Chile La Serena and Elqui Valley
Just south of the Atacama desert is a sunlit valley where vineyards nestle amidst ancient villages, tawny mountains and glistening night skies.
500km north of Santiago, La Serena is Chile’s second-oldest city and a pleasant university town. Following the discovery of silver nearby in the 19th century the town’s prosperity saw the building of fine churches and mansions. It was given a colonial-style facelift in the 1940s and is now a resort town popular with Chilean holidaymakers. La Serena is a gateway to the Humboldt Reserve, with its offshore nesting colonies of Humboldt penguins, and an important area for whale watching in the summer months (Nov-March).
An hour inland of La Serena is another world completely. The Elqui valley is a gorgeous oasis where vivid carpets of green announce some of Chile's finest vineyards: wine is produced here, but first and foremost the Elqui valley is synonymous with the production of the nation's other favourite tipple, pisco. Quaint towns and villages such as Vicuña, Pisco Elqui and Alcoguaz lend local flavour, and the valley is also rich in pre-Columbian heritage. Because of the dry climate the sky here is particularly clear and there are two astronomical observatories open to visitors.
Where to go when - our guide to La Serena and Elqui Valley
The weather in La Serena and Elqui Valley is wide and varied
The old university town of La Serena and the fertile oasis of the Elqui valley are renowned for their natural beauty and the unrivalled pisco produced in this region. A visit between October - March is the perfect time to see the lush landscapes in their full glory, with January and February receiving the most visitors. During these months there may be some short bursts of rain, but these are infrequent and most days remain clear and dry - perfect conditions for stargazing at the high-tech Mamalluca observatory. From May - August temperatures cool down and the days grow shorter. However, the pisco distilleries- or pisquerias - of the Elqui valley generally remain open for tours and pisco tasting year-round.View our La Serena and Elqui Valley weather guide
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