How to watch the 2019 solar eclipse from Chile’s Elqui Valley

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Image credit: Wikimedia — Cerro Las Tórtolas

A magical valley with wine, hot springs & perfect night skies

Is there a better country in the world to go stargazing than Chile? The world’s foremost astronomers don’t think so, which is why they put man’s most powerful telescopes in the country’s mountains. “There’s a reason the big European and American telescopes are in Chile,” says Dan Clarke at RealWorld Holidays, which is offering special tours of Chile and Argentina for the 2019 eclipse. “The skies are just perfect and Chile is a really easy country to do things in — people are nice, roads and facilities are good, and the scenery is spectacular.”

Click here to find out why Chile 2019 is a stargazers dream eclipse.

Recognised by professional astronomers for the quality and clarity of its observing conditions, Chile also has a lot to offer stargazing travellers. Luckily, the Elqui Valley (about 500km north of the national capital, Santiago de Chile) itself hosts many professional observatories, and here in the southern Atacama Desert you’ll find some of the clearest possible views of the night sky from Planet Earth.

Elqui Valley

This inland region of Chile is a major wine growing area; its arid nature coupled with valleys irrigated by glacial meltwater from the Andes make it near perfect for the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay varieties that grow here. The Chilean national spirit (or is it Peru’s?) called Pisco is also produced in the Elqui Valley, one of the northernmost wine regions in the country.

The bright greens of the vineyards juxtapose with the arid, stark mountains above to create a visual treat. Most tours of this area start with a visit to a Chilean pisco distillery to see the production process and sample the liquor for yourself, and then visit the main town of Vicuña.

Eclipse-chasers should familiarise themselves with Highway 41, which winds its way to the Argentinian border; a turn-off just before Varillar takes you south to the towns of Paihuano, Montegrande, Pisco Elqui, Cochiguaz and Horcon.

Chile’s choke-point: Highway 41

Vicuña (Totality)

When is Totality at Vicuña?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 20 seconds)

Pisco Elqui (Totality)

When is Totality at Pisco Elqui?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 20 seconds)

What is Pisco?
Clear, strong alcohol spirit distilled from Muscatel Rose, Alexandria Muscatel and Austrian Muscatel grapes, pisco is often used in cocktails; the pisco sour (with ice, lime juice and sugar) and the the piscola (with coke) are common mixers. It’s strong, and it’s cheap; an entire bottle of the popular Capel pisco costs about US$3. Distilleries in the Pisco Elqui area that do tours and tasting include Tres Erres, Los Nichos and Pisco Peralta.

Cochiguaz (Totality)

When is Totality at Cochiguaz?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 21 seconds)

Horcon (Totality)

When is Totality at Horcon?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 18 seconds)

Totality from a Turtle Dove

According to ChileHike.com, this expedition up one of South America’s hallowed Six Thousand Metre Peaks (which begins at 2,800m) to an Incan High Sanctuary allows you to see an Inca trail in perfect conditions, various tambos (Inca lodges), hot springs and — of course — the cleanest skies in the world. It’s not rated as technically difficult to ascend, but cold, wind and altitude can be unforgiving. There’s a shelter at 5,150m from where you can either admit that your body cannot cope with the altitude, or attack the summit. Prior acclimatisation is advisable. The prize is a long Totality of 2 minutes 26 seconds. You can find more about the mountain on AllMountain.cl and AndesHandbook.org.

When is Totality at Cerro Las Tórtolas?
July 2, 2019 at 16:38pm (2 minutes 26 seconds)

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Ebook: The Great South American Eclipse Travel Guide for July 2, 2019: How to watch the Total Solar Eclipse in Chile, Argentina or the South Pacific in 2019

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