Tours and Activities:
Visiting the Elqui ValleyMarcelo Sola Marcelo Sola
Elqui Valley invites tourists to discover the beauty of Region IV in Chile. A tour around the ranches that give aroma and taste to pisco. Clear sky, dams historical settlements and traditional food are part of this entertaining sightseeing tour.
We left La Serena for a while to tour around one of the most symbolic circuits in the region: the Elqui Valley. Known worldwide for its clear sky and privileged weather, it is located east of the seaside city. In order to start this historical-picturesque and cultural sightseeing tour, we had to take Route CH 41, better known as the International Route. After traveling 11 km, we passed by Algarrobito, a quaint town known for its papayas and old-fashioned home-made marmalades. At the 25th kilometer marker, we were in the middle of Quebrada de Talca (Talca Ravine). At that point, there is an educational observatory, an outdoor archaeological/astronomical museum and a small chapel belonging to the council seminar school in La Serena.
Further ahead, at the 34th kilometer marker, we passed by El Molle, a place that witnessed the birth of the prehistoric culture bearing the same name. This site offers the typical flavor of its food and pastries. We recommend a visit to the “Rupali” workshop of meditation tapestries. There are inns, restaurants and camping sites in this town.
At the 41st kilometer marker, a breathtaking panoramic view surprised us with a peaceful framework of water. It was the Puclaro Dam, located at 432 meters above sea level. It is an 83 meters high and 595 meters long wall, designed to hold 200 million cubic meters of water. It is the ideal place for windsurfing and there are various view points to appreciate nature.
Nine kilometers ahead, we found a detour towards Mount Tololo, where there is an astronomical observatory bearing the same name. It is worth mentioning that this observatory has a telescope of four meters in diameter. If it is not Saturday, it is not worthwhile to make the detour, since it is the only day the venue is open to visitors.
After traveling 62 km, we arrived at Vicuña, lying 620 meters above sea level. It was founded on February 22nd in 1821 and it is the hometown of the famous poet Gabriela Mistral, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945. The town has the following facilities: hotels, restaurants and various services. We suggest one or two days to visit it and to see all its attractions.
We went on around the immensity of Elqui Valley. A few kilometers further down we arrived at a spot called Villaseca, standing 700 meters above sea level. We suggested pulling over and having lunch at the famous house restaurant. The diaphanous sky of the valley has allowed local families to seize solar energy and use it for cooking by using various ovens they themselves built. Moreover, this food is healthy, rich in proteins and full of flavor as well as unique. We suggest stopping here and tasting the delicacies produced in this spot.
In this part of the tour, several well-known pisco companies can be seen. They are open to public to show how the beverage is produced and to let tourists taste it. Temptation is too big so you can have the opportunity to visit Pisco Ruta 40, Pisco Capel, Tres Erres and Artesanos de Cochiguaz, among others.
A few kilometers ahead, we came across the Paihuano Ravine and Cochiguaz Valley, which offer beautiful pre-Andean highland landscapes that invite to meditation, rest and observation of nature and the sky.
A place to pull over is the small town of Monte Grande, where national monuments like Casa Escuela and Gabriela Mistral's tomb stand out. A magnificent sculpture is near the square and it highlights the presence of the poet in the region. The Zen art gallery, the church dating from 1879, the Tourist Center of Craftsmen of Cochiguaz and the natural perfume factory are worth a visit.
Finally, after driving along the windy route that took us 1,247 meters above sea level, we ended our tour around the Elqui Valley in the town called Pisco Elqui. The square, meeting point for craftsmen and visitors, has a beautiful water fountain with shapes of children and, at the back, there is a church with a pointed delicate style. Opposite the square there lies Pisco Tres Erres, where you can taste pisco and learn about the history of this delicious liqueur.
Thus, we end the tour around one of the most symbolic circuits in Region IV. The way back to La Serena can be done on the same day or after spending a night in the town of Vicuña. If so, it is a good opportunity to visit the Mamalluca astronomic center at night.