Watching the sun set from the exquisite Valley of the Moon is an unforgettable experience. From atop a giant sand dune, you can drink in spectacular views as the sun slips below the horizon and a beautiful transformation occurs: the distant ring of volcanoes, rippling Cordillera de la Sal and surreal lunar landscapes of the valley are suddenly suffused with intense purples, pinks and golds.
The Valle de la Luna is named after its lunar-like landforms eroded by eons of flood and wind. It's 15km west of San Pedro de Atacama at the northern end of the Cordillera de la Sal and forms part of Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos.
The valley is San Pedro's most popular and cheapest organized tour; trips typically depart about 4pm, leaving good time to explore before sunset. If you want to avoid dozens of tourist vans, all making the same stops, pick an alternative time. Some hardy souls come here at dawn to sidestep the sunset crowds.
Aside from watching the sunset, the valley has various walks that take in wild geological formations and even caverns (bring a torch).
It's easy to get there by car (no 4WD needed). Mountain biking is a great way to get here, but keep to the roads and trails, and make sure you have lights and reflective gear if you're staying for the sunset. Park only on the shoulder or at other designated areas – do not tear up the fragile desert with tire tracks.