Elqui Valley is a majestic place. You can visit it with a tour or stay for more days to walk or meet the local people and taste the fine local wine.
I chose the tour as a time-saving option. The guide was a knowledgeable and tender schoolteacher who explained everything to us as if we were his students.. We first stopped in a shady forest near Serena where he gave us a brief summary of what we were about to see and the chance to meet one another. Then he took us to a papaya and chirimoya plantation. We learnt a lot about these plants and tasted them and bought some of the fruit sweet products. We walked on the big dam of the valley, Puclaro Dam, where there were locals selling their hand made products. Then we were brought to Capel Pisco distillery, where after a detailed guided tour in the premises we had the chance to buy some pisco drinks after having tasted...several types of them ! Happier and more smiling we went on to Vicuña for lunch and a short walk around the city. I persuaded Jorge, the guide, to let me visit the museum of Gabriela Mistral, which was off schedule. Finally he took me there himself, where many personal things and works of the great poetess and philanthropist are exhibited as well as her Nobel Prize. Finally we reached Pisco Elqui and enjoyed the views. Going back we stopped at Monte Grande, Mistral's favourite place with a statue of her in the center and her grave located on a beautiful hill.
for more on Gabriela Mistral and Equi Valley click Gabriela Mistral-Vicuña
for more photos click on my travelogue Elqui Valley more info here Elqui Valley *
* tip 6
The construction of this dam started in 1997 and now it's a "must see" for the people who goes to the Elqui Valley.
A good stop to walk along the dam and take a few pics. It's really quiet and windy, but nice, I like it.
There's no fee to enter here.
This Obsevatory was built in 1995 as a need to offer to the general public the chance to get a guided tour to observe the stars.
As you might know, the North of Chile is worldwide known as the best place in the Southern Hemisphere for astronomic observations, because of it's clear and blue skies.
Important Observatories like Gemini, La Silla and Tololo which are also placed in this region, are only destined to professionals. Because of the high cost of observation and maintenance, it's not open to general public. Although, you can ask for a guided tour with a month in advance, just to take a look to the facilities (not for observation).
Mamalluca is the best choice for local people and tourists who'd like to have a night of observation in the area.
It's always good to call the same day to ask for the weather forecast just in case.
Adults: US$5.00 p/p
Children (5 - 12 years old): US$2.00 p/p
*you have to pay in the office first, located in the town of Vicuna, and then follow the route to the Observatory (20 km away).
There are tours in Spansih and English.
*Photo: taken from www.circuloastronomico.cl*
CAPEL is the major Pisco Company in Chile. It was born in 1934.
Alto del Carmen, Artesanos del Cochiguaz and Valle del Limari brands belong to Capel, as well as Pisco Capel, it's emblematic brand.
The Capel Plant, located in Vicuna, offers guided tours in Spanish and English, every 30 minutes. Here you can know more about the Pisco elaboration processes, from the grapes selection till the storing in American Oak barrels.
After the tour you can taste different types of Pisco....cheers! :o)
March - December (Low Season)
Monday to Friday: 09:30 - 12:30
14:30 - 18:00
Saturdays, Sundays and Holydays: 09:30 - 12:30
January - February (High Season)
Monday to Sunday: 09:30 - 18:00
Closed during: January 1st, May 1st, September 20th, November 8th and December 25th.
Surrounded by well-restored historic building this square is one more of the typical chilean Chilean squares with tall trees, people lingering and children playing. The Cathedral, The Courthouse, the church of Santo Domingo and the Historical museum of Gabriel Gonzales Videla are all around. Videla is a former President who has been very hostile towards Pablo Neruda. He drove him out of the Senate and into exile.
There are nice shops and restaurants in the region..
Here on the weekends there is one more happy note ! The Municipal Band plays popular traditional and modern music for the people gathered.
Click on photo for more photos
Don't know if this is a really "must see activity", but some people might be interested too.
This is the Flea Market in La Serena, there are lot of stuff.........but I have only found junk ha ha ha.
Anyway, you'll lose nothing if you just take a look here.
It's open on Saturdays, from 10am to 2pm.
This is one of the most touristic spots of La Serena. Kilometers of beaches!!!!.
There are many good places (pubs and restaurants) along the beach.
I suggest Don Oskar's restaurant (fish and seafood) and Tololo's Beach Pub Restaurant.
Close to the "Caleta de pescadores" (south end of the Avenida del Mar) there are some very good and cheap restaurants like "Doña Elbita", "La Lobera" and others.
Take your time to have a glass of good Chilean wine and wait for an amazing sunset.........
It takes 35 to 40 minutes to get to the first town - called Vicuña - of this Valley (from La Serena).
There are lots of small towns along the way up, Monte Grande and Pisco Elqui are some of those.
It's always warm (hot in Summer) here and the temperatures use to go down at night.
There are many Hostals, Cabins and Campings where you can stay for a few bucks.
Don't miss to visit the place where the "Pisco" is made (a special licquor made of grapes) and taste the well known "Pisco Sour", a typical drink.
If you can, try to spend at least one night here..........watching the stars under this wonderful clear sky is just fascinating!!!!!!!!!.
If you want more information just let me know ;o)
This Museum was founded in April of 1943 by it's Director, Mr. Francisco L. Cornely.
Here you'll find archeological remains from the different Indigenous groups who lived in the fourth region area. Some of these groups were Diaguitas and El Molle.
These indigenous groups are well known because of their pottery decorated with drawings of great precision. It's characteristic decoration colors were black, red and white.
This Museum has the most complete Archeological library of Chile.
It also has more than 25.000 archeological pieces which covers all the regional prehistoric cultures.
Here you'll see some of the oldest mommies that have been found in Chile so far.
It's open from Tuesday to Friday from 9am-1pm / 4pm-7pm.
The enter fee is less than a US Dollar.
140 km to the North of La Serena there's another place of interest called Punta de Choros, from where you can take a tour to the Damas Island (a National Reserve).
Bottle nose dolphins, Humboldt pinguins, sea lions, sea gulls and other species live in there.
It's wonderful to see dozens of dolphins jumping around the boat on the way to the island.......you can also swim with them if you want to!.
This is a small (each year is getting smaller) National Park located 140km to the SW of La serena.
The vegetation here grows thanks to the permanent coastal clouds that come from the beachand rain at a certain altitude the majority of the year.
The entrance is regulated by CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal).
The best months for visiting are from October to early June.
Besides vegetation at Fray Jorge, you can also see some foxs walking around.
They can get very close to you if you have the kindness of giving them a piece of bread to eat.
The Enchanted Valley (Valle del Encanto)
is also regulated by CONAF.
This was an old indigenous establishment where you can still find pictographies, petroglyphs and mortar stones.
This Archaeologic place was discovered in 1946 and was declared National Historic Monument in 1973.
It's located 24 km to the SE of Ovalle.
This town is located 60 km from La Serena.
It's mostly a mining and religious town.
There are 3 important mines there : DAYTON (gold and copper) which is already closed, MINA CARMEN (copper), and Minera Andacollo.
There are also 2 Historical Monuments:
Iglesia Parroquial of Andacollo and
Iglesia Grande of Andacollo.
This is the Vineyard Casa Tamaya. Tamaya in Diaguitas language (the indians who lived in the Limari area) means "High place from where you can watch it all".
This Vineyard is located 2 hours to the SE of La Serena, on the road to Ovalle.
Casa Tamaya has 220 hectares from which 180 are planted and in production.
This Vineyard started in 1997 and it's main stubs are: Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc (white grapes); Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmènére, Syrah and Sangiovese (red grapes).
During 2001 they started the construction of the storeroom (1.470.000 liters).
Guanaqueros is a fisherman's town located 45 minutes to the South of La Serena.
It's beach is very nice during the year and during summer it can be very crowded.
There are some good popular restaurants here, like the one called "El Pequeño", where you can get a wide variety of fish and seafood.
There are lots of camping sites and cabins where you can stay.