Your first glimpse of Chile’s Valle de la Luna, the “Valley of the Moon,” will stay with you for a lifetime. You can feel it instantly—that this strange lunar landscape really is unlike any other place on Earth. With a beautiful barrenness marked by enormous rock pillars, windswept dunes, dried salt lakes, and a crown of whitecapped volcanic peaks, “otherworldly” barely does it justice. The best time to see it is in the late afternoon, when you can watch the setting sun wash the distant peaks in shades of pink and red.
Where is it? Eight miles west of San Pedro de Atacama in the Cordillera de la Sal (“Salt Mountains”) of northern Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Where to stay? The Explora Atacama lodge in San Pedro de Atacama is the place to stay to experience all of the Atacama’s many charms. Simple but elegant rooms are complemented by fine dining and fine wine—a true oasis in the world’s driest desert—but the real heart of any stay is the “explorations” (more than 50 different organized outings ranging from hiking to horseback riding to biking, each tailored to a different activity level).
What else should I know? Declared a Nature Sanctuary in 1982, today the Valle de la Luna is a part of Chile’s Reserva Nacional los Flamencos. It just might be the driest place on earth, too, having gone without a single drop of rain in some places for literally hundreds of years. So bring water.
Who’s it for? Hikers, Dreamers, Adventurers, Geologists, Mars Rovers (they tested the prototype here!), and Landscape Photographers.