For nature lovers, we recommend exploring a different place of rest and adventure that cannot be missed, one of the most important valleys in Chile.
Located in the Coquimbo region, west of La Serena, we find the Elqui Valley, one of the most beautiful and attractive natural locations in the entire country, and also in South America. Elqui Valley is located in the center of the country, about 535km from its capital, Santiago. The route towards the interior of the Valley is crossed by the Claro river and also its tributaries, the Cochiguaz and Estero Derecho rivers, which give even more freshness to its enviable South American climate. And it is that its Mediterranean climatic conditions are exceptional, making it ideal to visit at any time of the year.
In addition to its scenic beauty, the Elqui Valley has also been allegedly related to "esoteric" and "extraterrestrial" phenomena, and that attracts many tourists around the world. Whether or not it is a reality, its location and good climate make it an excellent place for astronomical observation, unique worldwide.
If you are thinking of visiting a warm, different and naturally beautiful place soon, we invite you to continue reading and discover more about Elqui Valley in Chile and the different towns and activities that surround it. Let the adventure begin!
You feel a sense of relaxation, calm and wonder when you cross the river, and you admire the riverbanks with vineyards, and also the natural rocky landscapes in the Elqui Valley.
Mobilization in the Valley is very simple by bus, and you also take advantage of it to really enjoy the surroundings, and the culture of this area of the country.
The Coquimbo region, and in general the entire city of La Serena, has a privileged climate with very little humidity and an enviable clear sky. In fact, the town of Vicuña in the Valley has been named the capital of astronomical observation, with many observation centers with daily and night tours. You will see everything that this town of fruitful vineyards can offer you.
The entrance to the Valley is found in the city of Serena, where buses take you to the iconic Vicuña, a very picturesque town where artisan shops and souvenirs abound, where you can carry out local activities and taste its gastronomy in a wide variety of restaurants, from the most traditional to the most sophisticated, all this in the city that saw the birth of the poet and Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriela Mistral (1945).
Vicuña is the capital of the Elqui Valley and also the largest city in the area. In the Plaza de Vicuña you find a space full of history, starting with the peace monument with "the rose of the four winds" at its base, admired by all the locals and tourists. It is a monument that you can also find in other parts of the world, since it was originally written in 80 different languages to express the same message: "Peace prevail in the world."
As we move through the town we reach the mistral axis, dedicated to the poet Gabriela Mistral, where you can follow her indelible artistic mark after walking the streets built with colonial-style buildings from the early 1900s, and also visit the museum there in her honor. of which we will comment later.
In addition, you will find picturesque attractions such as tributes to the poet in the trees, the Temple of the Immaculate Conception, the Bauer Tower, its observatories for scientific and public use (such as the Mamalluca), and other museums located in its urban fabric.
Artisanal ice creams from Vicuña:
Any local can confirm it for you. Vicuña is the cradle of the best artisan ice creams in the entire region. Impossible to visit this town in Elqui Valley and not try its variety of ice creams, which serve you very well and in generous portions. The recommendation of the locals is that while walking you stop at various ice cream shops and start your tasting, because they are all delicious and much of the experience when you visit the town. In fact, a national contest is organized annually on site: The “Best Chopped in Chile”, in which each year they award the best ice cream. Among its postulates are usually the most classic establishments and ice cream parlors that year after year outdo themselves. La Bilbaina is the oldest, with more than 65 years since the making of its ice creams with ancestral and artisanal freezing methods, supported by natural snow.
Some of the most recognized ice cream parlors that you can visit in addition to La Bilbaina are:
Cielos Del Valle Ice Creams, El Cobre Ice Cream Shop, El Gelatto de Vicuña Ice Cream Shop and Gufrut Ice Cream Shop. All incredible options in style and quality.
Gastronomy in Vicuña:
On the other hand, we have gastronomy on site with varied options of typical cuisine in which you can taste some classic dishes such as empanadas, roast goat, bird casserole, accompanied by classic and award-winning pisco Sour cocktails, and also wines and beers. You will see that the locals manage to offer more delicious and innovative dishes every time, some with solar cookers. But the indisputable thing is that the tradition is reflected with a touch of imagination that leaves tourists fascinated, with fresh products from the area and eating under the stars.
Elqui Valley leaves you surprised from where you look at it. Its hills are planted with vineyards, so it is not uncommon for this area to stand out for being an area producing excellent Chilean wines, highly recognized internationally.
All your senses will be delighted when you visit plants made from pisco, because in addition to wine, you will also be able to discover the entire fascinating manufacturing process, from the distillation of grapes to the tasting of the final product, which will not disappoint you.
You arrive at the entrance to the Valley and you are greeted by picturesque kiosks with sales of typical crafts of the area and also of their classic artisan ice creams. It is there where the adventure of this great place begins. You will be fascinated with its famous wind harp, a magical and unmistakable sound in the Elqui Valley. When you walk you also come across the Puclaro Reservoir (200 million cubic meters), originally built to double the irrigation system and also as a reservoir for drinking water.
GABRIELA MISTRAL MUSEUM
As we have mentioned, Vicuña is the city that gave birth to the acclaimed poet and Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Gabriela Mistral, so it is no surprise that you can follow in her footsteps by visiting the museum that recovers her life and work.
This museum is itself the former childhood home of the Nobel Prize, which has been restored and set up so that the public can learn more about the poet who has become a very important figure in Chilean culture.
Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, better known as Gabriela Mistral, was born in the town of Vicuña in 1889 and is the pride of this town. In addition to its permanent exhibition, where various objects, period photographs and texts by the poet are shown, they present new temporary exhibitions to the public each month, touring the School House that has been declared a National Monument, and its Mausoleum in Montegrande.
DISCOVER OTHER AMAZING VILLAGES IN THE ELQUI VALLEY
Venture on colorful walks and enjoy the local atmosphere offered by the villages of the Elqui Valley. Both Vicuña and the rest of the neighboring towns in the Valley have excellent accommodation options (hotels, inns or cabins) from which you can choose the ideal one for you. Most take advantage of nature to recreate charming settings in the rooms and in their common areas, such as the pool area and outdoor terraces. All have complete and necessary amenities to offer you a wonderful and comfortable experience.
The upper part of the Elqui Valley consists of several towns that belong to the municipality of Paihuano, although the most tourist center is Pisco Elqui, which we will talk about later.
The Pihuano commune
In addition to Vicuña, the Valley also contains the commune / municipality of Pihuano that you cannot miss, consisting of 8 districts: Paihuano (town), La Quebrada, La Bajada, Quebrada de Pinto, Montegrande, Alcohuaz, Pisco Elqui and Jarillas.
This place is a paradise for lovers of nature and spiritual search because its surroundings invite meditation, among its imposing hills, its green areas and its crystalline waters. It is an incredible spot to relax with the atmosphere and the panorama, as well as take advantage of disconnecting a little from the hustle and technology.
Walking its streets is to come into contact with its historic colonial architecture. In addition, you can visit the old church of Paihuano, and taste the typical gastronomy after a glass of handmade pisco mixed with local fruits, in its restaurants with a rural setting. And it is that Paihuano preserves its traditional architecture, very colorful and memorable.
Located among the amazing scenic landscapes of the Andes mountain range we find the Chilean town Pisco Elqui, which by its name you can guess, it is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the best pisco cocktails in the heart of the Valley. The most iconic in the area is the pisco distilled from the Muscat grape mixed with a little sparkling water that the locals call piscola. A refreshing and exquisite cocktail!
Pisco Elqui is one of the main tourist destinations in the area. It is located between 1000 and 1700 meters above sea level, depending on the location you are in. This area has a remarkable microclimate that enjoys more than 300 annual sunny days, and even in winter temperatures range between 17 and 27 degrees. An ideal place if you are thinking of escaping a bit from the cold!
You cannot miss these visits in Pico Elqui, mostly with guided tours:
ARTISANAL PISCOS: Knowledge and tasting.
When a Chilean hears that you visit the Elqui Valley, everyone agrees on the same answer: You can't stop trying pisco! This valley is one of the places where the most ideal grapes are produced and produced for the preparation of this exotic alcoholic drink from the brandi family.
Learning and tasting pisco in the Elqui Valley is one of the most classic and mandatory activities you can do, as well as visiting the Pisco Museum. There you will learn a little more about the pioneering agency CAPEL, which offers very complete information on the process of making pisco from start to finish, with guided tours in which you taste the final product, in different presentations and with different alcoholic strengths for everyone. tastes, a taste of the true Chilean feeling embodied in the drops of this delicious artisan liquid full of flavor and history. And in cocktail it is more than delicious!
The Coquimbo region is famous in Chile for its production of piscos, this alcoholic beverage that belongs to a variety of brandy made from grapes and manufactured after distilling wine from local grapes, with designation of origin. In fact, the word "Pisco" comes from Quechua and means "Bird", a very accurate definition for this drink.
For years the Elqui Valley has known how to master the perfect combination of tourism and agriculture, and pisco is a big part of it. Locals and tourists gather at the different pisco distillers and factories where they immerse themselves in the secrets and history behind this exquisite spirit drink.
In addition to CAPEL, which is the largest and oldest in the area, we also find other pirco distillery factories such as Ruta Norte, Mistral, Artesanos de Cochiguaz and Tres Erres. All great in their styles, and perfect for discovering variations in the process that gives each one its unique flavor and touch, recognized internationally.
When you taste Chilean pisco, incredible muscat brandy - and you take the tasting tasting and the tour - you will realize that it follows a system similar to that of other spirits, but with key differentiation: the culture that precedes it. This drink is distilled twice in alembic or column at 70% vol. The result is diluted with demineralized water until reaching the desired degree and then bottled or aged in oak barrels. But we will not tell you more because the real magic is in witnessing this interesting process live and direct.
ASTRONOMY IN THE ELQUI VALLEY
This place, according to the locals and tourists who have visited it, has invaluable energetic loads and properties, as well as a completely unique experience at the cosmic level, making it ideal to use alternative therapies such as meditation, massages and sessions of reiki. If you love this whole topic of spirituality, then you come to the right place. You will find tourist guides and locations prepared to enjoy all these moves.
The stars of the Elqui Valley are an impressive night show that you cannot miss. This valley houses the first International Sanctuary of Dark Skies in the World. And is that its clear skies is another of its most important attractions in this location, one of the clearest in the entire southern hemisphere.
At night, the stars shine like you have never seen before, a spectacle that has already captured the attention of many international scientific organizations that have installed astronomical observatories taking advantage of the Tololo and Pechón hills.
Fortunately, it is not an experience limited to the scientific area. There are many tourist observatories with guides and tours that detail the public more about the area's cosmic ecosystem, as well as the opportunity to observe stars, galaxies, stars and planets, also shooting stars! with the advantageous visual that this town in the Elqui Valley offers.
There are many options in the Valley to greatly enjoy this experience, between visits to observatories and guides in the area where you can opt for night walks accompanied by informative talks on astronomy, which reveal stories and myths about the moon and the Andean constellations. Experts guide you accompanied by the sound of the waters that descend from the river in the Valley. A truly magical feeling!
The Elqui Dosmos
Can you imagine sleeping at the foot of the stars in front of one of the clearest skies in the world in Pisco Elqui? Well if you visit the Elqui domes you don't have to imagine it. This private observatory perfectly unifies the tradition of the area with all the comforts of a luxurious hotel, including all the technology that a scientific observatory supposes. This is truly an experience you cannot miss.
It has astronomical tourism tours that you can do on foot or under the stars on horseback. You will learn a little more about constellations outdoors or even inside their heated rooms at the observatory. Sounds wonderful? This is some of the unique experiences that you get only in the Elqui Valley.
The Cerro Mamalluca Municipal Observatory.
Another must visit during your stay in the Elqui Valley, the Cerro Mamalluca Municipal Observatory, The main tourist attraction when it comes to guided astronomy for the entire public.
Light pollution is practically nil in this area of Chile, and this makes it an ideal site for stellar observation. So this observatory has earned one of the best locations in the Valles to do so. Your tour includes guided instructions and audio visual support. It is a very pleasant and very interesting experience that we recommend you visit. In addition, it has a cafeteria space very well adapted to make your visit even more pleasant. Getting there will be very easy, you can take a bus from the observatory itself or go in your own car with no problem.
They recommend their tours for children over 5 years old. You must reserve at least 48 hours in advance so write it on your list of activities in Chile since you start your adventure through the Valley. It has different hours that will depend on the weather and the season in which you visit, so you should be very aware of this before visiting without consulting.
Gosch Solar Observatory
This observatory is unique and very representative in South America. Located in Vicuña, this observatory offers a unique view of the changing and unpredictable solar activity that occurs in this region in broad daylight. So you should enjoy the ride with sunglasses to really enjoy this wonderful experience!
You will love joining the guided activities in this location that perfectly combines science, learning and fun, for longer than any other in the area.
There are many additional observatories from which you can choose, the important thing is that you enjoy the unique experience that this location offers you and no other. You cannot erase such greatness from your mind! Some of them are:
Do not forget the Mystical Tours of the area!
You will find many tourism agencies that offer exciting guides through the Valley taking as concept the land and astronomical beauties to offer visitors a unique experience with connection ceremonies to the Valley for the balance of the Chakras, with quartz in the temple of the town Alcohuaz . It includes many great activities for lovers of spirituality.
ADVENTURE AND RELAX IN ELQUI
Adventure sports lovers can find in the Elqui Valley trekking routes, trails for bike rides, excursions and horseback riding.
Enjoy the Valley by bike
Among the most outstanding activities we find the bicycle and horse route in Pisco Elqui that ends descending through the valleys. The tops of the peaks in the areas are amazing with great panoramic views.
Normally, the guided routes take you through almost the entire area to learn more about the panorama of the valley, especially you will find guides that offer you e-bikes (electric bicycles) charged with sunlight, to cover the route. You will visit tourist spots in the area, including the river beaches, monuments and museums, fisheries, astronomical observatories, campsites with night routes and more. An experience to explore the Elqui Valley in depth by bicycle!
Trekking in the Elqui Valley
Trekking in this lively valley will be an amazing experience among its characteristic rivers and vineyards. It is like a paradise in the Chilean arid mountains. The most typical is to do a trekking tour to El Molle hill, with 1000 meters above sea level. You place it behind the town that also bears the name of El Molle.
It could be considered a beginner's route, but don't be fooled. Its steep and complex rock passes transform the experience into a challenge. It is very easily reached from La Serena, towards Vicuña. Once you enter the town El molle you must go all the way to the end, and reach the base of the hill, where you can park your car without problems.
Have you been thrilled with this wonderful location? Just 15 km from La Serena begins the experience in the Elqui Valley, full of privileged landscapes, clear skies, meadows, and relaxation at the foot of the Andes.
Every year it attracts tourists who clear their minds of everyday problems and enter the adventure and freedom that this Chilean Valley offers, which seems to go at its own pace, calm, quiet, with fresh air, and infinite green areas that seem not finish.
But it is an experience that nobody can describe to you in words, you must live it to really enjoy it!
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