Last week I wrote about The Great Wall of China, and promised that I’d post about other breathtaking sights we’ve seen on our travels. One place that I’ll never forget for its haunting beauty is Chile’s Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley.
We visited Chile’s Atacama Desert in March 2009, and it was one of the most beautiful and diverse places I’ve ever seen. Every day we went on one or two excursions in the San Pedro area, and every day was a new adventure. On our first day in the Atacama region, we visited Valle de la Luna. This valley is one of the driest places in the world; some parts haven’t received rainfall in over a hundred years. It’s well named, for the bleak, red landscape seems lunar in its beauty and remoteness.
The diversity in this single valley is incredible. Red craggy hills give way to endless stretches of flat sandy plains. Jagged stone outcrops have been carved by the wind over centuries. Salt crystals cling to the stones and, in places, a veil of crystallized salt coats the flats. The desert is ringed by volcanoes, some of which are still active, and in the distance the Andes soar to the sky.
This valley, barren and inhospitable to the eye, is actually a sanctuary of serenity. When we visited, we apparently had the miles of desert to ourselves. Something about this solitude made us feel like time had stopped. Our guide invited us to close our eyes, and in the silence – no animals, no insects, no other people – we felt like we were wrapped in a cocoon of tranquility.