At 5 a.m., well before sunrise, we set off on mountain bikes toward Valle de la Luna (“Moon Valley”) in the Atacama desert. As we pedaled out of town, a dog joined us. We called her “Luna,” of course. She stayed with us on the highway and into the park, where we hiked up to the Duna Mayor (“Great Dune”) to watch the sunrise. The valley is most popular during sunset, so we were happy to have the whole place to ourselves.
On our ride back, we stopped at the Cavernas de Sal (“Salt Caverns”), a natural wonder where we saw pieces of rock salt. By the time we reached our hostel at 10:30 a.m., we and Luna were ready for a long nap.
Getting there: From San Pedro de Atacama, take Route 23. Take a left at the Y turn with signage toward Valle de la Luna (“The Valley of the Moon”). Follow the road until you see another sign for Valle de la Luna, then go right. Pay your entrance fee at the information center and ride to the base of Duna Mayor. Lock up your bike and hike to the top of the dune. It took us about two hours to reach the top of the dune, and the entire journey was about 20 miles round-trip.