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