With its dreamy landscapes, unique food and one of the clearest skies in the world, Valle del Elqui is an absolute must see when visiting Chile.
This hidden gem of the north is known for the production of Pisco (the national drink), stargazing, and we soon found out solar cooking.
Pisco tasting in Valle del Elqui
Our first stop was La Serena, a 7h bus trip from Valparaiso where we spent the night and the place where we rented a car to drive to Valle del Elqui, only 1h away. The ride was smooth and it slowly gave us a taste of what we were about to see: vineyards surrounded by cactus covered hills, charming villages, and clear skies.
We arrived at our accommodation where we were welcomed by a lovely Belgian/Chilean couple who served us beer and gave us plenty of information and recommendations to fill the 2 days we had planned for our stay.
Since we arrived at lunch time, the first thing we tried was a solar restaurant. Yep, you read well, they cook in the sun. The food was not exceptional, but the process is pretty cool so we were happy to try it.
Fueled with (solar cooked food) energy, we were ready to explore the area, but before we needed a drink. Not just any type of drink but THE drink: Pisco. We were recommended a pisqueria called Aba not far from the biggest town in the area: Vicuña. The visit included a free tour followed by a tasting. We enjoyed both.
There are different types of Pisco, including one with mango which has a smaller alcohol concentration, 12% compared to the “normal” Pisco at 40%. I had a taste of the 40% and started giggling immediately :).
We started our first full day in Valle del Elqui with an awesome breakfast served by our hosts which included one of the culinary highlights of the trip: cactus fruit jam. It is epic! They served it with one of their apple and cinnamon teas and it was a dream.
After breakfast to went off to explore the 3 nearby villages: Montegrande, Pisco Elqui, and Horcón.
Montegrande is the birthplace of poet Gabriela Mistral, Nobel prize winner, and national pride. We spent a short period of time here, just walking a bit, looking at the local artisanal products, taking some pictures and getting sunburned. I forgot to mention that it gets extremely hot here. At Christmas, they had 45 degrees.
We went back to the car for some much-needed air conditioning and drove off for our next stop: Pisco Elqui.
We arrived just in time for lunch and stopped by a place called Alma which served local cuisine and had some vegetarian options. We took the meal of the day, tortilla with a salad topped with sesame seeds. Super good, as Bertrand would say!
After lunch, we wandered around the small center where there is a church with a small and charming park just in front of it. There are also a few stalls with artisanal products, although the best place to see handmade goodies is in Horcón, our next stop.
The major appeal of this village is the artisanal fair. It’s super cute and you can find a variety of cosmetics, some clothing, chocolates etc. We visited during the week and it was almost empty, which we loved.
There is a picnic area just by the river or if you want to try the local food, there is a restaurant in the little square. We were still full from lunch but could not say no to an ice cream.
After cooling down a bit by the river we went back. The heat made us quite tired and we had things to prepare for our departure the next day to San Pedro de Atacama.
How to get there: We took a bus from Valparaiso to La Serena and from there we rented a car. We used a Brazilian Company called Localiza and were happy both with their prices and services.
Don’t miss the artisanal fair in Horcón!
Also not to be missed is the next post about a special place in Chile: Atacama Desert…