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.
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.”
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”).
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.
Although the terrain is quite dry, here and there there were cacti and even some flowers in bloom.
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.
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).
Series on Bolivia
Planning a Trip to Bolivia and Peru (introduction)
Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna), Bolivia