Elqui Valley, Chile - Solar Eclipse - ESO via Flickr

7 Reasons to Visit Chile’s Elqui Valley

In Eclipse Guide, Space on Earth by Valerie Stimac

Have you heard of Chile’s Elqui Valley?

Chile is considered one of the top astronomical observation destinations in the world. In addition to San Pedro de Atacama high in the Andes, the Elqui Valley north of Santiago offers its own wealth of opportunities for astrotourists. This zone of the Coquimbo Region plays host to both private research observatories and public observatories catering to visitors.

Additionally, the Elqui Valley is currently in the crosshairs of every umbraphile planning to try and see the 2019 total solar eclipse. Totality will pass over the Elqui Vally on July 2nd and the region is expecting to receive up to half a million visitors.

Between a rising interest in space tourism and astrotourism and the chance to experience an eclipse at one of the great dark sky locations in the world, it’s a great time to plan a trip to the Elqui Valley. Not convinced? Here are seven reasons to visit the Elqui Valley – according to the travel experts!

Reason #1: Travel + Leisure named the Elqui Valley among The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2019

Elqui Valley, Chile - Javier Vieras via FlickrPhoto credit: Javier Vieras via Flickr

Each year, Travel + Leisure staff get together to come up with the list of places they recommend for the coming year. In the 2019 list, they get right to the point in explaining why the Elqui Valley is worthwhile for space enthusiasts:

Eclipse chasers should book a trip to Chile’s Elqui Valley for the total solar eclipse this July 2. The remote region, whose lack of artificial light earned it a designation as the world’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary, is home to over a dozen observatories, making it a magnet for both scientists and stargazers.

They also highlight the fact that there’s more to the Elqui Valley than a one-day event in July:

The lush valley is also hailed for its Andes-flanked nature trails, world-class wines, and distilleries where travelers can sample the country’s celebrated national spirit, pisco.

Read T+L’s full description of what makes the Elqui such a great destination this year.

Reason #2: The New York Times put Elqui Valley on their 52 Places List for 2019

The New York Times 52 Places list is one of the most anticipated recommend destination lists each year. In addition to the Elqui Valley, Huntsville (aka home of Space Camp) also made the list in 2019. But staying focused on the Elqui Valley here’s what they had to say:

The Elqui Valley in Chile attracts a diverse group of wine and pisco aficionados, star gazers and nature lovers.

Consider yourself one of those? Perfect. Here’s what you can do during your trip in addition to (or instead of) the solar eclipse:

When the sun is up, travelers can hike through vineyards or stroll through the streets of Vicuña, the largest city. It is a center of pisco (brandy made in Chile and Peru) production, and also the birthplace of the poet Gabriela Mistral, winner of the 1945 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Read the New York Times’ full writeup which explains why the Elqui Valley made travel’s most prestigious annual list.

Reason #3: Lonely Planet said the Elqui Valley is one of the Best in Travel Regions for 2019

Elqui Valley, Chile - sergejf via FlickrPhoto credit: sergejf via Flickr

Personally, we love Lonely Planet and look forward to their Best in Travel List which is published every October. In their Top Regions section this year, the Elqui Valley made the list at #10. It’s not hard to see why:

Its charms are many – 320 days of sunshine, birthplace of a Nobel Prize–winning poet and epicentre of Chile’s pisco production – the valley has remained largely hidden from the world’s gaze.

Making this many ‘must travel’ lists obviously means the Elqui Valley is now on the map – and astrotourism is the number one attraction.

Word is slowly getting out about this remarkable region and astrotourists are coming in increasing numbers to view its famously clear skies, particularly in 2019 when a total solar eclipse will pass directly overhead.

Read the entire explanation for why Lonely Planet included the Elqui Valley in their Best in Travel series.

Reason #4: AFAR recommended the Elqui Valley as Where to Go in Summer 2019

For their Where to Go list, AFAR writer Sarah Feldberg shared her insights on what makes the Elqui Valley so special. It probably won’t surprise you that it has to do with the night sky.

More than a dozen observatories stand along the valley’s 65-mile Ruta de las Estrellas, or Route of Stars, which begins in the coastal town of La Serena and ends in the Andean village of Alcohuáz.

Feldberg also gives a great tip if you do plan to travel to Chile for the solar eclipse:

An alternative [to experincing Totality]: Time your visit for the days following totality, when crowds are expected to disperse and the new moon allows skies to remain dark enough to see the Milky Way.

Read all the details AFAR included about traveling to the Elqui Valley in the Where to Go in 2019 series.

Reason #5: The Los Angeles Times dubbed the Elqui Valley as One of the Top 10 Places to Visit in 2019

Elqui Valley, Chile - Antífama via FlickrPhoto credit: Antífama via Flickr

Chris Reynolds, travel writer for the L.A. Times, wrote this year’s list of destinations they recommend for the year. In addition to oenophiles and astrotourists, he mentions the appeal the Elqui Valley has for other groups of visitors.

Elqui Valley, about 400 miles north of Santiago, is for wine-tasting and star-gazing, but mystics and hippies have been congregating here for years.

In the end though, he focuses on what makes it so worth visiting this year:

The region has a dozen or more observatories, some attached to hotels such as Elqui Domos, each with programs for visitors. They’ll be hopping July 2, when the area will be in the path of totality for a solar eclipse.

Read the Los Angeles Times full explanation of why the Elqui Valley makes the list.

Reason #6: Thrillist declared the Elqui Valley among the 19 Best Places for a Big Trip in 2019

Elqui Valley, Chile - Matías Guerrero via FlickrPhoto credit: Matías Guerrero via Flickr

Thrillist opens with an unforgettable hook for the inimitable Anthony Bourdain: “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.” There are few experiences which better give you the feeling of peering into the unknown like experiencing totality. Where better to experience it than the Elqui Valley:

Whatever you’ve got planned on July 2, 2019 (nothing, right?) cancel it and get yourself to Chile’s Elqui Valley. “The Great Southern American Eclipse” is coming to town (er, to valley).

And as a final reminder, here’s what else the area has to offer:

Chile, with over 40% of the world’s observatories, is the undisputed capital of astrotourism. As a bonus, it’s also a major winegrowing region, with picturesque vineyards and pisco distilleries for eclipse pre-gaming and post-viewing awe.

Read the full suggestions for traveling to the Elqui Valley from Thrillist.

Okay, you’ve heard from the pros. Now it’s time to start planning your trip if you want to experience the solar eclipse in person! In case you need a bit more convincing, here’s one last reason…

Reason #7: STG Founder Valerie is in the Elqui Valley!

Follow her on Instagram each day to see Elqui Valley and provide you with on-the-ground tips on where and how to see the solar eclipse in a few months. Check out her Instagram stories to see what she’s sharing each day; look for the Elqui Valley highlight on her profile if you miss each day.

Featured photo credit: ESO via Flickr

About the Author
Valerie Stimac

Valerie Stimac

Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She decided to start the site after realizing how many friends and family had never seen the Milky Way, and that space tourism was going to unlock the next great travel destination: space!