Well worth a full day’s excursion is the Elqui Valley, which winds inland from La Serena, an hour’s flight north of Santiago on the Pacific coast. A specialty of the Elqui Valley is pisco, a type of brandy, which is distilled from the wine here: the valley’s subtropical micro-climate favours the growth of sweet grapes that produce a particularly good Pisco. No visit to the Elqui Valley is complete without a stop at a pisco distillery, complete with a tour and sampling. Another highlight of the valley is Pisco Elqui, a quiet village with a beautiful church fronting the main square, and many artisans offering unique handmade products. Deeper into the green-sloped valley is the hamlet of Horcón, where other local craftsmen and artists make and sell jewellery, pictures, lamps, clothing, and decorative items.
The largest town in the Elqui Valley is Vicuña, the birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral. Here visitors can visit the old town hall, the church and main square, and an excellent museum dedicated to the life of Chile’s most famous literary figure. The town is also a perfect stop for lunch in one of its simple, satisfying restaurants.
Surrounding the lush valley are semi-desert high country and mountains, with crystal-clear air that provides ideal conditions for celestial observatories; and at the Mamalluca Observatory visitors can enjoy the night-time sky through a large optical telescope with expert guidance, taking advantage of the sky that’s cloudless more than 300 days a year. During the daytime, visitors can admire the valley’s beautiful flora and fauna from above, with a hike to the peak of Mount Gualliguaica (1450m). Additionally, the Elqui Valley offers many exceptional lodging opportunities.
If you would like more information about travelArt’s selection of guided and self-guided tours in the Elqui Valley, please contact your travelArt sales agent.