The Driest Place on the Earth – Valley of the Moon, Chile

If you are interested in my trip, I travelled with G Adventures for 2 weeks on their Buenos Aires to La Paz Adventure which you can read more about here.

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San Pedro de Atacama is a cool little place and has a really nice feel to it considering it’s situated in the Atacama desert, the driest place on the earth. Being the only town around for miles it has lots of nice cafes, restaurants and shops. It sits at 2400m above sea level – not as high as places weve been (or will go to) but still high enough to notice getting out of breath. As we found out when Becky, Abbie and I decided to rent bikes 🙂

Driest Place on the Earth - Valley of the Moon, Chile

The guy at the rental place kindly showed us the route. It seemed very simple – go along the main road and when you get to ‘the tree’ (yes, there is only one) turn right. So we set off full of intrepidation. It was exciting getting out of the town and into the dusty roads leading into the desert. But after about 20 minutes Abbie gradually got slower – and we realised she had a puncture! We had a puncture repair kit but none of us were particularly confident about using it. So we just stared at it for a while…..and then to our eternal gratefulness, 4 absolutely lovely Chileans were walking by and stopped to help us. The 3 guys got to work and miraculously fixed it! It was so kind of them.

Driest Place on the Earth - Valley of the Moon, Chile

The Driest Place on the Earth – Valley of the Moon

We cycled onto a viewpoint and walked to the top which was about 45 minutes. It was hard on the lungs but worth it for the view 🙂 We cycled back, I exchanged some Chilean pesos to bolivianos (an absolutely shocking exchange rate but there will be no ATM’s for the next few days) and then we set off for Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). And it really did look like moonscape being the driest place on the earth. The salt looked just like snow, i kept having to tell myself it wasn’t. The ground was covered with salt crystals – its amazing to think it takes 300,000 years for the salt to crystallise and then turn transparent. But only 2 months if it’s cultivated!

Driest Place on the Earth - Valley of the Moon, Chile

The bar to be at in San Pedro is Lola’s so we all headed there that night. It’s a cool little bar with a log fire, karaoke and the most amazing drink called the Gran Sour Lola (made of pisco, lemon, blueberry and mint). I had one and wondered why it had gone straight to my head….I had forgotten the affect of the altitude. Makes you get drunk so much quicker! Haha. I sang ‘Like a Virgin’ with Ebonee and Krishna as my back-up singers (so glad they were there!). It was a Sunday night so the bar closed at midnight but we didn’t want to finish there so attempted to find an after-party of some kind. We asked a guy in a bar and his face lit up…..and then he said, “no sorry, there isn’t one”. Weird.

Driest Place on the Earth - Valley of the Moon, Chile

So we went back to the hotel and drank Poppy’s chocolate vodka. And got told off for being too noisy. If we wanted to “follow the laughing” we had to go elsewhere. I said we did….this didn’t go down well.

Stranded at the Border

After much trouble getting in and out our room (Demi and I got locked inside and Kristen was stuck outside) due to a dodgy lock, we left it for the final time to get the bus to the Bolivian border. If I’d known what was to come I think I would have been quite happy being locked int he hotel room. Basically we got to the border, our bus left and there were no 4×4’s waiting for us. 

Driest Place on the Earth - Valley of the Moon, Chile

Natalia said sometimes they are delayed so we sat and patiently waited (in the boiling heat of the desert with the shadow of one small building for shade). Six hours, a few games of mafia, hundreds of Mats’ tunes, wind and sunburnt faces and many unpleasant trench toilet experiences later, our 4×4’s finally arrived! There had been a mix up. We were finally let into Bolivia and were no longer stranded in No Man’s Land.

Driest Place on the Earth - Valley of the Moon, Chile

About an hour later and we arrived at the lunch place. It was 4pm and we hadn’t had much to eat all day so needless to say the lunch got demolished pretty quickly! We had been warned that the toilets in Bolivia would be grim. However, after Glastonbury I don’t think much could shock me. The worst part was none of them are ever free. A few of us got away without paying as the man wasn’t there, but poor Becky timed it just wrong. He saw her walk through and got angry at her lack of cash giving so locked her in the toilet. Talk about childish! She climbed out the window.

Driest Place on the Earth - Valley of the Moon, Chile

We drove onto our hotel past the most beautiful landscape. So many colours and so unspoilt. So many alpacas too! There was a big group of them blocking our way, they’re such cool animals 🙂 Our hotel is very cosy and they put a lovely spread on for us. We all went to bed feeling rather weather beaten….but excited about the next part of our journey 🙂

If you are interested in my trip, I travelled with G Adventures for 2 weeks on their Buenos Aires to La Paz Adventure which you can read more about here.

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5 Replies to “The Driest Place on the Earth – Valley of the Moon, Chile”

  1. Hello here. What a interesting article. Your mood is infectious can prompt everybody who reads to buy the ticket to one side. The traveling is my dream too. Mostly I like to travel alone but in these countries where you are I guess it can be dangerous.
    Of course when you have friends who have the same taste for things and the levels of energy, it would be great.
    Your pictures are unique. You told about alpacas. Do they wonder free or somebody herds them?
    All the best, happy and safe traveling, Nemira.

    1. Thanks Nemira, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Travelling certainly is my passion, I think it really broadens your heart and mind and I wish everyone had the chance to do it.

      Some of the alpacas are herded (they have little bits of ribbon around their neck or in their ears) – but others just roam the landscape.

      Happy travelling to you too!


  2. San Pedro de Atacama sounds like a wonderful place to visit, and I was especially intrigued by the white, transparent sand at Valle de la Luna, which looks like snow…! Your drink at San Pedro sounded delicious!

    I have recently started biking and this kind of vacation is something I would like to try. I think it is so much better than taking a bus tour, and being on a bike puts you in touch with your surroundings so much better.

    I will definitely check out G-Adventures to see what’s available for my next trip! You’ve inspired me to bike even further and push my limits!

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thanks very much for your comments 🙂 I agree, being on a bike is incredible. I did a cycle tour of Vietnam with Intrepid tours which was fabulous, I can highly recommend it. I wrote two posts about it last year (you should be able to find them under categories). G Adventures does some very good ones too from what I hear.


  3. Hello
    South america is the next place to visit for me and reading your article made me wanna go even more. I was targeting Uruguay and Argentina. After reading this article I think I will add Bolivia in my list as well.
    Your descriptions made me wanna go straight away !
    The biking experience too
    Thanks for sharing

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