Valle De La Luna: Explore Moon Valley on a Mountain Bike with Apollo

Valle De La Luna: Explore Moon Valley on a Mountain Bike with Apollo

Are you prepared to mountain bike through Valle de la Luna in the Atacama Desert? You’re in for a wonderful (and sweaty!) adventure! Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar region on Earth, is made up of lunar-like landscapes, geothermal geyser fields, salt lakes to float in, wrinkly hills like a French Bulldog’s rolls, and martian valleys.
The athletic and daring traveler should ride a mountain bike into the Valley of the Moon. This voyage is for individuals who like to save a little money and who like to travel at their own pace. However, we must caution you that it is not for the weak-willed.
The weather is hostile. If you’re not careful, the combination of unrelenting sunlight, high altitudes, and exposure might lead to issues. We’ll make sure you’re ready for the difficulties, so don’t worry!
Only one lunar scene is accessible in the world’s driest desert, yet you can witness geysers in Yellowstone and float in the Dead Sea.
Have you ever wanted to visit the moon? Unfortunately, we are unable to transport you there, but we can provide the finest alternative in Chile. Make sure you visit this tourist destination if you only visit one while in San Pedro.

Where Is The Valley Of The Moon?

Three of the ‘Valley of the Moon’ locations, as they are known, are located in South America. Northeastern Chile, close to San Pedro de Atacama, is where the Valle de la Luna is located, which we plan to explore by mountain bike.
Only 6km (3.7 miles) separates the Moon valley’s entrance from the city’s core, and it is simple to travel there on decent roads. The Atacama Desert, which is the driest desert in the world, may be reached from San Pedro.
Take a trip to Calama airport to get to San Pedro de Atacama, and then either rent a car there (we recommend doing this in advance as their availability is shockingly low) or take one of the common tourist bus shuttles.

The most popular route from the south departs from Santiago and flies directly into Calama. For the most effective travel in the region, you can enter Bolivia from the north, ideally wrapping off your tour of the Bolivia Salt Flats at San Pedro.
accept extra precaution and don’t accept any crap because the border crossing up here can be sketchy.

What Is the Valley of the Moon?

Valle de la Luna, often known as the Valley of the Moon, is a region that has been compared to the Moon’s surface. It is situated in the Cordillera del Sal, or Salt Mountains, in the heart of Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert.
A remarkable landscape has been produced by the interaction of wind, water, and dry salt lakes. Rustic red and burned orange valleys composed of sand and dry stone, finished with a sprinkle of dry white salt, give them a lunar look.

Moon Valley offers vistas to be amazed by, dunes to climb, and caverns to explore. The valley is also a component of the 1982-designated national park known as Reserva Los Flamencos.
For us, traveling to Moon Valley was like first seeing the Grand Canyon. When you first lay eyes on the horizon, it’s one of the rare occasions when you truly can’t believe what you are seeing. We did just say that the experience was “out of this world”!

Why Rent a Bike to Explore the Valle de la Luna?

To be honest, cycling this journey will be challenging given the adverse weather. You’ll perspire a lot! However, the thrill of successfully exploring Chile’s moon valley with only your legs will release endorphins.
We are aware that not everyone will like mountain biking. In San Pedro de Atacama, there are so many trip possibilities that it’s almost ludicrous. We’ve never seen a town with as many tour guides per building as this one does!
However, it does result in beneficial consumer competition. Therefore, before booking a tour, please be careful to compare prices and providers.

As an alternative, you might have rented a car from the Antofagasta or Calama airports. If so, you might be asking yourself, “Why would we cycle when we have a car?”‘ and that is a legitimate query.
The response has three parts. First off, the only attraction that is close enough to San Pedro to be reached by bicycle is Valle de la Luna. Second, you will spend a lot of time driving when you are in the desert, trust us on this. Thirdly, it’s far less enjoyable! Have we yet to persuade you?

If you choose to cycle rather than drive, we guarantee you’ll have a better time. Or at the very least, you will appreciate the really rough terrain more!
So take a mountain bike and start pedaling to the intriguing landscape of Valle de la Luna and to better health.

The ideal time to bicycle in Valle de la Luna?

Peak Cycling Hours in Valle de la Luna
Depending on your goals for the day and how you can fit Valle de la Luna around other nearby sights, you should decide when to get on your bike. The majority of us have just a few days to cross off a lengthy list!

Do you enjoy cycling, hiking, photography, or the arts? Start your day early. When the bike stores open at 8 am, be outside and prepared to depart for the valley. You have plenty of time to pedal to the vistas in the morning because the sun isn’t as intense.
There, you can take many photos, trek along the designated trails, or grab some paper and a pencil to sketch the breathtaking scenery. You can frame that infant at home for a wholly genuine and unique souvenir!

If you want to witness the sun set over the desert, leave later in the day, but allow yourself at least two to three hours before dusk. Before you leave, make sure to check the last admittance time to avoid being turned away at the ranger station entrance.

Please wear your high-visibility jackets and bring some sturdy bike lights and torches with you if you plan to ride later in the day. You’ll also receive this equipment from the majority of the local bike rental companies.
Season to Ride a Bike in Valle de la Luna

Depending on your tastes and travel style, you should decide when to go. Do crowds bother you?
The best times to travel to the area are in the winter months of December, January, and February. As a result, prices are increased, and all tourist attractions will be crowded.
Visit during the shoulder seasons when prices are lower, there are fewer tourists, and the weather is still favorable.
Avoid making travel plans based on the weather in San Pedro if you are passing through as part of a larger South American excursion. Since the weather in Patagonia and/or Machu Picchu is much more unpredictable, you should pay particular attention to it.

Important information: Everyone and their dog imagines a touching and spectacular Atacama Desert sunset. Keep in mind that you won’t be alone if you visit during the summer (Dec.–Feb.). The valley bottom will be cluttered with rented camper vans and tourist buses, and the vistas will be surrounded by unending tour groups. Which might negate the objective of seeking for a lonely “we’re the only people out here” sensation. like though you were on the moon.

Our Cycling the Valle de la Luna Route

If you’re on the road for a while and are on a tight budget, San Pedro won’t be an affordable destination for you to visit.
We had to be clever and wise with our expenditures because we didn’t want to burn half of our 9-week South America budget in one place. However, we still intended to visit the Atacama Desert’s top attractions.

We were excited to do the same because we had heard about people riding mountain bikes into Valle de la Luna before we arrived. We initially booked a flight to Calama because of its lunar-like landscape.

For four days, we contemplated renting a camper van, but after doing some research, we opted against it. We then talked about renting a car for four days. However, we were making plans on the fly. Booking a rental car at the last minute at the Calama airport is either impossible or prohibitively expensive. Although you can take a bus into Calama town and get a job there, we merely reserved a bus going straight to San Pedro.
Therefore, our options were a visit to the Valle de la Luna or renting mountain bikes.

Mountain bikes vs. tours

Going on the tour – It was really hot, and the tour bus undoubtedly had air conditioning.
We decided to go with the bikes because we have a natural want to be active and overcome obstacles, and we also wanted to view the valley throughout the day at our own pace.

It was just 10.5 miles to the ultimate farthest point, and then 10.5 miles back to town, according to Google Maps, which we used for clarification. The distance to the entrance checkpoint along the main roads was actually only 3.7 miles, so it wasn’t that far.

Let’s do some fast math. The typical cycling speed is between 10 and 12 miles per hour. Divide that by half due to the heat and dirt roads, and we get 5 miles per hour. So we decided on 4 hours of cycling and 2 hours of sightseeing.
Our estimate of two hours for sightseeing was slightly off. In the end, it was closer to 4. We significantly underestimated cycling time as well; it was less than 3. Back in town around 2.45pm, head straight to Emporio Andino, the world’s best empanada shop!

A Bicycle Rental For Valle De La Luna

Half the battle is already won when you decide to mountain bike in Valle de la Luna. The choice of bike constitutes the other half.

In the city, there are many bike rental shops. To avoid the usual crowds on excursions, we strongly advise arriving around 7.55am. Most places open at 8am. The day before, try to scout out the spots. Look up the hours and observe how busy or professional they appear.
The cost of renting a bike ranges from 300 to 6000 pesos, depending on how long you rent it for. If you’re only doing Valle de la Luna, we believe 6 hours will be sufficient, making it ideal for people on a budget. Choose a 12 or 24-hour rental if you also intend to use a sand board at Valle de la Muerte.

As part of the rental fee, you will receive a helmet, high visibility clothing, a lock for the bike, a repair kit, and a pump. You should, of course, wear a helmet and a high-visibility jacket.
Make sure you compare bike quality before buying. Prices will be comparable around the city. It’s crucial that you get a bike in good condition. Make sure it fits your frame by giving it a try first. You’ll need the brakes and gears, so check them out! Does the chain squeak when you listen to it? Then oil it!

You don’t want to get stuck in Valle de la Luna because it is bone-dry there. Even worse, you don’t want your buddies to discover out quickly while your bike is failing you and it appears that you won’t be able to make it!
Ideally, an Apollo mountain bike from Apollo 11 rather than Apollo 13 will be sent to orbit Valle de la Luna!
It sounds quite daring to bike into the world’s driest desert, doesn’t it?

Important Travel Advice

You are about to ride through one of the driest regions on Earth, at a height of 2,400 meters (7,900 feet), under constant sunlight of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius (70 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit). Take as much water as your bag will comfortably hold.
Borrow or purchase a larger backpack if you don’t already have one. You require water. water in abundance.

We started with 2L apiece, but we soon realized that wouldn’t be enough, so we bought a 1L Gatorade bottle at the checkpoint at the entry as a backup. Because it’s the last location you can stock up, use caution. Your mouth will be as dry as the desert since you’ll be breathing in a lot of dust in the valley.

You’ll be shocked at how rapidly the fluid evaporates in the oppressive heat without any shade. No, you are not in the Sahara, but summertime temperatures will still be in the upper 70s (25C).
You’ve reached sunburn central, my friends, at a height of 2,400m (7,900 ft), my friends. Sun protection is a must-have. Do not risk your safety up there.

In relation to altitude, this location is on the verge of an altitude sickness zone. Give yourself a few days to acclimate if you’re feeling lightheaded and refrain from exercising.
If you leave early, you should return to town before the UV rays are at their most damaging because the sun is at its greatest about 4 o’clock.
Do we really need to suggest putting on comfortable athletic clothing and shoes? We’d better make sure we’re all set! In case you become trapped, pack a first aid kit, some refreshments, and layers of warm clothing.
You should also take wind into account. Frequently, the wind might gust as high as 10-15 mph, particularly in the afternoon. Just be mindful of wind burn and dust clouds.
The road inside the valley is made of gravel, sand, and dust, which is the last thing to mention. There are a few hills, and one in particular requires you to pump your back brake on the way down because, if you don’t, the tires may slip out from under you as you descend through deeper sand or dust.

Cycling Routes in Valle De La Luna

Do you worry about the entrance’s access road’s state? Be at ease.
You can be confident that the major road between San Pedro and the entrance to the ranger station has recently received a (relatively) new coat of tarmac. You probably noticed the excellent roads as you took the trip from Calama.

Additionally, you won’t have to share them with a lot of other vehicles and you won’t be on them for very long. There is a nice broad shoulder for cyclists on the flat, wide roadways. By far the simplest part of cycling, in fact!

In actuality, leaving San Pedro will be a lot more intriguing than staying. The town’s roadways are not of good quality. Make sure you turn west out of town onto road 23 by checking your map. Cross the Rio San Pedro, then turn left at the main intersection after 750 meters.

Because of how smooth the terrain was, Mark tried to channel his inner Tour de France here. The bike, though, was not a racer at all! The chain’s binding in the rollers created loud screeching as it cried out for lubrication due to its dry and dusty condition. Reiterate the importance of listening for high-pitched squeaking!

Pay at the ranger station to enter.

2.2 miles (3.6 km) straight ahead will bring you to a fork in the road. Ignore the left fork and stay on the right side of the road. A building and a right turn can be seen 600 meters away.

Mountain bikes can be locked up outdoors and entered for a fee at the Valle de la Luna entrance ranger station.
Tourist information, valley maps, food, and most importantly, water, are all available at the ranger station. Before entering the dry desert, this is your final chance to pick up some water or electrolyte sports drinks.

If you require these amenities, they have a shower block and clean restrooms.
Early morning admission costs $2,500 CLP, or slightly more than $3. You avoid the hordes, the heat, and the exorbitant costs! After 12pm, the ticket rises to $3,000 CLP (nearly $4 USD).

On your Apollo 11 mountain bike, are you prepared to ride across the moon’s valley? Let’s get going!
You know how the best things in life are never simple? The same is true in this case. Yes, you have entered the valley; but, you are now at the valley’s edge and must continue within.

Is that terrible news? Before reaching the trail’s first significant location, you still have around 3 miles (5 km) of riding to go.

what is good news? Now that you’re on a dirt road. That entails hills, potholes, rocks, and uneven terrain. the reason you don’t own a road bike but a mountain bike instead! The fun really begins now, and the environment around you starts to change.
Look for cracks where the dry salt has eroded the arid earth under the intense and continuous heat. This is the start of what will be a fantastic day of shooting for photographers.

Cavern of Salt, or Caberna de Sal

The salt cavern was closed on the day we arrived, as you can see in the photo. How’s this for unlucky? Just days before we arrived, a flash flood happened in a place that rarely sees a drop of water. The cave was submerged. Damn! However, as the adage goes, you win some and you lose some.
The tour bus’s first stop is the salt cave, so get there early to beat the crowds. It helps to be physically active to navigate the cave, but you won’t have any trouble if you have a mountain bike.
The rangers warned us that the cave could become dim and cramped in certain areas. Maybe pass on this one if you have claustrophobia!

Major Dune, Mayor of Duna

You can get one of this valley’s most stunning views by traveling another 1.2 miles (2 km). The enormous sand dune known as Duna Mayor has a path leading up to the top. Just put on comfy shoes and follow the tiny red arrows for an easy climb up.
Your first jaw-dropping wow moment of the day will astound you as you reach the summit. The vista is unique. You might discover that the word “wow” keeps repeating itself in your vocabulary.
Spend some time up here admiring the show. Give the others time to disperse if any are present.

You are on top of a sand dune crest that has been molded and battered over time by strong winds. The Anfiteatro Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon Amphitheater, may be seen from the top of the sand dune.

Later in the day, when twilight arrives, this location will be crowded with tour groups. Ideally, you’ve arrived earlier and there aren’t any other visitors, allowing you to quietly take in the odd surroundings.
Do you feel as though you are on the moon? Of course not, you aren’t wearing a spacesuit, and you can’t jump three meters into the air and hang out there for four seconds. But it’s simple to see yourself anywhere other than Earth, like the moon, Mars, or another planet.
Standing alone in the peace, sand and stone craters in red and white could be seen all the way to the horizon. You might be getting as close to leaving Earth as you ever will. even if only for a split second.

Amphitheater at Valle De La Luna

You may reach the Amphitheater on the ground by cycling a half-mile (1 km) through the red sandstone valley.
It’s challenging to focus on the road because of the massive protruding rock structure, which is lightly dusted with dried white salt. Watch out for other cars near the bends. Small rocks on either side of the route or road serve as markers.

The amphitheater at Valle de la Luna is one of many places in the Atacama Desert that resemble Mars more than Earth. NASA has taken note of this Martian scene and tested cutting-edge technologies on the planet’s red surface in preparation for delivering them to Mars.

Unfortunately, the amphitheater doesn’t exactly have the echoes and acoustics one may expect. There is only the enormous rock in front of you. It is still a striking sight, though.

The location is ideal for taking pictures of the stone formation from below. You can see that we weren’t the only insane people that rented mountain bikes to explore Valle de la Luna!

Lookout Achaches/Mirador Achaches

Are you prepared to ascend to your next panoramic vantage point? Look at the photo opportunities on this one!
You may find another bike locking place around 100 meters away. Another short ascent begins here on the footpath leading to the overlook.
Is the initial awe beginning to fade a little? Find the novelty in your surroundings once more. Keep in mind that you rarely see stuff like this. Observe the rough stone formations that are protruding from the sand like thousands of partially buried Stegosaurus.
Your focus should be on the north and east. Volcanoes with snow-capped tops, like the imposing Licancabur, are waiting for your scream of awe at their magnificence. Impressively, the peak of its cone is 5,916 meters high.
The impressive Andes mountain range, which can be seen off in the distance, dominates the area and contributes to its arid environment. You should come here to be awed by the topography!
It’s probably getting close to noon by now, so be caution in the sun and drink plenty of water.

Even some dogs may join you for company. A word of caution: there were about 10-15 dogs present at one point who became a little too excited. Simply remember that they are stray animals. They will be alright for the most part, and we even had a gorgeous fluff ball follow us up and back down.

Victoria Mine / Mina Victoria

The valley of the Moon has now been seen at its most beautiful. There are still 1.9 miles (3 km) to the three Marias and back if you wish to finish the sights. That adds another 4 miles (6 km) to the distance needed to return to San Pedro. At this point, give it some thought.

It’s totally up to you to choose whether to proceed at this point based on the weather, the water supply, and your own physical condition.

We continued cycling for one and a half kilometers to Victoria Mine, although it was probably not worth the effort. Although there are a few traces of the mine, the most are basically salty white rocks, which are noticeably less striking than the preceding vistas.

The Three Marias/Las Tres Marias

The three Marias are 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) away from the Victoria mine if you keep going. The area’s distinctive rock formation, Las Tres Marias, was carved out by the wind. There were once three thin columns, but now there are only 2.
Although there isn’t much of a tale to tell, this would indicate that you finished the trip. As the sun was evaporating us and transforming us into salty humans to add to the rocks, we turned around and headed back to the mine.

The total distance from the visitor center to the three Marias is 7 miles (11 km) one way. If you’re not up for it, don’t take on too much. To be really honest, it isn’t worthwhile to travel past Mirador Achache.
In the Atacama, you must see Valle de la Luna. Not a fan of renting a car or going on a bike ride? Do you like a guided tour of the area to learn more about the landscape, or would you rather be picked up from your hotel? You could find that taking a tour is the ideal way to see the valley without having to worry about planning. There are several tour companies in the area, but if you like to make a reservation in advance, this is the trip for you.

So now you can ride a mountain bike around Valle de la Luna!
We wish you a fantastic time in the Atacama! Did you reserve a bicycle?
Please let us know in the comments section below if you need any assistance with organizing your vacation to San Pedro de Atacama or Chile.

Travel safely,

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