The Elqui Valley, located in the Elqui Province in the Coquimbo region of central Chile, is the magnetic center of the planet, the place where the earth is the most energetically charged. The Elqui Valley contains towns such as Vicuna, which is the former home of a Chilean Nobel Prize winner and home to an observatory perfect for stargazing. The Elqui Valley is also home to Pisco Elqui, where visitors can tour old pisco distilleries. This peaceful region is a nice break from more heavily touristed areas and can help balance out some Chile vacations for travelers who are looking to avoid the crowds.
One town in Valle de Elqui worth a visit is Vicuna. Vicuna was the birthplace of Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean poet who lived from 1889 to 1957, and who won the Noble Prize in Literature for her poetry in 1945. Mistral became a teacher in Vicuna as a teenager, and she went on to teach around South America and Western Europe. In Vicuna there is both a monument and museum that honor Mistral; the museum is open daily.
Nine kilometers northeast of Vicuna you can find the Mamalluca Municipal Observatory. You'll need to make a reservation to visit the observatory, but once you're in, you'll be able to stargaze to your heart's content from their telescopes, enjoying great views of the Milky Way, Jupiter, Saturn, and more. The Valle de Elqui in Chile is a prime location for sky searching, with little wind, rain, or city lights.
Another destination in the Valle de Elqui in Chile is the town of Pisco Elqui, located about 107 miles east of La Serena. Pisco Elqui was originally called La Greda, then La Union, then, in the 1930s, it was renamed Pisco Elqui in an attempt to discount Peru's claims regarding the alcoholic drink pisco.
In Pisco Elqui are numerous historic and modernized pisco distillery plants, which offer guided tours. Solar de Pisco Tres Erres is the region's oldest pisco distillery; today it is modernized and offers daily guided tours followed up by a tasting. In addition to Tres Erres, there are Los Nichos, Pisco Peralta, and Capel distilleries in Valle de Elqui, and Elqui Valley tours of distilleries are easy to find.
Pisco Elqui is also home to several hotels and restaurants, and a town square where locals sell crafts and homemade marmalade and jam made from local fruits and herbs. With its old distilleries, locally made crafts and foods, and quaint town square, Pisco Elqui is a great attraction to add to your Chile vacation itinerary and a lovely place to stay if you're planning to spend time in the valley.
Traveling to the small towns of the Valle de Elqui is a great for a short detour from La Serena. Travel to Pisco is relatively straightforward, and the small villages are reachable by rental car and bus, as several bus companies travel from La Serena through the valley.
Whether you want to visit Pisco Elqui to take a distillery tour and try a Pisco Sour, stop in Vicuna to visit the birthplace of Gabriela Mistral, or spend time at the Mamalluca Observatory for breathtaking stargazing, a trip to the Valle de Elqui in Chile is sure to be an exceptional part of your trip to Chile, and it's well worth adding to any list of things to do on vacation.