Valle de la Luna Chile is located in the heart of the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range) in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The valley includes 87,000 square miles (140,000 square km) of protected land under Los Flamencos National Reserve. Known as Moon Valley in English, the valley gets its name from […]
Valle de la Luna Chile is located in the heart of the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range) in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The valley includes 87,000 square miles (140,000 square km) of protected land under Los Flamencos National Reserve.
Known as Moon Valley in English, the valley gets its name from its otherworldly rocky environment. Wind and ancient water erosion over thousands of years have molded the salt, sand, and clay into strange formations that look like the surface of the moon. These rock formations combined with giant sand dunes make you feel as if you are not on planet Earth.
Thanks to its breathtaking, unique landscapes, el Valle de la Luna Chile has become a top attraction in San Pedro de Atacama. Keep reading for advice about when to visit, how to get there, what to see, and what to do in el Valle de la Luna.
High/Low Season, Crowds, and Weather
While you can visit any time of the year, we recommend going between December and February, during the Chilean summer. During those months, daytime temperatures average about 77°F (25°C) and descend to about 46°F (8°C) at night.
January and February are especially busy times. If you would like to avoid the crowds, go in the shoulder season in either spring (September-November) or fall (March-May). If you visit during Chilean winter (June-August), you’ll find fewer people, but colder average temperatures ranging from about 70°F (21°C) during the day to 36°F (2°C) at night.
How Much Time to Spend in Valle de la Luna Chile
You should spend at least one day visiting this incredible nature reserve. At the same time, you could easily go back for a second day, especially if you are an avid hiker, biker, or photographer. Keep in mind that you will need to pay the $3,000 CLP entrance fee again for a second day.
El Valle de la Luna is huge. We recommend spending a full day horseback riding there to discover the valley’s hidden gems. If you have only a half a day to explore, the best time to go is in the afternoon so that you can catch incredible sunset views. As day turns to dusk, the setting sun highlights the white and red colors of the arid soil of the Cordillera de la Sal.
The valley is 8 miles (13 km) west of the small town of San Pedro de Atacama. It is accessible by dirt road from San Pedro. However, the road won’t take you to the famous lookouts in the area. To see the best views, you’ll have to venture on foot, horseback, or bike on the marked trails. As you enter the valley, there is a cash $3,000 Chilean peso entrance fee (about $5 USD).
Although you can go there on your own, we highly recommend booking a tour to explore Valle de la Luna. With a tour, you don’t need to worry about transportation logistics. What’s more, your tour guide will be able to tell you all about the geological history of the region and show you the best lookout points. Make sure to book in advance during high season to reserve your spot.
Duna Mayor Valle de la Luna (Major Dune)
This gigantic dune sits between two mountains, trapping drifting sand. Travelers climb to the top of the dune for breathtaking views of the desert sunset, although the dune is impressive in and of itself. Check out our 360° view of the spot below.
Anfiteatro Valle de la Luna (Amphitheater)
This naturally occurring cliff formation is in the shape of an amphitheater. From there, you can enjoy views of the entire Valle de la Luna.
Tres Marias Valle de la Luna
In the middle of a white salt plateau, you’ll find these three strange rock formations. The rocks look like three women praying.
Cavernas de Sal Valle de la Luna (Salt Caves)
Venture into the tight spaces of these caves to admire sparkling salt crystals. You can even hear the salt cracking as the land moves.
El Valle de la Luna Chile offers multiple ways besides regular tours to see the valley’s highlights.
There are 4 main trails in Valle de la Luna, with medium hiking difficulty. Follow these trails to appreciate fantastic views you can’t see from the road.
Because of the heat and dry atmosphere, it can be challenging to ride your bike in Valle de la Luna and San Pedro de Atacama, but it is totally doable. Throughout the years, many extreme MTB races have taken place in this desert.
All you need is a good bike with suspension, a helmet, water, and a few snacks. Biking in the morning is better because it is usually windier in the afternoon.
Horse Riding San Pedro de Atacama
Another great way to experience the landscape of the valley is on horseback. You can enjoy the views while saving your legs.
Watch the Sunset from a High Point
Valle de la Luna is famous for its jaw-dropping sunsets. The bending evening light ignites the crimson colors of the valley. Head to the top of the Major Dune for the best views. For a preview of what you could see, check out our 360° photo below.
Thanks to its clear skies and absence of light pollution, the Atacama Desert is one of the best places in the world to see stars. After you admire the sunset, lift your gaze to the heavens to enjoy a display of stars unlike any other on Earth.
Valle de la Luna is a protected area and a fragile environment. To preserve this amazing place for future generations and for your safety, do not leave designated trails. Camping and sandboarding are prohibited. If you’d like to camp or sandboard, there are other places near San Pedro to do that, such as nearby Death Valley.
El Valle de la Luna is situated in the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. For any outdoor activities, make sure to bring a lot of water, more than you think you will need. Drinking water is also essential to adjusting to the high altitude of the region. San Pedro sits at an elevation of 7,900 feet (2,408 m).
To be fully prepared, bring good hiking shoes, sunscreen, snacks, and layers of clothing. While temperatures are usually warm and comfortable during the day, they can drop to below freezing at night.
If you’re traveling to San Pedro de Atacama, el Valle de la Luna is a must-see. Take the chance to leave your familiar world behind and discover the moon-like landscapes of this unforgettable valley.
For more ideas on things to do in San Pedro de Atacama, see our other blog post.