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Visiting the Elqui Valley

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The Elqui Valley invites one to meditate, to rest and to observe the sky. Dams, historical settlements and traditional food are part of this entertaining sightseeing tour.

Elqui Valley - Vicuña

It is possible to visit one of the most symbolic circuits in the region from Vicuña: the Elqui Valley. World-wide famous because of its diaphanous sky and privileged weather, it invites tourists to see various natural sceneries while learning about the history of the towns located there. In order to start this historical-picturesque and cultural sightseeing tour we had to take Route CH 41, better known as the International Way.

First, we headed East towards the pre-Andean highlands to see the different towns of unique beauty. We found Villaseca 12 km from Vicuña. It is famous for having a restaurant where food is cooked with solar energy. The dishes made in this restaurant have a special taste. Stopping there and trying some of the exquisite delicacies prepared there is worthwhile.

Elqui Valley - Vicuña

After 21 km, we found the town called Rivadavia, 818 meters above sea level. This is the meeting point of two tributaries of the Elqui River: the Turbio River (meaning “muddy” in Spanish) and the Claro River (meaning “clear” in Spanish), each one called that way due to the characteristics of their waters. Right after, there lies Chapilca, where traditional textiles woven in looms can be found. Following that same road, tourists can reach the border with Argentina through Agua Negra (Black Water) Pass.

We headed towards Paihuano and 39 km from Vicuña is the town of Monte Grande, where national monuments like Casa Escuela and Tumba de Gabriela Mistral (Gabriela Mistral’s Tomb) stand out in the landscape. A magnificent sculpture stands 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. There are restaurants and telephone service in the area.

Elqui Valley - Vicuña

Then, we walked into the Cochiguaz Valley and started to pass several well-known pisco factories that open their doors to show tourists how this alcoholic beverage is produced and to let them taste it.

Some 43 km after going past Vicuña, we reached the town Pisco Elqui located 1,247 meters above see level. Its square is the meeting point for craftsmen and visitors. It has a beautiful water fountain with shapes of children and a church with a pointed style. Right opposite the square is the Pisco Tres Erres ancestral home.

Towards La Serena

At this point, tourists should take Route CH 41, but now heading West, until they reach the resort city called La Serena. After taking the road and going once more in front of Vicuña, we found a detour to Mount Tololo, where the astronomy observatory bearing the same name is located. This center has a four-meter-diameter telescope. Some 21 km from Vicuña, we found the crystal-clear waters of the Puclaro Dam. This dam has an 83-meter-wide and 595-meter-high wall which enables it to store 200 million cubic meters of water. The place features outstanding panoramic views from which pictures can be taken.

Elqui Valley - Vicuña

At about 28 km from Vicuña, we can find El Molle. This place is the cradle of the prehistoric culture bearing the same name. We recommend a visit to the “Rupali” workshop of meditation tapestries.

At the 37th kilometer marker, there lies the Talca Ravine, where the educational observatory construction, an open air archeo-astronomic museum and a little chapel owned by the colegio seminario Conciliar from La Serena stand out.

Almost at the end of our sightseeing tour, we passed by Algarrobito. It is a picturesque town where traditional home-made jams and papayas are famous.

Elqui Valley - Vicuña

Finally, after an abrupt descent in height, we reached the resort City of La Serena. It has wide beaches of fine sand to enjoy the sun above all in the summer. We suggest visiting the historical museum, La Recova municipal market and also watching sunset opposite Avenida del Mar.

This is how we end this sightseeing tour around the Elqui Valley, a place where nature has highlighted all the charms of the IV Region in Chile.

Welcome Chile - Outings in Vicuña
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Useful Data

How to get there

In order to visit the circuit the Elqui Valley, you should leave the City of Vicuña by taking Route CH 41. To go over the whole circuit, first you have to go towards the pre-Andean highlands and then towards the West, that is to say, the Pacific Ocean.

Opening hours

It is best to start the circuit early. Thus, you can visit the valley without haste and with good day light.

Bear in mind

It is important to wear sun protection, UV sunglasses and carry a camera. Taking pictures of the landscape is recommended.

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