Neil Armstrong’s Valley of the Moon in La Paz

The Valley of the Moon is about 10 kilometers from the center of La Paz. While there are tour options, I do not think they are  necessary as it is very easy to reach.

The province of Pedro Domingo Murillo is accessible by bus. You can take the route to Mallasa from the Church de San Francisco or Sagarnaga street. We opted to take a taxi from Selina our hotel en La Paz. On the way there are panoramic views that are worth stopping to take photos.

Why is it called Valley of the Moon?

In 1969, Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to walk on the moon, visited La Paz with his colleague Richard Gordon. His visit was a few months after returning from the moon. The Mayor of La Paz declared them guests of honor. First they went to see a football match between The Strongest and Bolivar. Then he visited the site that he said reminded him of lunar landscapes he had seen and named the place.

This unusual landscape is due to erosion that has eaten the top part of a set of mountains over the years. These mountains are formed of clay that causes the peaks to look like stalagmites in the desert. Clay is composed of minerals that vary by areas causing differences in colors. Mostly it is a cream or pale chestnut color, but there are parts that can range from reddish to violet.

If you combine your trip to Bolivia with Chile it is possible to visit another Valley of the Moon in Atacama. Both are different so you will not find the other repetitive.

Tourism

Once you arrive at the Valley of the Moon you will see a gate where you must buy the entrance ticket. They sell maps but they are not necessary since the trails are clearly marked. There are two trails, one takes 45 minutes and the other 15 minutes.

It is advisable to wear closed shoes or slippers, as some trails are a bit narrow and uneven. If you go in the rainy season, like us, take a rain jacket. It rained a lot and we had to run to a hut that offered little protection.

Some formations receive curious names like “mother moon” or “the mound of the turtle”. The best view is from the “point of the devil” that is at the end of the long trail.

Valle de la Luna is an area protected by the municipality. Another similar site that you can visit is the Valle de las Ánimas.

There is little vegetation other than cacti that were blooming when we went. They have 32 types of cactus, including the San Pedro cactus that has a hallucinogenic effect. This plant has been used in traditional medicine, healing and religious divination for more than 3,000 years.

On June 21, the festivity of San Juan is celebrated and it is possible to visit the site at night. It is usually open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This festival focuses on astronomy, space travel and fiction films.

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