We aim to preserve the air of mystery around the deserts so we’ll refrain from citing facts from the Internet about the Atacama Desert. What we will do is we’ll share with you the ways to see and experience the area, starting with the little authentic village San Pedro.
The Valley of the Moon and The Valley of Death (Valle de la Luna y Valle de la Muerte) are the most visited places around San Pedro.
The former has earned its name. I don’t know if the landscape of the Moon is this beautiful and awe-inspiring. Our hike of an hour and a half was a bit perturbed by the presence of gravitation, especially while climbing two steep and sharp mountain tops. At first you are hot under the sun, then the wind covers your skin with dust and sand. To cap it all, on the top of the hill the wind is so strong it could tip you towards the abyss. But all the effort is worth it when you see the endless dunes of sand beyond the edge you are standing on, only dunes, hills of rock and mountains all the way to the horizon.
|The Three Marias|
The Valley of Death was named by mistake.
The Frenchman called her the Valley of Mars, which sounded to the locals just like mort or as the Spanish translated it – muerte. Both names have their roots in reality. The red rocks with jagged edges which overhang above the dizzy tourists can be seen as someone’s idea of Mars. The road that leads to the valley is made of clay and limestone can disappear at any pouring rain and if you are unlucky you could be left stranded on Mars too long for you to survive.
The trip finishes on Mirador del Coyote, the best place for watching the sunset. There you can actually see how many tourists are in the area. Some of them drink pisco, others take positions on the rocks to admire the abyss before them and the setting sun.
This trip takes 4 to 5 hours. The available ways of transportation are by vans and buses (as well as by bikes and on foot). After sunset it gets chilly. The lowest price for the trip is 22,000 pesos. I suppose the more expensive alternatives include food and drink at sunset and possibly guides in more languages than English and Spanish.
Other helpful resources
Follow our journey to Chile – The Atacama Desert, part two
Or check out this 9-day overland journey from Salta, Argentina to the Atacama Desert.
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