The name fits.
From your first glance, El Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon, imparts an unmistakable feeling that it’s several light years away from San Pedro de Atacama — certainly more than the mere 13km (8mi) that separates this large patch of barren high desert landscape from the popular north Chilean tourist town hub.
A protected area that sits in the Reserva Nacional los Flamencos in the high Atacama at 2250m (8364ft) above sea level, the valley is located in the Cordillera de la Sal, or Salt Mountain range, and features various stone, sand and salt formations formed over thousands of years by wind and rain that take on a variety of textures and colors over the course of the day–hues of pink, orange, red and brown– lending it its stark, otherworldly feel. The patches of white you’ll notice in the photos are salt left from the dry lake beds. It’s so inhospitable that early prototypes of the Mars rover were tested on its rugged terrain.
It’s also one of the driest places on the planet – some areas haven’t felt a raindrop in several hundred years.
Easily accessible from San Pedro, a busy town of about 3,000 it’s the most visited attraction in the area. There’s no shortage of tour options available; be sure you choose one whose guide/driver takes his time and delivers you to decent views at sunset because you’ll find yourself surrounded by imposing volcanic peaks in almost every direction. Most impressive is the near-perfect cone peak of Licancabur, which meets the sky at 5,920m (19,420 ft).
To get a really good general feel for the area, check out this 240sec video I previously posted, cleverly entitled, ‘240 Seconds at the Valle de la Luna‘. Nineteen images are below.
All images © Bob Ramsak 2006-2016. All rights reserved. High resolution images available.
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