ELQUI VALLEY / Just a one and a half hour bus ride from the coastal town of La Serena you will find the open, pristine skies of Elqui Valley. Quiet, relaxing and filled with pisco, Elqui Valley really is a place to stop by for a night or two when heading north in Chile.
We spent just one night at Cosmo Elqui Hostel. Ideally away from the light pollution with a swimming pool and chilled vibes, it was a great place to enjoy a red wine and take in the incredible night sky. During the day, we caught the local bus into the town of Pisco Elqui and wandered around the little stores and pisco distilleries. Alternatively, other visitors hire bikes or engage in organised bike tours throughout the valley. Yet, it’s when the sun goes down that the real beauty emerges. STARS, STARS, STARS! We spent our evening spotting constellations, hunting for shooting stars and capturing snippets of the atmosphere. Starry starry night in full fruition.
SAN PEDRO de ATACAMA / The driest place on earth, did you know that? Nestled between two huge mountain ranges, San Pedro de Atacama holds some of the most beautiful attractions in Chile and after spending lots of time in Chilean Patagonia prior, the landscapes were a real contrast! The town is dusty, small and a hub of tour agencies offering trips to here, there and everywhere. We decided to do a few day trips to different attractions whilst we were in the desert.
For our first afternoon we decided to visit Moon Valley or Valle de Luna. We headed fifteen or so minutes from the town of San Pedro in a small mini bus. It was clear that we had entered a very special stretch of landscape. A landscape so very different from what we had witnessed previously throughout Chile. Circled in terracotta hued sand, the welcome view is exotic, almost Middle Eastern like. As you walk through the valley you hear the sounds of rocks cracking as the salt expands in the sun after cooling off and contracting throughout the night. The colours of the rock formations and the textures are to die for. We admired the view of the valley from different vantage points. Sunset was a spectacle, fairy floss shades surrounded the valley as the moon appeared behind us.
Heading towards the Argentinian border there are a collection of lagoons, all different colours and with different backdrops. We spent our second day driving around the lagoons of the Altiplanic region. Climbing to 4000m, it was a good warm up for the altitudes we would reach on our Salar de Uyuni tour. Candy like colours, swirls of lollipops and flamingoes, pure bliss. We had lunch overlooking Laguna Miscanti – simple tacos with a few Chilean extras. The lakes of the region are managed by an indigenous community located in Socaire, a town we visited for its handmade crafts and local historical church. The grass of the area is one of the preferred foods of the vicuña, the shyest of the llama-like species and we were lucky enough to spot a few throughout the day.
Adding to the adventure, Michael spent the following morning amongst the dessert dunes. Sandboarding in Death Valley! Stunning views as you cut in and out of the dunes, it was an activity he would recommend to fellow travellers.
San Pedro de Atacama was our springboard into Bolivia and the gorgeous salt flats. A definite stop when heading Norte in Chile and the perfect place to see desert plains, lagoons, geizas and so much more.
Much love, Sandy Laura xx