicated. Because of the reflection of the sunlight on the Lincancabur volcano (almost 6,000 metres high), the sky colours in all kinds of beautiful pastel shades.
Other attractions in Valle de la Luna
The sunset was for us the absolute highlight of our visit. But there are other beautiful things to see, such as the Cuevas de Sal Cañon, the salt caves. Some climbing is required in order to enter the caves. It is also worthwhile to visit the salt formation Las Tres Marias, the three Maria’s.
Tips for visiting Valle de la Luna
Especially if you are considering exploring the area by mountain bike, it is important to take a few things into account:
- Bring enough water with you. Count on at least 2 litres per person. During the day it is warm in the valley and during the few short climbs you will lose a fair few drops of sweat.
- Make sure you have good protection. Sunscreen is essential, as are good sunglasses. It also cools down very quickly after sunset. An extra layer of clothing is very desirable for the way back.
- Take enough food with you. If you have been in the area for hours and want to see the sunset after that, it is useful to have something with you to fill your stomach. There are no facilities in the area itself.
- Make sure you have good lighting. You cycle back in the dark. And in the cave, lighting is also desirable. Check if your lights on the bike work and/or wear a headlamp (most bike rental shops give one). Without light the return trip is dangerous, especially the last short descent into the village.