Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Most Beautiful Valley

Valle del Elqui is an enchanting place!  Lush, green, rolling fields cover the bottom of it while multi-colored dry rock face towers above.  Vineyards and fields of citrus are spotted by small villages, nestled in the rolling hills.  It gets 300 days of sun per year, and the three days I spent there couldn't have been more clear and bright!

I went for Semana Santa weekend with a bunch of my housemates (French and Spanish).  After an over-night bus ride, we got to the town of Vicuña and took a day hike up to a great look-out point.  We could see the entire valley!  We decided to rough it and go camping, and where we camped had bountiful grape vines, peach trees, apple trees, and avocado trees, all for the picking!

The valley is one of the best places in the region (in the world?) to stargaze.  On a midnight observatory tour we saw many constellations with the naked eye, as well as star clusters, saturn, and the moon through a telescope!  At night the skies seem expansive and the hills are vibrant with shadowy color from the light of the moon.  We went on a midnight stroll the next night, and my shadow was perhaps stronger than it is during most days.

Photo taken through the telescope at the Mamalluca Observatory

The Elqui Valley is also known for its pisco.  Pisco is a brandy distilled from grapes!  Many of your have probably enjoyed a pisco sour or two, just like me.  Yet I didn't know until Friday that Pisco is a grape-based liquor.  The Valley is one of 5 valleys that produce pisco - in fact there is a law that states that to be marketed as pisco, the grapes have to be grown in this region.  There are several very old distilleries that have been making it since the Spanish arrived with grapes!

The region is known for Gabriela Mistral, famous Chilean poet and first Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

 Amazing street art, all over Chile


Aging pisco in the old distillery

Pisco tasting

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