Much of the cinematic landscape for which the Atacama is so beloved is found in the Moon Valley and Death Valley, a short drive from San Pedro de Atacama. Dramatic rock formations, vertiginous sand dunes and the distant outline of the Andes Mountains combine to create an other-worldly habitat, so dry and barren that it is devoid of all life, aside from human visitors.
It is best to visit in the late afternoon, as the soft evening light bathes the landscape in a warm red hue. En-route will be some breathtaking vistas of Andean Mountain range, the huge Atacama salt lake, the active Lascar Volcano and the impressive Licancabur Volcano. First up is the bizarre rock agglomerations of Death Valley, an area ormed by erosion over thousands of years. Then it is on to the Moon Valley, a silent moonscape with strange formations that nature has carved of salt and clay. You will visit the “Tres Marías” rock formation and salt caverns before watching the sun fade away into the night. Before sunset you can also opt for a short hike to one of the giant sand dunes in the valley.
Some of our favourite places to visit and things to do in the Atacama Desert
What to do in the Atacama Desert
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