The Enchanted Valley (Valle del Encanto Chile) is as mysterious and unusual as the name suggests. Filled with petroglyphs, fossils, and other signs of past inhabitants, the secluded desert ravine is just south of the Atacama desert.
It was once a walking trail for Chilean natives travelling between the Andes mountains and the coast. Today, it’s a place to contemplate, discover, hike, and photograph.
An intriguing place to visit, it is the alien-looking pre-Columbian rock art that drew us here. It was a Chilean cobra that chased us out. (see photo below)
Be inspired by Chile …
Valle del Encanto
Stepping off the beaten path, we drove inland from La Serena. This brought us into a lush desert region of rolling hills topped with huge boulders and bristly scrub.
A few miles outside of Ovalle, in an outlying area called Norte Chico, is the entrance to Valle del Encanto. The street art on the outside of the ranger station seemed quite out of place in this serene environment.
A park ranger greeted us and collected the nominal entrance fee. He was an invaluable source of fascinating information.
He walked with us to the end of the only boardwalk in the valley, which is the park’s only modern structure. Here, he spoke (in Spanish) of the Molle people who lived here about 2000 years ago.
Leaving us with a map (also in Spanish), he pointed out the key stops.
Petroglyphs in Valle del Encanto
Pre-Colombian rock art (arte rupestre) highlighting alien-looking heads with antennae left us wondering what they represent. No one knows for sure.
We also saw carvings of fish, snakes, the sun, and what looked like humans.
Photo tip: Shadows make the petroglyphs more difficult to photograph. Therefore, photography is best when the sun is high in the sky. In summer, be sure to bring plenty of water, as this is also the hottest time of day.
Indents in the stone (Piedras Tacitas)
Deep holes, about the size of fists, are found in some of the rocks. These pre-Columbian features were used to grind corn, or possibly for ceremonies.
Hiking through the rocks, we enjoyed clean air and interesting formations. I came around a corner just after my daughter. As I did, I heard her calmly say, “Mum, stop . . . SNAKE.”
To be honest, those words were enough to stop me in my tracks. A beautiful snake crossed my path, but fear took over. Sure, I could walk around it, but at the given moment, I had only two thoughts, take a photo and turn back. The ranger at the entrance identified the species as a Chilean cobra.
Self-driving to Valle del Encanto Chile
Valle del Encanto is about a 90-minute drive south of La Serena. It is 400 km north of Santiago. Regardless of where you start, once in Ovalle, take Route D-45 east. We use Maps.me in Chile and Argentina. We found it to be more accurate than google maps, which frequently put us on the old roads rather than the newer ones. Download map.me for free.
Valle del Encanto is part of our nine-week South America adventure. After exploring the Atacama desert, we flew to La Serena and then took a slow road trip to Santiago.
Once in La Serena, we rented a car through RentalCars.com. Easy to book online, Rental Cars provides comparative prices and reviews from local vendors. Importantly, they have English-speaking customer service. It is a perfect choice for us.
Small-group tour to Valle del Encanto
If seeing the petroglyphs in this Enchanted Valley is on your bucket list, but you don’t want to rent a car, a tour is your best option. We always prefer small group tours to larger ones, as it is a more personal experience. Based on tour descriptions, one stands out.
This 10-hour tour from La Serena includes hotel pick-up. It takes a maximum of ten people and splits the day between Fray Jorge Park and Valle del Encanto. At the first stop, you will drive and trek into a Valdivian forest, discovering floral species and native fauna along the way. Lunch is enjoyed in the town of Barraza, then explore the mysteries of Valle del Encanto. Reserve Fray Jorge Park and Valle del Encanto tour here.
More history on Valle del Encanto
Although discovered in 1946, Valle del Encanto didn’t become a Chilean National Historic Monument until 1973. The Río Limarí (Limarí River) parallels this 3-km canyon.
Historically, several different groups occupied the area. There is evidence of hunters and gathers here for the past 4,000 years. Key groups that left specific evidence of their culture:
Other petroglyphs in Chile
As we travelled around Northern Chile, we saw petroglyphs in several other locations. Our two favourites include:
Located in the Atacama Desert, Hierbas Buenas is home to 11,000-year-old petroglyphs. It’s frequently spelled Yerbas Buenas.
We spotted petroglyphs on our way to see the ruins of this 12th-century fortress located in Lasana Chile. It is east of Calama.
Save on your trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
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What an interesting and fascinating place to visit.
A nine-week adventure in South America sounds wonderful. You can definitely do more than scratch the surface with such time allotment. I love petroglyphs.
Worth a Thousand Words
Fascinating! Even the cobra – although I’m glad to see him from a distance! That would certainly make me jump in real life!
I think the snake would have frozen me in my tracks too! Glad that you had the good sense to take a picture. It’s an amazing world we live in when we think “Wait, let me get a picture of that!” I would love to visit this area and see the amazing culture (minus the snake!).
Super interesting! Some of it looks almost indigenous Australian. I’d love to visit a place like this.
I absolutely LOVE visiting archaeological sites, and these petroglyphs in Chile look amazing. Thank you for the post explaining a destination I’d never heard of, Valle del Encanto!
These look absolutely fascinating! I love learning about ancient civilisations. We went to visit petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan and it just blows your mind how old they are! Would love to see these ones in Chile too!
I don’t think I’d have wanted to challenge that snake either!
This would be quite and adventure! Thank you for sharing! Cathy
Petroglyphs are so fascinating and amazing how old they are. I saw some in New Mexico last year and really enjoyed seeing them. Had no idea Chile had them also. I look forward to seeing these one day!
I’m glad I found your blog. I always love to learn the culture and history of the destinations I visit. Haven’t been to Chile yet, but I hope to soon!
If you haven’t been already, the Southwest needs to be on your list! I live in northern Arizona (on a reservation, actually); petroglyphs and ruins abound.
This place is full of mystery. Added in my bucket list
Chilean cobra, I’m gone. I would run if I could run but I can’t so I’d walk very fast backward Rhonda. You guys have guts. I hate snakes and spiders so I’m out of there. See ya my friend.
Thank you for the fascinating photos and the education! Wonderful post
I love visiting historical places like this. Must have been a fascinating place to hike around. I’d love to visit Chile one day it’s been on the list for a while but I’ve never quite made it there. Thanks for sharing, I’ve pinned to help my planning
Fascinating place and so much info!
Beautiful destination! I love the things you shared, it really inspires me to travel there someday!
This is an awesome destination. Not in my radar just yet.
Great series of photos. The snake is a neat sighting, I hope you were not close. The petroglyphs are really cool. Happy Monday, wishing you a great day and happy new week!
Rock art is so intriguing and special. I’ve enjoyed seeing it at many places in the Southwest US. Glad to know of another place for it.
The view of the land scape is so beautiful. I would love to visit, it looks so different then other places I have been before x
No thanks on the snake. Gah! But definitely interesting petroglyphs and so well preserved. We have seen some here in Sweden that were done by pre-Vikings and had similarly quirky and unique expressions. So many good tips.
Wow. I’ve seen petroglyphs before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any that were so intact. How cool to see them not worn away. I think I would have been very nervous at the snake, but it’s a good lesson is always being alert and remaining calm is such situations.
What a funky place to explore!
It is truly enchanting as the name represents. The rock carvings are interesting and beautiful.
Oh my, so much history!
I think I have to read up a bit on their history, this was completly new to me. Thank you so much for a great blogpost!
Cheers from Stockholm, Sweden 🙂
We did not see this when we were in Chile. Unfortunately. So Im saving for our next visit!
L. Diane Wolfe
It reminds me of New Mexico. Less the cobra, add a rattlesnake.
I’m planning a trip to Atacama next year and it looks like I need to add on a few days in Valle Encanto as well. The petroglyphs are fascinating!
The places you review are just so unique and yet I fill there’s some fulfillment that you will get from seeing all these places.
Love the different rock engravings. Historic places like that always fascinate me. Thanks for sharing those beautiful photos and information.
I loved the historical significance of this place. Liked especially the rock engravings. Well I have never been to South America but surely this place in Chile looks to be a great place to explore.
Wow, such a stunning view here..! Thanks for sharing all these beauties to us. Great job on this blog.
This seems like a gem of a place to visit. Anybody visiting Chile should definitely add it to their itinerary.
Fascinating look into an ancient culture! You and your daughter have some good snake smarts too!
What a beautiful place to explore. Thanks for sharing these pics and this blog. It’s nice to know more about this place.
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
I love ancient rock art. We have some fabulous examples in Australia in the Kimberley region. They pre-date aboriginal art and no-one knows who drew them or why. I have managed to miss all the petroglyphs in Chile, despite several visits there. You have given me a great excuse to go back!
Such an adventurous place! You have great pictures too! I love to visit this wonderful place.
Oh my goodness, this place looks beautiful! Although I’ve never been to the Enchanted Valley before myself, I would love to make my way over in the near future. Thanks for sharing all of this! 🙂
I love to explore places with lots of history. It’s fun to learn about their lives. That cobra would have had me leaving too.
Great photography as always.
Have a fabulous day and weekend, Rhonda. ♥
The place is perfect for a movie setting! I miss that kind of view – the last time I saw a similar view was like 8 years ago state crossing at US.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
I’ve a blogger friend who is a petroglyph hunter and always posting images of ones most people never will see.
The cobra would’ve driven me out as well.
I never tried to hike in rocky place. I think I need to try it for me to see how beautiful and amazing this place is but hoping not to encounter a snake.
Celebrate Woman Today
It’s a fascinating place to visit and to ponder upon. Thanks to these posts, we all have a chance to see a piece of the gone culture.