Fodor's Expert Review Valle de la Muerte
Not far from the Valle de la Luna, just on the other side of Ruta 98 leading to Calama, are the reddish rocks of the Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley). Jesuit missionary Gustavo Le Paige, who in the 1950s was the first archaeologist to explore this desolate area, discovered many human skeletons. These bones are from the Indigenous Atacameño people, who lived here before the arrival of the Spanish. He hypothesized that the sick and the elderly may have come to this place to die. The name of the valley comes from its red Mars-like appearance and was originally called Valle de Martes (Mars Valley), but Gustavo's foreign pronunciation of Martes (Mars) was heard as Muerte (dead).