San Pedro de Atacama is surrounded by surreal, other-worldy landscapes. In one direction, you can head towards Bolivia’s salt flats and a land of coloured lagoons and striped volcanoes. Travel to Argentina and you’ll pass a mountain of seven colours – or step just outside the town and you’ll find yourself in the Valle de la Luna, named as such because it’s said to look like the moon.
It was a French priest who named the valley. He also named the neighbouring Death Valley, although that was a mistake. He was trying to explain that it looked like mars (marte) but the Spanish understood muerte (death). I’m unsure how he made this assumption, but NASA test their equipment there so it seems he was right.
We went trekking in the Valle de la Luna after a fun, if slightly terrifying, few hours sandboarding in San Pedro de Atacama.
Our first stop was a Chulacao Cave, which is covered in edible salt. You could walk through the salty walls to the entrance and then scramble through a very tight spot to the other side.
Despite my success facing fears in Capilla del Monte, my claustrophobia overcame me and I couldn’t do it.
Steve did though and he got to see our tour guide playing the salt formations like a musical instrument.
After this venture, we headed to a secluded spot to watch the sunset. Most tour groups gather in the same place so we were lucky to be alone. It required quite a steep climb but the privacy and view was worth it.
We were surrounded by incredible rock formations…
…and stunning mountains. The pointed one is a volcano.
We were even given a pisco sour to enjoy as we watched the colours of the landscape change with the movement of the sun.
It was a beautiful way to end a splendid day, and we’d definitely recommend the combination it if you get the chance.
Useful information on Valle de la Luna
Tons of tour operators in San Pedro offer tours of the Valle de la Luna. We were happy with ours as we’re not big hikers and we loved that we could combine it with sandboarding beforehand. Our tour operator was Sandboard San Pedro, a branch of Atacama Inca Tour. It cost 12,000 chilean pesos (about £15) and included transportation, two hours sandboarding with tuition, a tour of Chulacao Caves, a trek to the viewpoint, a pisco sour and a DVD of the day. The only extra cost was 2,000 pesos (about £2.50) to enter the Valle de la Luna.