Rainbow Valley (Valle del Arcoiris)
Rainbow Valley, which is located in the Rio Grande basin 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level, is lesser-known and less-visited by travelers than such other natural sites around San Pedro as the Valley of the Moon and Piedras Rojas so expect smaller crowds. Guided tours from San Pedro can typically take visitors to the best viewpoints to contemplate the Rainbow Canyon and provide the cultural and geographic history behind the landscape. Some tours include visits to nearby Yerbas Buenas, home to thousands of petroglyphs carved into stone by early Atacama dwellers, some about 11,000 years old.
Things to know before you go
- It is a good idea to walk at a slow, steady pace as the altitude can take a toll.
- Wear sunscreen and dress in layers: the temperature can change dramatically.
- Stay hydrated.
- There are no restroom facilities at the site.
How to get there
Rainbow Valley is a 1-hour drive north of San Pedro de Atacama: bring a map as it is not signposted. Part of the route is a gravel road. If you don’t have your own vehicle, go with a tour group; options range from a day trip to a multi-day Atacama Desert experience, which also includes visits to El Tatio Geysers, the Altiplanic Lagoons, and more.
When to get there
You can visit Rainbow Valley any time of day, year-round. However, the colors of the landscape are most vibrant at sunrise and sunset. September to November and March to May are considered the best times to visit the Atacama Desert as visitor numbers are lower and the temperature is most comfortable.
Around a 30-minute drive east of the Rainbow Valley, Rio Grande is a good short excursion option for those traveling independently. The tiny village is home to around 100 people, most of whom grow seasonal fruits and vegetables. You also see ancient petroglyphs here and buildings that are characterized by their use of mud mortar, thatched roofs, and cactus beams.
- El Tatio Geysers
- Church of San Pedro de Atacama
- Institute of Archaeological Research and R. P. G. Le Page Museum (Instituto de Investigacio
- Pukara de Quitor
- Tulor Village
- Atacama Desert
- Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna)
- Tebenquiche Lagoon
- Puritama Hot Springs (Termas Baños de Puritama)
- Ojos del Salar
- Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos)
- Cejar Lagoon (Laguna Cejar)
- Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama)
- Chaxa Lagoon (Laguna Chaxa)