Upon arriving in La Paz, Miro and I created a list of places we wanted to explore. The Valley of the Moon was one of them, our only regret, we didn’t have our Star Fleet uniforms packed for our visit.
The Valley of the Moon or Valle de la Luna isn’t actually a valley, rather a spectacular maze within mountain-like formation. Situated about 10 km from La Paz, the Valley of the Moon is a very popular among tourists, for its lunar landscape and weird geological formations.
The Valley of the Moon: A geological wonder
The Valley of the Moon has formed over thousands of years as a resulting in a surreal landscape formed through erosion caused by wind and rain. The magnificent canyons and playful spires have been named for the benefit of the tourists, with names like the Happy Grandfather, Devil’s Point and Viscacha’s Jump. The mountains are composed of clay and sandstone, which are highly prone to erosion. Because of this erosion over the years, the mountains present a breathtaking hue and color ranging from clear beige to dark yellows and oranges. This natural phenomenon is due to a large variance in mineral content, creating colorful compositions and impressive optical illusions on the eroded hillsides as they catch light and shadows.
Local guides explain that the place acquired its name “Valle de la Luna” not very long ago. After a visit by one famous astronaut, none other than Neil Armstrong, he remarked how closely it resembled the landscape of the moon. Tour guides assure us that’s how the name was adapted. It’s possible, I suppose but I haven’t been able to authenticate this story anywhere online. Nevertheless it’s a fabulous tale,.
Getting to the Valley of the Moon from La Paz
Most travel agencies throughout La Paz offer organized tours to Valle de la Luna, with private transportation, bilingual guide (Spanish-English) and park entrance fees are usually bundled in the price. We didn’t do that. But if you don’t want to worry about details you should take that option, especially during the week when the traffic is heavy and public transpiration confusing and crowded. Alternatively, we were told taxi’s could be hired from the center of La Paz for about 100 Bolivianos ($15.00 US) to drive you there, wait and bring you back. But Miro and I, being the more adventurous type, we jumped on a local bus headed towards Mallasa for a mere 3 bolivianos ($0.40 US) each. We told the driver where we wanted to go and he left us out in front of the site. Easy-breezy.
Exploring the Moon’s surface
The tourist information center is located at entrance to the Valley of the Moon. There you can you can pick up maps of the trail, use the facilities or visit the gift shop. Then you are off…
Do you need a guide? It’s up to you. We didn’t opt for one, rather listened in to another groups guide for a few moments. Because Miro and I read about the site before, we were confident about the geological information. The site is enclosed, there are marked paths and hand rails in many of the areas. There were two path options, the short route which was supposed to take 15 minutes, but Miro and I wandered through it in 5 minutes. We ended back at the entrance and headed back through the 45 minute loop, which did indeed take us that long, as we stopped, sat pondered the landscape and Miro wrote some beautifully inspired poetry.
Although the trails are clearly marked, I’d caution everyone to be careful while navigating the narrow paths. My shoes had no tread and I regretted my fashion choice that day. I do recommend wearing shoes with firm grip.
Note that the visiting hours are between 9 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday and the entry fee is 15 Bolivianos per person (around $3.50 per person).
If you are looking for an overnight stay at the Valley of the Moon, there are several camping options that we looked into. But in the end, we decided to make our visit a day trip from La Paz. We found Colibri Camping and Eco Lodge, recommended highly on trip advisor and it seems also have a local children’s services non-profit attached to it. If you decide to go and stay there, write us back and let us know what you think!
Happy lunar landings.