Home to a number of the clearest night sky on Earth, the Elqui Valley at the north of Chile remains under the radar for most visitors to the nation.
However, this year, Elqui is now getting its time to shine. The valley can be found in the path of totality for its Great South American Eclipse, that happened on 2nd July 2019 and made it among the greatest areas on the planet to admire this heavenly event. Even every other time of year, there are lots of reasons to explore the region.
Why should you stop by the Elqui Valley?
Having an almost entirely pain-free microclimate — sailors maintain some 320 days of sun annually — that the Elqui Valley is an attractive destination regardless of the season.
The bright days are best for increasing the grapes used to make pisco — a white brandy produced in Chile and Peru (both nations fiercely claim to have invented it). The Elqui Valley is home to Chile’s earliest pisco distilleries and people can see the vineyards where muscatel grapes are utilized to distil the spirits. Boutique wineries also have sprung up, developing varietals generally found much farther south.
What is more, the valley has a fascinating standing for paranormal action, clocking up several UFO sightings through time. More believable for many is its mythical favorable energy. This has attracted new-age travellers andmore recently, those looking for holistic treatments, many of which contain independently mined quartz — a rock believed to have curative properties.
Villages are strung out in a row across the Elqui Valley with Pisco Elqui (town renamed to reflect the area’s claim to fame) house to the lion’s share of lodgings. Simple to browse along with a local minibus or using a rental bike, it makes for the ideal weekend escape from Santiago.
The planet’s very first Black Sky Sanctuary
Cloudless, sunny days deliver incredibly clear nighttime sky. The Atacama Desert farther north has been billed as one of the world’s greatest destinations for star gazing, but it is the Elqui Valley which will this season be carrying the spotlight. Designated the planet’s earliest International Dark Sky Sanctuary from the International Astronomical Union at 2015 (there are currently currently 10 globally ), if you are into watching celebrities there is no better place to go. The austral summer (December through February) is the ideal season for celebrity gazing and incidentally also sees the valley carpeted in lush vines.
What is the best way to observe the stars?
Loads of observatories in the vicinity of the valley operate expert-led tours and lots of resorts have their own telescopes for people to use. For the most rigorously scientific expertise, have a visit to Observatorio El Pangue, home to both an expert group of international astronomers and among the largest public telescopes in the world.
Taste potent pisco sours
Throughout the daytime, pisco is the star of this series. Rent a bicycle from Pisco Elqui and bicycle into the boutique Fundo Los Nichos distillery. Established in 1868, it is the earliest still-functioning piece distillery in Chile. They utilize conventional, organic purification methods to generate their acclaimed Espiritu de Elqui black-label disc; since it is only available to buy in a couple of places outside the valley, so make sure you stock up.
Back in the town, Destilería Pisco Mistral is among the most significant pisco manufacturers in Chile. There is an onsite museum of classic machines and a terrace bar overlooking the vineyards. Tours of the distillery complete using a cocktail-making course showing you how you can mix tangy — and powerful — pisco sours.
Cavas del Valle, farther north, is just another neighborhood trailblazer. The boutique, family-run vineyard has been the first to present grapes like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon into the area. Their wines currently feature on the menu of award-winning and exclusive Santiago restaurant, Boragó.
As you likely will not have a close encounter of the third type in the Elqui Valley, you are able to absorb its energy. Reserve a chakra realignment, reiki or yoga course at Punto de Luz spa, or have a look at the meditation pyramids in Luz de Luna. This picturesque riverside campground has crystalline pools fed by waterfalls to get a sterile post-meditation dip.
An overnight stay at Refugio Cochiguaz may even revive your spirits. Check in to their quartz swimming pool along with new-age spa therapies, including herbal baths, reiki and quartz treatments.
Taste local Chilean cuisine
Among the most innovative areas to find lunch is Solar Elqui, a solar kitchen located a brief drive northwest of this valley. Here, goat and poultry stews bubble until tender at 33 purpose-built ovens powered completely from the sun’s power and therefore are served to diners onto a shady terrace overlooking wineries.
From the town of Diaguitas, shore of Pisco Elqui, you will discover Cervecería Guayacan, which also utilizes solar power to brew top-notch beer. Pure water in the Elqui river is blended with local ingredients like chañar, a syrup made from the sap of this chañar tree. Go for their beer garden and remain to their signature thin-crust pizzas.
Where to Remain in the Elqui Valley
Base yourself in Pisco Elqui and mattress down just outside city in the enchanting Cabañas Caballieri. Their sun-soaked pool and pool are next to none and their individually-designed cottages each game unique layout quirks. Novel Cuarzo, constructed entirely from rose quartz and using a domed glass ceiling for celestial observation, or Air, with its fabulous panoramas of the valley.
South of Pisco Elqui and best obtained with a rental car, the adobe brick Casona Distante was formerly the most important house of a pisco property and remains surrounded by vines. Now, enchanting bedrooms plus a feeling of rural isolation make this the perfect spot to get an electronic detox, while its own place from the densely populated south of this valley signifies that the nighttime sky here is much more sharply in focus.