Walking on the moon and mars in San Pedro de Atacama

Last updated on January 11, 2024

Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama tour

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.

Tiny mountain in the salt cave, San Pedro de Atacama tour

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.

Peering through the salt cave, San Pedro de Atacama tour

Despite my success facing fears in Capilla del Monte, my claustrophobia overcame me and I couldn’t do it.

Playing the salt cave wall like an instrument, San Pedro de Atacama

Steve did though and he got to see our tour guide playing the salt formations like a musical instrument.

Victoria walking the ridge, Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama tour

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.

Amazing rocks in the Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama

We were surrounded by incredible rock formations…

Amazing sunset in Valle de la Luna

…and stunning mountains. The pointed one is a volcano.

Sunset Pisco sours with Victoria and Erin, valle de la Luna

We were even given a pisco sour to enjoy as we watched the colours of the landscape change with the movement of the sun.

Sunset at Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama

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.

25 thoughts on “Walking on the moon and mars in San Pedro de Atacama”

  1. Hi Victoria and Steve, wow those Bolivian Salt flats create an amazing landscape and the colours on the photos as the sun sets are amazing.

    Couple of questions:

    1. What is in a ‘pisco sour’?
    2. Are the salt flats at sea-level or higher?

    • Hi Neil. The photos in this post are from the Atacama Desert, but perhaps you saw our posts on the salt flats too The salt flats are actually way above sea level at 3,656 meters!
      And a pisco sour is a cocktail made up of the liqueur, Pisco, along with lime (or lemon) juice, sugar, ice, and egg white. Both Chile and Peru claim it as their national drink, and the Peru uses syrup in place of sugar, and adds Angostura bitters too. Both are delicious!

  2. Omg! All your pictures look so awesome. All the places you have been to are so natural.
    Have you really taken these pictures of yourself?
    If yes then you are really a good vision of taking photos.
    Travelling with Photography !! Just Awesome!! Keep posting I just love your blog.

  3. Beautiful images! It really does look like another planet.

    We had a sunset view to ourselves in the Gobi desert. It was truly magical, we felt so connected to the Earth. I will put my inner hippy away now!

    Take care.

  4. I love your pictures! I especially love watching sunsets, even if I have to work for it a bit. I also could relate to your post on facing your fears. I too have an issue with claustrophobia (and heights) so I really enjoy wide, open, flat spaces! 🙂

  5. Wow, what a place! And beautiful pictures as usual! Another destination to add on my have to go list. I’ll probably end up spending way more time in Chile than I originally anticipated, not that it’s anything wrong with that though :D!


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