Nov 5, 2018

Elqui Valley, a must-see Tourist Destination


Elqui Valley, Chile.  Lonely Planet, one of the most recognized Travel Guides from around the World, once again considers Chile among the top tourist destinations. At the end of 2017, it had distinguished the country as the "Best in Travel 2018" and in its current edition awards the Elqui Valley (Valle del Elqui) as one of the 10 best regions in the World to visit in 2019. Valle del Elqui extends along the entire Elqui River basin and is one of the most visited places in Northern Chile. This part of the country is also known as the "Norte Chico" (Small North). The publication highlights this specific destination because of its offer mainly associated to Astroturism, as well as the products that identify with the region as the Pisco (an alcoholic beverage made from certain varieties of grapesand for being a national cultural heritage thanks to Gabriela Mistral, Nobel Prize for Literature. It is mentioned that the attractions for the tourist are many and that the place had remained hidden from the World's gaze, but little by little it has started to become known, especially for its famously clear skies. In this regard, it is also said that Elqui will be a key place in the World in 2019 to witness a total solar eclipse.


Google Map



How to get There


By Air:                 From Santiago to La Florida Airport, city of La Serena.
By Land:          Buses or private vehicles, mainly from La Serena and Santiago.
Local Tours:    Departing from La Serena (the regional capital, another of the must-see cities in Chile),                                          there is a variety of Agencies offering travels to this tourist destination. 



Tourist Attractions of Valle del Elqui


Vicuña


Elqui, a privileged place for Astronomy lovers.
Elqui, a privileged place for Astronomy lovers. Photo: astrovida.cl
Vicuña is the most important town in the area and birthplace of the Chilean poetess Gabriela Mistral, winner of the 1945 Nobel Prize for Literature. Like much of the "Norte Chico" (Small North), the place is internationally recognized by its clear skies, which makes it an ideal place for the observation of the firmament. In this respect stands out Observatorio Cerro Tololo, one of the most important observatories in the World, operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy; the Observatorio Turistico-Educativo Cerro Mamalluca; the facilities of Observatorio Collowara, tourist observation post run by the Red de Alojamiento de Andacollo; Observatorio del Pangue, another of the stations receiving guided astronomical tours, at its peak today in this part of Chile. Other attractions are the Museo y Biblioteca Gabriela Mistral (Museum and Library); the Museo Entomologico y de Historia Natural; the Torre Bauer, emblematic symbol of the village, built in 1905, today turned into the Oficina Municipal de Informaciones Turisticas; the Planta de Produccion Pisco Capel; the Embalse Puclaro (Puclaro Dam, finished building in 1999, to contain the scarce rainfall and regulate the waters of the Elqui River; Villaseca, small village known for its traditional Chilean cuisine based on solar ovens and grills. 


Valle de Cochiguaz


Remote hidden valley between hills, located in the commune of Paihuano, near Elqui and approximately 110 km from La Serena. Although watered by the river of the same name, the place presents a landscape with semi-arid hills around and green scenery along the river basin, highly appreciated by those who enjoy meditation and seek tranquility that cannot find in other parts of the World. The hills that flank the valley are rich in Quartz and Magnetite. In many of the boarding houses and cabins that house visitors are also offered alternative therapies such as Reiki, Meditation, Esotericism, Yoga, Aromatic Baths, etc. Another great attraction is its clean sky, practically free of all pollution, a great advantage for Astronomy lovers, because generally at night there is a spectacular view of the stars, even without the need of a telescope.



Pisco Elqui


Pisco Elqui Village, main square and Church.
 Photo: https://turismolancuyen.cl/tour-valle-del-elqui/
Small town of pre-Columbian roots located in the commune of Paihuano, 107 km east of La Serena and 37 km South West of Vicuña. Before taking its current name, it was called La Greda and then La Union, which was replaced in 1936 by the current Pisco Elqui. It is a special place for those who enjoy nature, full of vineyards because its main activity is the Pisco industry, grape brandy from the Andes that had its origin in the sixteenth century. Its main square is characterized by beautiful trees and next to it is the Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church, finished building in 1922, made with materials brought from Europe. Its tower of more than 30 meters height can be seen from afar, the temple is constituted by a central nave and two aisles, with religious images brought from France.



Montegrande



Small village located 98 km from La Serena and 31 km from Vicuña, commune of Paihuano, declared in 1990 a National Monument under the category of Typical Zone. It is mostly known for having been the town where poetess Gabriela Mistral lived during her childhood.  Among its streets are still the house, school and tomb of the distinguished author. You can go through the old architecture of the town, the central square, the church, to the installations of the Pisco industry with guided tours.


Astronomical Tours in Elqui Valley


Cerro Tololo Observatory, Chile.
Cerro Tololo Observatory - Photo: latercera.com
  Along with the birth of Astronomical Tourism, also appeared the best places for observing the Universe in an educational and recreational way. Valle del Elqui, one of the most privileged places in the World for the observation of outer space nowadays hosts a good number of facilities for amateurs and professionals of astronomy since here, in the North of Chile, have been established the main scientific centers worldwide. Apart from the climatic conditions, other important factors that these international Research Centers have considered for their decision to settle here are the political, economic stability and the security that Chile offers.

Mainly from the city of La Serena, start guided tours by specialized staff who usually, through an introductory talk teach people to distinguish planets, stars, constellations, etc., then taking advantage of the skies, usually very clear, are observed the stars without instruments, then making inspections with common telescopes and finally with last generation devices. Today there are many tours offering Astronomical Routes to amateurs who like to enjoy the mysteries of the cosmos, here is a short list of observation centers and tours:

Astro Travel Chile
Astronomical Tourism
Alfa Aldea Centro Astronomico
Observatorio Andino Chakana


Sep 21, 2018

Torres del Paine National Park

A view of Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Torres del Paine National Park is located in the province of Ultima Esperanza, northern part of the Region de Magallanes y Antartica Chilena, also known as the XIIth. region of Chile. Created in 1959, today its area is 227,298 hectares, the distance from Puerto Natales, the nearest city is 112 km and from Punta Arenas, the regional capital is 312 km. The park, managed by CONAF (National Forest Corporation) presents a wide variety of natural environments, such as the world famous Torres and Cuernos del Paine, valleys, lakes, waterfalls and rivers from glaciers of the neighboring Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Fields), one of the largest freshwater reserves on Earth. In 1978 the Sanctuary was declared Biosphere World Reserve by the UNESCO and in 2013, it was chosen The Eighth Wonder of the World by Virtual Tourist, among 300 tourist destinations of 50 countries. Year after year, the number of visitors, especially foreigners from all over the world has been increasing, a condition that has forced to apply certain restrictions that in the past did not exist.  Parque Nacional Torres del Paine  borders with Los Glaciares National Park, in Argentina. Rio Don Guillermo Border Crossing unites these two great tourist attractions.






How to Get to Torres del Paine National Park


By Air: It is the most usual way used by travelers. From Santiago, the Chilean capital to Carlos Ibañez del Campo Airport in Punta Arenas, the flight lasts approximately 3 1/2 hours without considering any stopover. You can spend the night in Punta Arenas, 22 km South of the airport and 312 km from the park or go directly to the city of Puerto Natales, 112 km from the entrance of the protected area.

By Sea: This is the most scenic means to reach the National Park. From the city of Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales there are 4 days of unforgettable sailing through the Southern Channels, Glaciers and forests that reach the shore of narrow fjords.  Ferry Routes Here.

By Land: The shortest way between Santiago and the city of Punta Arenas is of approximately 3100 km. The route is through Chilean territory to the cities of Osorno or Puerto Montt, from there you cross to Argentina until reaching Integracion Austral Border Crossing, also known as Monte Aymond, the most important of the Magallanes Region. Paso Internacional Integracion Austral is located 196 km NE of Punta Arenas by paved route and 336 km from Puerto Natales.


When to go?, Climate


Torres del Paine can be visited at any time of the year, although undoubtedly the Summer season, between December and March is when the largest number of tourists arrive at the place. Just like throughout the Patagonian region, the weather in Torres del Paine is unpredictable, the temperature can occasionally reach up to 20-22 degrees C., but the average ranges between 10-12 degrees C., the winds are sometimes very strong and can easily reach 120 km / hour or more. However, in Winter the Natural Sanctuary acquires a different majesty when it is covered with a white mantle of snow, generally between June and August. At this time the average temperature is 0 degrees C. and the winds are very moderate. The low season runs from May 1 to September 30 of each year.


Services and Facilities


  
Hotels in Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park.
Photo: https://www.wildernesstravel.com/lodging/
Rio Serrano Hotel & Spa

The Sede Administrativa (CONAF Administrative Headquarter) is located on the north bank of Lago Toro, where there is also a Visitor Center and a Lookout. In the offices are processed the permissions to climb the summits of the area and the Fishing Licenses. There are 4 Porterias (Entrances) to register, pay the ticket and receive information: Rio Serrano, Laguna Amarga (the 2 main access points), Laguna Azul and Lago Sarmiento. There are also the "Guarderias" (Ranger Stations): Lago Grey, Laguna Verde, Lago Pehoe, Pudeto, which remain open all year round and there are also Guarderias in faraway places enabled only in the high season, in all of them the rangers provide the necessary information to the visitors that require it.

Torres del Paine is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Patagonia, the infrastructure to serve tourists goes from Free Campsites, which have basic services and you must take your camping equipment and food; Paid Campsites, with many more amenities than the free ones; Refugios (Shelters), the most comfortable option but with the highest cost. For those who do not like physical effort there are cozy Hosterias (Inns) and Hotels, including Five-Star. There are also navigation services, food sale, horseback riding and crafts. The main camping sites are: Rio Serrano, Pehoe, Lago Grey, Laguna Azul, Paine Grande, Lago Dickson, Los Perros, Seron, Los Cuernos. Some of the most outstanding Hotels and Inns in Torres del Paine are Explora Patagonia Hotel Salto Chico, Rio Serrano Hotel & Spa, Hotel Las Torres Patagonia, Hosteria Lago Grey, Hosteria Pehoe, Patagonia Camp, Ecocamp Patagonia, Hotel Del Paine, Cabanas Lago Tyndall.  To spend the night in Mountain Campsites is mandatory to have Bookings (here). In short, access, infrastructure and services are of unbeatable quality, the only thing that is left to chance is the climatic factor.  



Attractions in Torres del Paine, Tourist Circuits


Torres del Paine National Park.
Undoubtedly, the center of attention and main reason to visit the place is to enjoy the Geological Wonder represented by the Granite Towers and Horns, and immortalize them in a few photographs or videos. But it is not only that, you will also appreciate the environment constituted by a variety of Lakes of iridescent waters, highlighting the Grey, Pehoe, Nordenskjold, Sarmiento, Toro, Paine, thousand-year-old Glaciers such as the Grey, Tyndall, Geyke, Pingo, etc.

The places to go and activities to do depend on how much time the visitor has for that purpose. Here is a list of itineraries to explore the park, starting with the most renowned circuits:

Vehicle Tours, a comfortable and frequent way to get to know the Biosphere Reserve, is through its 100 km of roads. In the nearby city of Puerto Natales and the regional capital Punta Arenas there is a good number of Rent a Cars and Tourism Agencies for this purpose. From Puerto Natales can be accessed through 2 different roads, the route through Cerro Castillo of more than 150 km, which leads to Laguna Amarga and Sarmiento Entrances. The other route is the most recent 80 Km. road passing through La Cueva del Milodon Natural Monument (Mylodon's Cave), in this case the Entrance is Porteria Serrano.

Serrano River Navigation, the stunning voyage is divided into two stretches, the first begins in Puerto Natales, sailing through the Ultima Esperanza Fjord to Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, visiting the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers, then boarding semi-rigid boats and navigating upstream to the Park. 

The "W" Trekking Circuit, one of the most famous trekking routes in the World, through the main attractions of the National Park. Called "W" because of the shape it takes when joining the points where it passes: Valle Ascencio, Valle del Frances and Glaciar Grey. The walk has a length of 71 km, it can be done between 4 to 5 days.

The "O" Trekking Circuit, a route of just over 110 Km., very demanding physically and mentally, the approximate duration is 7 to 8 days, the "O" includes the "W" circuit. Its name refers to the circular shape of the route which also shows the hidden side of the Park as it goes around the entire Torres del Paine Massif. You get impressive views, including the Campo de Hielo Sur (Southern Ice Field) from the height.

Wildlife Watching that inhabits the Reserve, of varied type including the typical Guanacos everywhere, other mammals such as the Puma, Ñandues, different species of Foxes, the Huemul and the Condor, animals represented in the National Coat of Arms.

Excursion and Navigation of Grey Glacier, located in the Western part of the Park, also forming part of the Southern Ice Field, one of the main attractions and one of the must-see excursions when visiting Torres del Paine National Park.


Other Recommended Sites:

Aug 30, 2018

Corralco Mountain Resort and Ski Center

  
Corralco Winter Resort, Southern Chile.
Corralco, amidst a beautiful combination of snow, Araucaria trees and volcanoes
     Corralco Mountain Resort and Ski Center is nestled on the SE slope of the Lonquimay Volcano, Malalcahuello-Nalcas National Reserve, Araucania Region, South of Chile. The distance from Santiago, the Chilean capital is just over 700 km. Although it is not the largest in size, it is considered one of the best and most exclusive Winter Centers in Chile, with World-class instructors for all levels of Ski and Snowboard.
    
     Traditionally in Winter the area of Volcan Lonquimay registers very low temperatures, which can reach -20 degrees C., keeping under the snow vast extensions of the Commune during a long period, although in Summer the climate is temperate. Backed by its exceptional location, the excellent quality and quantity of the snow and the rich natural environment, Corralco is emerging as one of the most important Winter Centers in South America, currently positioned among the best in the World for the practice of Randonee and Splitboard and one of the fashionable destinations for skiers who come from all over the globe. 


How to arrive there




    The closest important city is Temuco, the regional capital of around 250,000 inhabitants. The Aeropuerto Internacional La Araucania, 20 km away, daily receives 4 flights from Santiago, from there you can take a Taxi or other means of transport to arrive at the Winter Center in about two hours. You can also travel by land from Santiago through Carretera 5 Sur (Pan American Highway), Concepcion and intermediate cities by paved and well-maintained roads, as usual in Chile.


The Place and Facilities  


    More than 1800 hectares of skiing area, whit 29 slopes of different level of difficulty, for beginners, intermediate, advanced and experts, 4 drag lifts, 2 chairlifts and more than 7 meters of snow a year make Corralco a great place for the practice of Winter Sports. The Ski Center base is 1480 meters above sea level, while its highest point is at 2400 meters,  at the top of La Cumbre skilift. In 2017 Corralco inaugurated its new Parque de Nieve (Snow Park), an area designed for the family, for those who do not ski, but want to spend an enjoyable day on the mountain. The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers Tubing Tracks to slide through the snow, Sled Runs for children from 8 years up, and the new Fat Bikes, with tires wider than normal to ride a bicycle without problem on this type of terrain. The Fat Bikes are provided at no cost to the interested public. 

     For its part, the Five Star Valle Corralco Hotel and Spa, surrounded by centenary Araucarias, the regional tree par excellence, has 54 rooms with full equipment, Heated Pools, Gym, Fitness Center, Restaurant, Meeting Rooms, a privileged view of the Lonquimay Volcano and 3 Accommodation Programs and excursions to spend a vacation enjoying an incredible nature. There is a wide range of entertainment for children and adults, including a Children's Room for kids from 2 to 6 years old, staffed by professionals; the Mini Club Corralco, a complete program for children from 6 to 12 years to learn in a didactic and entertaining way from the surrounding Nature; a Cinema suitable for all ages offering films and first level documentaries; a Games Room where you can play Pool, Ping Pong and various Board Games. The Tourist Center also has the only Bike Park of the Araucania Region, with routes of different difficulty for Mountain Bike lovers in the modalities of Cross Country and Enduro, among forests of Araucarias and volcanoes.


Corralco in the Summer


     The privileged Nature of the South of Chile, like the one that encompasses the Malalcahuello-Nalcas National Reserve makes possible countless activities that visitors can perform, highlighting the memorable ascent to the Lonquimay Volcano, the third highest in the circuit of volcanoes of the Araucania Region, trekking and mountain bike programs, sport fishing, kayaking, horseback riding and many others which will be detailed in a forthcoming publication.

Official Website: https://corralco.com/
Other Recommended sites: https://www.chileanski.com/eng/corralco/activities.htm