The Elqui Valley is a yet to be discovered paradise in Northern Chile. We absolutely loved it here, but for one reason or another most travellers will bypass the region. If you enjoy a quiet drink or two, scenic bike rides, mouth-watering fresh produce or stargazing at an unbelievably bright night sky, then you need to make sure, you’re not one to miss the Elqui Valley.
On our way North through the Country, we had just spent a few weeks surfing the waves off Chile’s desolate coast a few hours North of Santiago. Wanting to make our way towards Northern Argentina and the world-famous wine regions there we decided to make the slight detour to Chile’s pisco capital, Pisco Elqui and the Elqui Valley. Coming from the coast, through the vast emptiness it was hard to imagine the little haven of fertile gardens and fresh produce awaiting us.
highlights of the Elqui valley Pisco
There’s a whole range of different ways you can explore the Elqui Valley. We had a car and could have easily driven ourselves around or joined a tour for the day. But, we chose to hire some bikes and peddle our way between pisco tastings and couldn’t have had a more delightful day.
We recommend talking to the guys at Elki Magic in Vicuna for bike hire along with any other information that you may need in the area. After speaking with them, we decided on a relatively flat 18 km loop from Vicuna. Making our way from small independent Pisqueria’s to some of the largest commercial producers in Chile. Along with a few more stops for some fantastic craft beer and food along the way.
We started the day early riding out of Vicuna at 9am. Our first destination was Pisquera ABA. However, we had barely made it 5 minutes down the road before discovering some deliciously sweet fresh figs growing wild along the road.
Pisquera aba - Elqui Valley.
Pisquera ABA is a boutique family-owned company that has been hand producing Pisco in the Elqui Valley since the 1920’s. We unfortunately arrived too late to join the English tour (they only have one or two a day) but could wait 30 minutes and join the next Spanish one. We waited happily in their beautiful cactus courtyard with one of their delicious pisco cocktails. The tours are free and informative.
At the end of the tour we were given a few small samplings of their flavoured piscos and the opportunity, without any pressure, to purchase some.
Elqui valley - cactus juice
Our next stop was Oasis Diaguita. A fantastic little haven where you can relax in one of their hammocks. Everything here is made with fresh produce from the property. They offer a couple of really unique fruit juices that are native to the area. As strange as it sounds, I really liked the Tuna (cactus flower) fruit juice.
We eventually managed to get back on the bikes and leave this little paradise. We headed to Guayacan Brewery for a tour, some beer sampling and lunch next. They served up some hearty burgers and fries, that helped to sober us up after a very impressive tasting paddle of beers.
more food and more pisco in the Elqui Valley.
As we continued on with our pisco tasting tour, we made a slight detour from the ‘road’ to head up to the Villaseca Solar Cookers. A quirky little place that serves up food cooked entirely by the sun.
Our final stop before returning to Vicuna was the Capel Pisquera. After riding up the only significant hill of the day it was thankfully all downhill until the pisquera. Capel are one of the larger commercial producers in Chile. It was fascinating to see the contrast between the two very different Pisquera’s. Although we have to admit, we much preferred the smaller boutique ABA pisquera.
From Capel the road continued downhill and back into Vicuna. The circuit sees very little vehicle traffic making it wonderful to ride along. There are also more places along the route than those mentioned here. You never have to ride far before there’s an opportunity for a rest or some sampling of the Elqui Valley delights.
day two in vicuna - Elqui Valley.
On our second day in the Elqui Valley we opted to rest by the pool and nurse our sore legs (and heads). Had we wanted to continue sightseeing there are more options available for self-guided pisco tours by bike.
While in the Elqui Valley, we highly recommend spending the night in the area and not rushing onto your next destination. The Elqui Valley is one of the best places in the world for star gazing. Thanks to the clear, dry climate they have around 300 sunny days and clear nights a year.
We were just blown away by the beauty of the night sky. There are many fascinating astronomy tours in the area as well.