Valle de la Luna, advertised as ‘Moon Valley’ in English, is part of the Salt Mountain Range which offers stunning clinal and anticlinal formations in a perfectly barren landscape.
Almost all tours include watching the sunset there, you shouldn’t miss it! The large stone walls resemble those of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, sans river. There is also huge halite (rock salt) strata that produce a knocking sound all day long. This can be unsettling at first, but it’s actually harmless. Among its prime attractions are the Grand Crater, the Salt Canyon, the Three Maries and salt mines, the Salt Caves, the Cari Viewpoint (also called ‘Piedra del Coyote’. This location is off the road to Calama and not actually in the Valle de Luna ), and Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley). All tours visit a number of these, but it’s virtually impossible to know which beforehand. Summer tours tend to be longer, though, and therefore have a greater probability of including more destinations.
Entrance fee: $2000 Chilean Peso (the tours won’t include it).The office opens at 9:30am. There is nothing stopping a bike from entering before the offices open, but do support this incredible site by buying an entry ticket.
There is a beautiful mirador (viewpoint) off the paved road to Calama that can be reached by car or bike. This is around km 83. You’ll see a small hut off the road. Head towards the rocks that were put there to simulate chairs and tables. There is a bit a climbing with the bike from San Pedro. If the road incline is down for a significant duration then you have passed the viewpoint. This viewpoint is quite a bit after from the turnoff to Valle de la Luna. This is a beautiful viewpoint to see both the sunset and the sunrise. Hardly anybody is there for the sunrise. A little bit of walking away from this point is a spiral maze.
It’s perfectly possible to ride a bike there, but you should take your time. Although only 8km away from San Pedro, the road’s steep and sinuous. When biking, it’s advised to travel early (think 7-8 AM) in the morning, for afternoon temperatures can be suffocating year-round. You miss the sunset, but also lessen the possibility of heatstroke and the sightseeings won’t be filled with tourists. Also, it’s easier to find someone to rescue you if you get in trouble. Most drivers and guides are willing to help stranded cyclists, especially if they’re female, or if you travel with one. Just don’t expect them to carry a retinue of ten or so tired bikers! You should get a flashlight especially if you want to watch the sunset (the road can be dangerous when dark) but also because there’s a cave you can visit and it’s pitch black in there. Most bike rentals will lend you a headlight if you ask, but make sure the bike also has a tail reflector, and wear a helmet. Ask also an emergency kit for the bikes and a map of the valley. Kilometro 0 has good bikes (Caracoles street).
Prices: $3500 for 6 hours, $6000 for the whole day.
If you plan on going, please consider the following:
- It can get cold immediately after sunset, especially in winter. Bring something warm to wear to enjoy the show to its fullest.
- Carry water! This is vital. You probably won’t notice you’re sweating; moisture evaporates at an alarming rate in the Atacama desert. This means you actually sweat more. Most agencies do not include water in the price.
- This tour usually includes long treks-wear appropriate shoes. There’ll be lots of sand, too, which can be excruciatingly hot, and many sharp rocks, so flip-flops are a no-no.
Some of this information was taken from WikiTravel