People watching the sunset at Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), Atacama Desert, Chile.

© kimrawicz/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Valle de la Muerte

San Pedro de Atacama Region

Around 3.5km west of San Pedro, this striking valley should figure high on any itinerary to the region, with jagged rocks, a towering sand dune and dramatic viewpoints of the distant cordillera. The name Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) is actually a linguistic distortion of Valle de Marte (Mars Valley), which more accurately represents its red rock features and otherworldly beauty.

Tour groups typically come in the afternoon before heading over to the nearby Valle de la Luna for sunset. It's an easy bike ride (or long walk) here, and also accessible by your own vehicle. The tall sand dune is a prime destination for sand-boarding, with outfits like Sandboard San Pedro offering both morning and afternoon excursions.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby San Pedro de Atacama Region attractions

1. Pukará de Quitor

1.68 MILES

Dominating a curvaceous promontory over the Río San Pedro, this crumbling 12th-century pukará (fort) was one of the last bastions against Pedro de…

2. Iglesia San Pedro

2.59 MILES

The recently restored Iglesia San Pedro is a delightful little colonial church built with indigenous or artisanal materials: chunky adobe walls and roof,…

3. Valle de la Luna

3.78 MILES

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…

4. Aldea de Tulor

4.56 MILES

Circular adobe structures huddle together like muddy bubble-wrap in the ruins of Tulor, the oldest excavated village in the region. It’s an interesting…

5. Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos

4.64 MILES

The big draw of San Pedro is this magnificent reserve that covers some 74,000 hectares. It's divided into seven geographically distinct sectors south,…

6. Laguna Cejar

10.87 MILES

San Pedro has its own mini version of the Dead Sea, a mere 22km south of the village. This topaz-colored lake allows you to float effortlessly because of…

7. Termas de Puritama

17.72 MILES

These idyllic volcanic hot springs puddle together in a box canyon, about 30km northeast of San Pedro en route to El Tatio. Their temperature is about 33…

8. Quebrada de Jere

25.27 MILES

A patch of green among the desert landscape, this long, narrow gorge is a favorite for hikers, swimmers and rock climbers.