Our 24 hour bus ride from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama was about as much fun as it sounds: not very. But we have gotten used to them at this point and knew that this would (hopefully) be the last 20+ hour bus ride of the trip. The town of San Pedro de Atacama is located in the Atacama desert and known as one of the driest places in the world. It is also nearby the “Valle de la Luna”, or Valley of the Moon, a supposed must-see destination here. We decided to check it out before getting ready to make our way into Bolivia in two days.
I’ll be honest: the first half of the tour to Valle de la Luna left me pretty disappointed. Other than seeing the cool salt crystallizations on some of the rock formations, nothing seemed that incredible or otherworldly in comparison to places in the southwestern United States like Arizona or New Mexico. Not to mention a big stretch of cloudy skies managed to literally cast a shadow over any interesting picture opportunities. However, it could be that Dana and I are simply becoming jaded travel snobs that can only marvel at the best of the best in sightseeing…… nah, couldn’t be that.
After the tour dropped us off at the final sightseeing destination where we were going to watch the sunset, there was a reasonable climb to where we could have a better view of the valley. From here the view was finally worth the price of admission. A giant windswept sand dune straddled between a dramatic valley was quite a beautiful site indeed.
The sun also decided to come out, with a dramatic vista of dark clouds behind the mountains. After hiking further out, we got to see something that we assume is incredibly rare in the driest place in the world: a rainbow! Some places in the Atacama desert haven’t received rain in over a hundred years, so we figured this was a pretty special event we got to witness. It wasn’t a full rainbow, but we didn’t complain. On our way back from the short hike, Dana and I took in the sunset. For a place that started out a bit so-so, it sure did finish strong and leave a pleasant memory of our visit to the Valley of the Moon.