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. The Elqui Valley is located in the center of the country, some 535km from its capital, Santiago. The route to 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 supposedly related to “esoteric” and “extraterrestrial” phenomena, and this attracts many tourists from around the world. Whether or not it is a reality, its location and good weather make it an excellent place for astronomical observation, unique in the world.
If you are thinking of visiting a warm, different and naturally beautiful place soon, we invite you to continue reading and discover more about the Elqui Valley in Chile and the different towns and activities that surround it. Let the adventure begin!
You feel a sensation of relaxation, calm and amazement when you cross the river, and admire the banks with vineyards, and also the natural rocky landscapes in the Elqui Valley.
Mobilization in the Valley is very easy by bus, and you also take advantage of it to really enjoy the surroundings and the culture of this area of the country.
The region of Coquimbo, and in general the entire city of La Serena, has a privileged climate with very little humidity and enviable clear skies. 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.
You can find the entrance to the Valley in the city of Serena, where buses take you to the iconic Vicuña, a very picturesque town where handicraft and souvenir shops abound, where you can do 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 poetess 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 will 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 arrive at the mistral axis, dedicated to the poetess Gabriela Mistral, where you can follow her indelible artistic footprint after walking the streets built with colonial-style buildings from the early 1900s, and also visit the museum there in his honor, which we will discuss later.
In addition, you will find picturesque attractions such as tributes to the poetess 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.
Handmade Ice Cream from Vicuña:
Any local can confirm this. Vicuña is the cradle of the best artisan ice creams in the entire region. It is impossible to visit this town in El Valle del Elqui and not try its variety of ice creams, which are served very well and in generous portions. The recommendation of the locals is that while walking you stop at various ice cream parlors and start tasting them, because they are all delicious and a great part of the experience when you visit the town. In fact, a national contest is organized annually in the place: The "Best Picada de Chile", in which each year they reward the best ice cream. Among its postulates are usually the most classic establishments and ice cream parlors that year after year surpass themselves. La Bilbaina is the oldest, with more than 65 years since the preparation of its ice creams began with ancestral and artisan freezing methods, relying on natural snow.
Some of the most recognized ice cream parlors that you can visit in addition to La Bilbaina are:
Cielos Del Valle Artisan Ice Cream, El Cobre Ice Cream Parlor, El Gelatto de Vicuña Artisan Ice Cream Parlor and Gufrut Ice Cream Parlor. All incredible options in style and quality.
Gastronomy in Vicuña:
On the other hand, we have gastronomy in the place with varied options of typical cuisine in which you can taste some classic dishes such as empanadas, roast kid, poultry 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 what is indisputable is that tradition is reflected with a touch of imagination that leaves tourists fascinated, with fresh products from the area and eating under the stars.
The Elqui Valley leaves you surprised from wherever you look at it. Its hills are planted with vineyards, so it is not uncommon for this area to stand out as a producer of excellent Chilean wines, highly recognized internationally.
All your senses will be delighted when you visit plants that make pisco, because in addition to the wine, you will also be able to learn about the fascinating manufacturing process, from the distillation of grapes to the tasting of the final product that will not disappoint you.
You arrive at the entrance to the Valley and you are greeted by picturesque kiosks with sales of typical crafts from the area and also their classic artisan ice creams. It is there where the adventure of this great place begins. You will be fascinated by its famous wind harp, a magical and unmistakable sound in the Elqui Valley. When walking you also come across the Puclaro Reservoir (200 million cubic meters), originally built to double the irrigation system and also as a drinking water reserve.
GABRIELA MISTRAL MUSEUM
As we have mentioned, Vicuña is the city that saw the birth of the acclaimed poetess and Nobel Prize for Literature, Gabriela Mistral, so it is not surprising that you can follow her footprint by visiting the museum that rescues her life and work .
This museum is itself the former childhood home of the Nobel Prize winner, which has been restored and decorated 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, vintage photographs and texts of the poet are shown, they present new temporary exhibitions to the public every month, touring the Casa Escuela, which has been declared a National Monument, and its Mausoleum in Montegrande.
DISCOVER OTHER INCREDIBLE VILLAGES IN THE ELQUI VALLEY
Venture on colorful walks and enjoy the local atmosphere offered by the towns of the Elqui Valley. Both Vicuña and the rest of the surrounding 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 enchanting 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 touristic 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, made up of 8 districts: Paihuano (town), La Quebrada, La Bajada, Quebrada de Pinto, Montegrande, Alcohuaz, Pisco Elqui and Jarillas.
This place is a paradise for nature lovers and spiritual seekers because its surroundings invite you to meditate, among its imposing hills, its green areas and its crystalline waters. It is an incredible point to relax with the atmosphere and the panorama, as well as take advantage of disconnecting a bit from the hustle and bustle and technology.
To walk 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 artisanal 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 of Pisco Elqui, which you can guess from its name, is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the best pisco cocktails in the heart of the Valley. The most iconic of the area is the pisco distilled from the muscatel grape mixed with a little sparkling water which the locals call piscola. A whole refreshing and exquisite cocktail!
Pisco Elqui is one of the main tourist destinations in the area. It is located between 1,000 and 1,700 meters above sea level, depending on the location where you are. This area has a remarkable microclimate that enjoys more than 300 sunny days a year, and even in winter temperatures range between 17 and 27 degrees. An ideal place if you are thinking of escaping the cold for a bit!
These visits are not to be missed in Pico Elqui, mostly with guided tours:
- Church of Pisco Elqui
- Pisco Elqui Square
- Expeditions in Alcohuaz
- Excursions, camping, archaeological visits and guided hiking.
- Astronomical Excursions
- Meditation sessions and alternative therapies.
ARTISAN PISCOS: Knowledge and tasting.
When a Chilean hears that you are visiting the Elqui Valley, they all agree on the same answer: You cannot stop trying pisco! This valley is one of the places where the most ideal grapes are grown and produced for the preparation of this exotic alcoholic beverage from the brandy family.
Learning and tasting pisco in the Elqui Valley is one of the most classic and obligatory activities that 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 elaboration of pisco from start to finish, with guided tours in which you taste the final product, in different presentations and with different alcoholic degrees for everyone. tastes, a taste of the true Chilean feeling embodied in the drops of this delicious artisanal liquid full of flavor and history. And in a cocktail it is more than delicious!
The Chilean Pisco
The Coquimbo region is very famous in Chile for its production of pisco, this alcoholic beverage that belongs to a variety of brandy made from grapes and manufactured after the distillation of wine from local grapes, with denomination 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 mastered the perfect combination of tourism and agriculture, and pisco is a large part of it. Locals and tourists meet in the different distillers and pisco factories where they are immersed 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 distilling 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 try Chilean pisco, an incredible muscatel brandy -and do the tasting and tour- you will pretend that it follows a system similar to that of other spirits, but with a key differentiation: the culture that precedes it. This drink is distilled twice in a still or column at 70% vol. The result is diluted with demineralized water until it reaches the desired degree and is then bottled or aged in oak barrels. But we won't 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 energy charges and properties, as well as a completely unique experience at a cosmic level, making it ideal for using alternative therapies such as meditation, massages and reiki sessions. If you are cool with this whole subject 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 Dark Skies Sanctuary in the World. And it 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, quite 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 cosmic ecosystem of the area, as well as the opportunity to observe stars, galaxies, stars and planets, also shooting stars! with the advantageous visual offered by this town in the Elqui Valley.
There are many options in the Valley to fully enjoy this experience, between visits to the observatories and guides in the area where you can opt for night walks accompanied by informative talks on astronomy, in which stories and myths are revealed 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 under 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 entails. This is truly an experience not to be missed.
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 in the open air or even inside its air-conditioned rooms in the observatory. Sounds wonderful? These are some of the unique experiences that you can only get in the Elqui Valley.
The Cerro Mamalluca Municipal Observatory.
Another must-see during your stay in the Elqui Valley, the Cerro Mamalluca Municipal Observatory, the main tourist attraction when it comes to guided astronomy for the public.
Light pollution is practically nil in this area of Chile, and this makes it an ideal place for stargazing. So this observatory has earned one of the best locations in the Valles to do so. Your tour includes guided instructions and audiovisual support. It is a very pleasant and very interesting experience that we recommend you visit. In addition, it has a cafeteria space that is 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 without any problem.
They recommend their tours for children over 5 years of age. You must book at least 48 hours in advance, so put it on your list of activities in Chile from the moment 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 it 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 that you can choose from, the important thing is that you enjoy the unique experience that this location offers you and no other. You will not be able to erase such greatness from your mind! Some of them are:
- Sirius Observatory
- Nayra Observatory
- Ckoirama Observatory
- Paniri Caur Observatory
- Space Observatory
- Ahlarkapin Observatory
- Inca Observatory of Gold
- Collowara Observatory
- Cerro Mayu Observatory
- Cruz del Sur Observatory
- Antilhue Observatory (Hacienda Los Andes)
- Cancana Observatory
- South Sky Observatory (La Frontera Refuge)
- Shangri-la Sky Observatory (My Lodge)
- El Pangue Observatory
- National Astronomical Observatory Cerro Calán Headquarters
- Umce Observatory
- Cerro El Pochoco Observatory
- Andean Astronomical Observatory
- Roan-Jasé Observatory
- Pailalén Observatory
- Chilean Skies Observatory
- Pocuro Observatory
- Cerro Chamán Observatory
- Tagua Tagua Observatory
- Orion Observatory
- Elke Tourist Observatory
- Wangulenmapu Observatory
- Yepún Observatory
Don't forget the mystical tours of the area!
You will find many tourist agencies that offer exciting guides through the Valley taking as a concept the terrestrial and astronomical beauties to offer visitors a unique experience with ceremonies of connection with the Valley for the balance of the Chakras, with quartz in the temple of the town of Alcohuaz. It includes many great activities for those who love spirituality.
ADVENTURE AND RELAXATION IN ELQUI
Lovers of adventure sports can find trekking routes, paths for bike rides, excursions and horseback riding in the Elqui Valley.
Enjoy the Valley by bike
Among the most outstanding activities we find the bicycle and horseback 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, above all you will find guides that offer you e-bikes (electric bicycles) charged with sunlight, to travel the route. You will visit tourist spots in the area, including river beaches, monuments and museums, fish shops, astronomical observatories, campsites with night routes and more. It is quite an experience to explore the Elqui Valley in depth on a bicycle!
Trekking in the Elqui Valley
Trekking in this valley full of life will be an amazing experience among its rivers and characteristic vineyards. It is like a paradise in the middle of the arid Chilean mountains. The most typical thing is to go trekking to Cerro El Molle, with 1000 meters above sea level. You locate it behind the town that also bears the name of El Molle.
Could be considered a beginner's route, but don't be fooled. Its steep and complex rock passes make the experience quite a challenge. It is very easily reached from La Serena, in the direction of 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.
Are you excited about this wonderful location? Just 15 km from La Serena, the experience begins in the Elqui Valley, full of privileged landscapes, clear skies, meadows, and relaxation at the foot of the Andes mountain range.
Each year it attracts tourists who clear their minds of everyday problems and immerse themselves in the adventure and freedom that this Chilean Valley offers, which seems to go at its own pace, calm, silent, with fresh air, and endless green areas that seem to never end
But it's an experience that no one can describe to you in words, you have to live it to really enjoy it!