Elqui River Valley is nicknamed “Enchantment Valley”. After a recent visit, that name seems appropriate. Located in the northern Coquimbo Region, the area forms Chile’s narrowest part – where the Andes Mountains runs closest to the Pacific Ocean.
Pisco Elqui and Extraterrestrial Phenomena
Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and the wine-growing Napa and Willamette Valleys of California and Oregon, the uniqueness of Elqui Valley was a surprise. It truly has its own peaceful yet mystical and powerful presence. The vibrations make you want to stay, especially in the tiny village of Pisco Elqui.
Some say “magic becomes reality” in the Elqui Valley, not only because of the natural beauty, moderate weather, and clear skies but also “extraterrestrial and esoteric phenomena”.
The average annual temperature for Pisco Elqui is 70 degrees, and annual rainfall is about 1.5 inches. It’s dry for 349 days a year with an average humidity of 60 percent and an UV-index of 5. Because Elqui Valley has the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere, international organizations built astronomical observatories on Pachón Hills and Tololo.
During our tour, we visited a papaya plantation, ABA Pisquera, Puclaro Dam on Elqui River, the city of Vicuña, and several small villages, including Montegrande, Pisco Elqui, and Paihuano. Climate in the Elqui Valley is sunny 300 days a year, which makes it a great location to recover from illness and stress. Our group of fifteen enjoyed a day of touring and a delicious lunch. I spent time talking with an Indian couple involved in Chile’s mining industry and an interesting, fun gay couple. All were from Santiago.
Chile is the astronomy capital of the world and home to 42 percent of the world’s astronomy infrastructure of telescopes.
Pisco, it’s a brandy produced in wine making regions of Peru and Chile. Pisco production is an art and involves distilling grape wine into a high-proof spirit. The Chilean government regulates the process ensuring high-quality Pisco production. Chileans consume most of the Pisco they produce. Major crops in the Elqui Valley include grapes, raisins, papaya, mandarin, and avocado.
Spanish settlers developed Pisco in the 16th century as an alternative to brandy. Surrounded by vineyards and the Andes, grapes cultivated in the Elqui Valley produce the best Pisco. The small village of Pisco Elqui is about 4,300 ft. above sea level and known for its craft Pisco distilleries. The village is sought out by many and is very special. So far, the village’s beautiful natural surroundings remain relatively unchanged by tourism.
Vicuña and Gabriela Mistral
The main city in Elqui Valley is Vicuña, birthplace of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. Mistral was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945 and the National Prize for Literature in 1951.
Elqui Valley attractions include the Gabriela Mistral Museum, Cavas del Valle boutique vineyard, Mamalluca Observatory, and Cerro Tololo Observatory. You must book observatory visits far in advance, so it was a disappointment not being able to view the sky through high-powered, deep-space-viewing telescopes.
Considered a “power pole,” Elqui Valley is associated with the UFO phenomena.
Didn’t know that Chile is the astronomy capital of the world and home to 42 percent of the world’s astronomy infrastructure of telescopes. By 2018, it’s estimated to contain 70 percent of global telescopic infrastructure.
“A global scientific endeavor called Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) is considered a revolutionary instrument in its scientific concept, engineering design, and organization. It’s composed of sixty-six high-precision antennas working together at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, with a possible extension in the future.”
Our guide told us Bill Gates is involved in developing a new observatory – National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) – and super astronomical project in the Elqui Valley. Project completion is scheduled between 2015 and 2016. The day in Elqui Valley was fascinating!