VICUÑA, Chile – Thousands of stargazers from all over the world will soon descend on the Elqui Valley in Chile to catch a glimpse of a rare total solar eclipse.
The region in the middle of the long Latin American country that is Chile provides the ideal conditions for the observation of such spectacular events, and it is expecting to attract over 200,000 visitors on July 2 for the eclipse.
Blanketed by shimmering stars and the lap of the Pacific waves, the Coquimbo region and its Elqui Valley will not only be the epicenter of this natural phenomenon but will also shine as one of Chile’s most attractive tourist spots thanks to the wide selection of gastronomic, cultural and adventure activities it offers.
The quality of its skies are the area’s star attraction, and the region hosts almost 60 percent of the world’s astronomical observation, with La Silla and Cerro Tololo observatories the main hubs of activity.
The Elqui Valley, one of the world’s foremost locations for looking at the universe, has been coming up with new proposals in a bid to offer visitors enjoyable experiences based on their relation to the cosmos, something that captured the attention of indigenous groups native to Latin America, among them the Diaguitas and the Incas.
Vicuña, the 2019 world capital of astronomy, “has other attractions, like being the birthplace of Gabriela Mistral,” the Chilean 1945 winner of the Nobel prize in literature, whose figure inspired the creation of the “mistraliana” tourist route, the city’s mayor Rafael Vera told EFE.
“We call ourselves the heart of the Elqui Valley and the land of pisco. We have between 300 and 320 days of sun a year, a fact that creates a synergy between the ski and the people,” he said.
“Lots of visitors come looking for this experience, getting immersed in nature and rest,” Vera added.
The local industry has stepped up to offer a greater range of activities, from bicycle excursions through the depths of the desert valleys to kitesurfing and windsurfing in the Puclaro reservoir, or a massage at one of several centers that specialize in such treatments.
The region has ample hotel options too, providing guests with natural experiences, as well as select establishments designed specifically to offer visitors the greatest comfort.
The Elqui Valley is home to one of the oldest makers of pisco in Chile, Cooperativa Capel, where visitors can go on tastings and see the process used to manufacture the brandy, unique to Chile and Peru.
The scope of activities on offer to tourists has evolved in recent years as a result of a push on the part of public institutions and entrepreneurs, the regional director of the Production Development Corporation (CORFO), Gregorio Rodriguez, said, adding that the main goal was to give visitors a high-quality experience.
“We want to make the most of the eclipse so that those who visit get to know what the Elqui Valley offers tourists,” he said, adding that the idea was that visitors would “get lost in its smells, flavors and places, in such a way that they want to come back, disseminate the destination’s qualities and put us on the world map.”