Backpacking across the Andes Chile San Pedro de Atacama

Backpacking across the Andes – #5: the Moon Valley (Chile)

Our visit to the Moon Valley in San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) marked the beginning of the “stunning-landscapes” part of our trip.Landscapes that we had never seen anywhere else before. Landscapes that seemed to be from another planet. Landscapes that simply left us speechless. The picture frame never seemed to be big enough to capture the beauty of the scenery displayed in front of our eyes.


The Moon Valley was our first excursion when we arrived in San Pedro.

The tour started at around 3 pm and ended around 8pm, just in time to admire the sunset over this amazing site, with a glass of pisco sour offered by our guide. This valley is very close to San Pedro and some people even take a bike to explore this site by themselves.

During the whole afternoon that we spent there, our guide took us to places more beautiful the ones that the others.

How was the Moon Valley created?

The Moon Valley is located in the Salt mountain range, in the Atacama Desert of Chile. This vast area full of different textures, colors, reliefs, landscapes is said to be similar to the surface of the moon, thus its name. It is made up of various stone and sand formations which have been carved by wind and water over thousands of years.


During this tour, we had the chance to meet Patrizio, our guide for this incredible adventure. Patrizio is the kind of person who gives a little bit of his soul when showing you around his beautiful country. He is the kind of person who is genuinely interested in sharing his love for this amazing site as well as in letting you know more about his country. Patrizio took us to different parts of the Moon Valley that day, and we started with the salt mines.


We arrived via this little road with a strong feeling to be in the middle of nowhere. We grasped what it was like to be in a desert. Incredible landscapes but nothing around, no building, no electric cables, no tree! just the natural beauty of the place.

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We started exploring these caves. We literally entered in the cave via these very narrow paths and tried, without being very successful, not to hit our heads to the ceiling of the cave. At moments it was very low and we had to bend to continue. At other times we were in the open air.We were amazed by this lunar landscape, these beautiful rocky forms covered by a white layer of salt.

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We then reached the place that most impressed me that day: the great dune path. For thousands of years, strong winds have affected these reliefs, creating these huge fields of sand dunes. I have never been to the Sahara desert but that’s pretty much the idea I had of it. I was far from imagining that there was a place like this in South America.

We took a little path by the first dune and then gradually went up to reach a place that I would not know how to properly describe with words…

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On one side there was this huge sand dune, and on the other side, these amazing rocky forms in different colors and textures. It was just beautiful. From up there, we had the best view over the site. If I was to keep only one memory about the Moon Valley, I would like it to be this picture…


We learnt that a part of this site is called the amphitheater due to its shape. Patrizio shared with us that there was a popular “urban legend” in Chile saying that the Pink Floyds would come one day to play there. That would be a pretty cool place for a concert!



We then went to a place called “three Marias” because of these rocky formations in the shape of three praying women (with a little bit of imagination you will see them…). Once again, we were amazed by the beauty of this place, by the color contrasts: blue sky (once again there was not a single cloud!), the white salt, the brown mountains.

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We then went to a place called the Death Valley. The moon was starting to rise out to add the final touch to this beautiful scenery.

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We then reached our final stop to admire the sun set. The mountains became slightly red as the sun was going down. Patrizio had prepared a little picnic for us. It was the best way to end this amazing day.

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Sun protection

During the day, it is VERY hot in the Atacama Desert. Don’t forget to bring with you a hat, sunglasses, water and a good sunscreen. With the high altitude, the rays of sun are stronger. Make sure you put sunscreen several times during the tour.

How to get there?

You can visit the Moon Valley with a travel agency from San Pedro or ride a bike on your own as the valley is very close to San Pedro. You will be given a map of site when you buy your ticket. If we could go back, that’s what we would do.

Continue reading

  • Next stop: El Tatio Geyser. Click here to read the article.
  • All articles about this country: click here to see all articles about Chile.
  • All articles about this trip: click here to read see all articles about this backpacking trip across the Andes (Chile – Bolivia – Peru).

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