Valle del Elqui

Elqui Valley in Chile

Elqui Valley in Chile

The Elqui Valley (Valle del Elqui) is a tourist zone with attractive landscapes and fertile land known by the excellence of its clear skies, rapid rivers, steep peaks and pintoresque villages. The Elqui Valley is also the favorite destination for national and international visitors in Chile for those who enjoy astronomy. Several sites as the the Mamalluca hill Observatory or the facilities of the International Tololo Hill Observatory , located at 7217 feet of altitude are open for visits who enjoy astronomy activities, with more than 320 days of clear skies, this area is so attractive that a astronomy hotel was installed, the Elquidomos hotel is part of the Elqui Valley and the Astronomy tour which

explores the valley’s beautiful sightings

When you go into the inner areas of the Elqui Valley you may appreciate the diverse contrasts: blue skies, pure air, immense prairies cultivated with grapevines and “papayas” between the high arid mountains.

The Elqui Valley is also much known for its magnetic vibrations, that has attracted more visitors to the Elqui Valley that have the sole intention of practicing yoga, relaxation and meditation techniques, carrying a natural life and taking advantage of the energy, almost perceptible in each of the common tasks.

The Elqui Valley provides peace, rest, entertainment and an irresistible attraction to get to know each of the villages in its inner areas with churches, vineyards, plazas, adobe houses, local craft work and customs. The Elqui Valley is ideal if you want to get away from the noise of the city.

Within the Elqui Valley:

Aquatic Curunina Park (Parque Acuático Curunina), with 7 pools, slides and games, picnic areas and a cafeteria. It’s opened from September to Easter week from Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm. The cost per person from Monday to Friday is $3.000, Saturday and Sunday is $3.500, children under 5 do not pay.

The Space Center of Alotvalsol (Centro del Espacio Altovalsol) provides a guided tour of graphic material and photos about astronomy, astronautic, astroarchaeology and UFOS in Chile and the world. Souvenirs and crafts are sold and there’s a coffee place. During the summer is open, from Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, from 10 am to 11, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 12 pm. The admission ticket costs $1.500 for children and $800 for seniors.

Las Rojas is to the left, built on the hillside on a platform with steps; it has an adobe church from 1892. Go back to the main road and At mile 14.9 you will see wild grapevines, “papayas” and “chirimoyas” protected from the wind with plastic curtains. It’s a high and hot area, where the fruit bears early.

At mile 19.8 there’s a detour to the north of the river taking you to La Marquesa, with vineyards on the hillsides and then it continues to the copper mine Condoriaco. In the mile 21.1 you get to the beautiful village El Molle. Here the first archeological remains pre-Diaguita culture where found, baptized as El Molle culture. It has an old church of adobe and big country houses next to the square. It’s famous for its fig and “papaya” candies. It has a beach with good lodging houses, restaurants and pools. At Teniente Merino 52, the artist Montserrat Castedo sells her tapestries. In the same street is the Zendo in charge of the monk zen Jiku San that performs daily practices combining meditation and exercises. The visits require a previous notice of 1 or 2 days.

The road keeps on winding through the hills and crosses further up the Almendral village. At mile 25.4 there’s a detour that gets to the Puclaro Dam. From a very well set viewpoint you can appreciate the dam with compacted chipping of 272.3 feet of height and 1952 feet of length at the peak. It stores 261 590 122.7 cubic yards of water for irrigation, forming an artificial lake that floods 2050 acres. The Puclaro dam has transformed itself into an excellent place to practice windsurf, since the enclosing produces strong and constant winds from September to May, reaching 25 to 30 knots at midday and coming back to the stirred water producing waves in the middle of the dam.

Tololo Astronomical Observatory in Elqui Valley.

Tololo Astronomical Observatory in Elqui Valley.

After passing through the Puclaro tunnel, the road continues by the hillside a few meters over the highest dam elevation. In the mile 34.7 there’s a detour that gets to the Astronomy Observatories (Observatorios Astronómicos), with restricted access. Continuing on the road, you may see in the distance the domes of the Interamerican Tololo Hill Observatory (Observatorio Interamericano Cerro Tololo), CTIO, located at 7217.8 feet. It was inaugurated in 1963 and it belongs to AURA, due to an agreement made with the University of Chile. It has 6 optical telescopes, among them, the CTIO of 157 feet, which once was the biggest one in South America and a radiotelescope.

By an inner road (which cannot be seen), already at 8.6 miles to the South at the top of the Pachón hill, there’s the South Gemini Observatory (Observatorio Gémini Sur), located at 6794.6 feet, and next to it, the dome of the Southern Astrophysical Research SOAR, a telescope of 13.4 m inaugurated on 2004. The South Gemini Observatory was inaugurated on January 18, 2002. It has an optical VLT telescope of 26.2 feet of diameter. It works in conjunction with a twin telescope located in Mauna Kea, in the island of Hawaii, in the project called AURA of Gemini (Gémini de AURA).

Vineyards located in Elqui Valley

Vineyards located in Elqui Valley

Continuing on the road to Vicuña there are the facilities of North Route Pisco Plant (Planta Pisco Ruta Norte) that occupies a building from the last century surrounded by ancient trees. Guided tours are provided. Then, there’s an industry that elaborates “papayas” and the wine cellars of Falernia Winery (Viña Falernia), founded in the year 1998 and where the most northern Chilean wines are produced. Further ahead, a detour to the left gets to Gualligualca, a village just inaugurated on the year 2000 in order to move the population of the villages Guallíguaica, La Polvada y Punta Azul, that were flooded by the construction of the Puclaro dam.

At mile 32.9, take a right on the detour to EI Tambo. By the hill, it was a resting place of the Inca road. Actually is a small village full of wild grapevines, with narrow streets and a square surrounded by gigantic pepper trees (Schinus molle), where there’s a church made of adobe. Use the inner street to go back to the main road.

Further ahead, a detour takes you to Peralillo and to the road that goes up to Hurtado and gets to Ovalle. When crossing the bridge over the Elqui river you enter the city of Vicuña and continuing on the road you get to the villages of Paihuano, Montegrande, Pisco Elqui, Cochiguaz and Alcoguas. A few kilometers from Vicuña starts de Pisco Route (Ruta del Pisco), the original place where this so typical liquor is manufactured in the heart of the Elqui Valley, where you can find “pisco” plants using local to the most technological techniques. Among them are Pisco Capel, 3R, Artesanos del Cochiguaz and los Nichos.

The trip across the Elqui Valley allows you to appreciate the enchantment and fertility of the lands along the Elqui river. From La Serena is a stretch of 162.7 miles, round trip. The three quarters of the total road surface are paved. There’s only gas in La Serena and Vicuña. It’s recommended during the summer to wear shorts and bathing suit.

The Elqui Valley is a must see destination if you are on vacation in La Serena and most of all if you wish to spend a quite time.

** Information related to rates, dates and hours might change without any previous notice **

One Response

  1. Anna Says:

    When i read this article, i had the feeling of getting in to the country. A great article which makes readers to get a real feeling about the place they are reading. The pictures are sooo good and attractive with mountains and green land.



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