Not a single drop of water has fallen onto the Moon Valley in hundreds of years, thus the wind-sculpted salt statues inhabiting its eerie bowl have continued their slow, centuries-old dance uninterrupted. Come moonrise, when valley's light dusting of salt and metallic minerals shimmers all around, you may well see them move.
The awesome spectacle is one of the most popular excursions from San Pedro de Atacama, and at sunset the sand dunes can be covered with tourists, all enchanted by the quality of light. Fewer people visit in the morning, so sunrise may be a more tranquil experience.
Review by Tehmina G, April 2013
Doing what: 4-Day Atacama Desert Tour: Moon Valley, Geysers del Tatio and the Chilean Salt Flats
If I could give six stars for this tour I would. The local operatives were Turavión who run the Rutas Andinas that took us from geysers to salt lakes, sampling lunch at a very local village in the Andes and drinking Chilean wine and eating cheese and local delicacies while watching the sun set over the Valley of Mars. I could write an essay but I just want to say that anyone choosing this tour will have a trip of a lifetime. We had the undivided attention of a very knowledgeable guide who was passionate about the region. The group was nice and small so we could ask a lot of questions, we were not rushed and we were shown things we could tell the bigger bus loads of tourists were not shown. We really felt like we got a local's view. They are taking very good care of the fragile desert landscape and our tour guide encouraged responsible tourism, not picking plants or veering away from paths etc. The drivers were superb on what is difficult terrain. I cannot praise our experience enough. Viva Atacama! And a very special thank you to our tour guide Leo who gave us such a memorable time. Viator - if the quality of the tours you choose are even half as good we'll be back!
Moon Valley is located 17 km (11 mi) west of San Pedro de Atacama, an old mining town that has only recently become a busy tourist destination. In addition to the Valle de la Luna, it is also a convenient base for visiting Atacama Salt Lake, Licancabur Volcano, El Tatio geysers, and many other natural wonders.
The town itself is remarkable for its age, inhabited for at least 10,000 years and considered Chile's most important archaeological treasure, with museums and sites worth visiting.
The small airport has regular flights to Santiago and elsewhere in the region, and buses connect the town to Calama, Antofagasta, San Salvador de Jujuy (Argentina), and Uyuni (Bolivia). Many multiple-day tours offer transport between Uyuni as well. You can rent cars in town.