Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna), Bolivia

Fourth in a series about Bolivia

After our abortive jaunt to Chacaltaya, our group headed back through La Paz to the Valley of the Moon.  According to the Lonely Planet Bolivia guidebook: “It actually isn’t a valley at all, but a bizarre, eroded hillside maze of canyons and pinnacles technically known as badlands.”  After our adventure in the snow, it was a relief that the precipitation had stopped by the time we arrived.

1 Valle de la Luna
Valley of the Moon.  Lowell Silverman photography, 2015

The area is about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown La Paz and has a 15 Boliviano admission fee (about $2 US).  Near the entrance are a couple gift shops (selling local crafts rather than anything directly related to the valley) and restrooms.  There isn’t a museum or visitor center, just a sign that attempts to explain the geology.  There is bilingual text in Spanish and English, but with any knowledge of the former, it’s better to read that instead of the amusingly awkward translation.  One sample:

“The surface is very insane due to the different tectonic phases from its formation, in which of it gave origin to relief regions, so it is the case of the Mountainous area of Aranjuez.”

11 Sombrero de la Dama
Sombrero de la Dama

The terrain is ruggedly beautiful, covering a surprisingly small area.  Some formations had name signs, like “Sombrero de la Dama” (“Lady’s Hat”) and “El Buen Abuelo” (“The Nice Grandfather”).

9 Nearby settlement
View of the trail through the canyon with surrounding development

There is quite a lot of development encroaching on the natural area.  Almost immediately after entering the area I spotted a viscacha (a thick-tailed, rabbit-like rodent) scampering along the pinnacles before disappearing.  Unfortunately it was the only one I saw one during the visit.

4 Valle de la Luna

5 Valle

Although the terrain is quite dry, here and there there were cacti and even some flowers in bloom.

2 Cactus

7 Fuzzy

720-rc-Valle-flowers

720-rc-Valle-flowers1

We spent about an hour touring the canyon, hiking a loop trail.  The more treacherous areas (with drop-offs) had wooden guardrails, though visitors still have to watch their step in some areas containing holes in the rock.

8 Bridge
Bridge over a chasm. Freddy said it was a lot scarier a crossing before it was built.

According to our guide Freddy, the area was originally known as the Valley of the Spirits.  Supposedly, Neil Armstrong visited and said it reminded him of the surface of the Moon, so the area was renamed.  Presumably a local guide would know better than me, but I couldn’t help but suspect that name origin tale is apocryphal.  After all, there’s a similar area nearby still known as Valle de las Animas (Valley of the Spirits).

6 Valle de la Luna

Series on Bolivia

Obtaining a Bolivian Tourist Visa

Planning a Trip to Bolivia and Peru (introduction)

La Paz, Bolivia: Basílica de San Francisco

Mi Teleférico: La Paz, Bolivia’s Aerial Cable Car Network

Stuck in the Snow en Route to Chacaltaya, Bolivia

Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna), Bolivia

Across the Altiplano to Lake Titicaca: La Paz to Copacabana, Bolivia by Bus

Introduction to Copacabana, Bolivia

Ascending Cerro El Calvario (Calvary Hill) in Copacabana, Bolivia

Copacabana to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) by Boat

Hiking from Challapampa to the Sanctuary on Isla del Sol

The Sanctuary on Isla del Sol, Part I: The Sacred Rock, Titikala

The Sanctuary on Isla del Sol, Part II: Chincana and Nearby Sites

Hiking from the Sacred Rock to Yumani on Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Scenic Tour of Lake Titicaca: Copacabana, Bolivia to Puno, Peru by Bus

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