The respected travel publisher Lonely Planet chose the small Elqui Valley in northern Chile as one of the top travel destinations for 2019. We wholeheartedly agree and would like to share why. Up until a couple years ago, Elqui Valley, located approximately 500 km north of Santiago, was in the shadow of the famous Atacama Desert. However, the tranquility and stars have been drawing Chileans and foreigners alike to the area and are two main reasons for the valley’s growing popularity.
Nature lovers and astronomy enthusiasts get more than their money’s worth here. The fertile valley is a green oasis in the midst of the Andes precordillera, and there are cloudless skies for more than 300 days a year, supposedly the clearest in the world. The conditions for observing the stars are therefore optimal, and some more of the observatories located there are opening their doors to a growing public. A couple of visitors even claim to have seen UFOs over the valley.
The intense blue sky is a wonderful contrast to the brownish gold mountains of the Andes and the deep green fields covered with vines, avocado trees and countless fruit trees and plants that spread across the slopes on the most fertile soil.
This place holds a very special energy which pulls visitors in. It is no coincidence that Elqui Valley is perceived by esoteric people as a spiritual center. It also inspired Gabriela Mistral, the local literary prize winner. And, last but not least, the valley is home to Pisco, a brandy made from grape juice and the basis for the most popular alcoholic drink in Chile – Pisco Sour.
In addition to offering excursions to the mountains on foot or horseback, the Elqui Valley is also a logistically well-located starting point for a full-day visit to the small fishing bay of Punta de Choros and to the three offshore islands, which provide optimal living conditions for Humboldt penguins, cormorants, marine otters, sea lions, the bottlenose dolphin, and occasionally sea elephants. From October to December whales also pass by. Animal lovers will enjoy observing the charismatic animals up close by boat. From time to time, the sociable dolphins even accompany the boats and their passengers.
As you can see, the magical Elqui Valley is an insider’s favorite that is gradually awakening from its slumber and attracting more travelers as there is much to discover!