Biking in the Atacama desert was one of my most highly anticipated adventure of the trip. Picturing majestic canyons, colorful rock formations and gigantic duns of sand, I couldn´t wait to be there. It didn´t disappoint. Get on your bike, this half day self guided tour to Vallee de la Luna at sunset will delight even those who have never done mountain biking before!
A good way to discover Vallee de la Luna on your own
Renting a bike gives you the opportunity to explore the beautiful Valle de la Luna on your own, and cheaper (around CH$4000 to rent the bike) than if you will book a tour or rent a car. Non technical but sometimes a bit tough -steep- with landscapes rewarding the braves at every turn. At the end of the day, you will have biked in the driest desert in the world!
Mountain biking in Atacama desert, step by step
From San Pedro de Atacama, it will take you a little less than an hour to reach the entrance of the park (CH$2000).
Your first stop (20min) is at the Cuevas de Sal: time to use your headlamp to explore these salt caves. From this parking, you can also take a 30min circular walk to admire one of the canyon.
Here comes the though part, a long uphill on the dirt road and some passages with a bit of sand. Stay positive and enjoy the fantastic landscape! On the way, note the second parking leading to Duna Mayor. Plan to be back there 20min before sunset.
Long straight line, one more uphill -the toughest-, and you pass the majestic amphitheater. Continue 1km, on your left you will see a path leading to a mirador. Leave your bike at the border of the road and go enjoy the landscape.
From there, bike back to the parking 2, lock your bike and walk the path to the Duna Mayor. Enjoy the changing colours of the landscape as the sun disappear behind the mountains before biking back to town.
Have more time before sunset? From the amphitheatre, bike 3 more kilometres to the “tres Marias”, an impressive rock formation.
The surrealistic landscapes of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) are best enjoyed under the light of the setting sun so plan to leave around 14.30/15.00. Negotiate to be able to drop your bike as late as 21.00 – it should be possible if you rent the bike from your hostel. Make sure your bike comes with a helmet – mandatory for the Valle de la Luna – and a reparation kit.
Bring a headlamp as you will do the return journey after sunset and there are no lights along the road nor on the mountain bikes. Don´t forget some suncream, plenty of water (2 litres per person) and snacks.
This is an accessible tour of around 30km in total, of medium difficulty – you can always push the bike if the uphill is too tough for you. There are some part with sand and roks on the road but nothing too steep or scary.
On the advice of the owner of the bike shop, we combined it with another 30km ride around Quebrada del Diablo. We apparently look fitter than we are as we really struggled for the last part! To enjoy it fully, I would recommand to avoid combining this tour with more biking the same day.
Have an awesome time and let me know how you liked it!