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Chile “Small North” (Just north of Santiago)
Experiencechile.org can offer self-drive itineraries in the area and hotels to suit your budget and preferred style choice as well as private transfers, horse riding and excursions.
 
La Serena and  Elqui Valley
La Serena is 474km north from Santiago by road. It is a popular summer destination for Chileans and Argentineans. It boasts an impressively long sandy beach offering excellent bathing and attractions that include a gambling casino. The city itself is not noted for any charm but it does offer a mock colonial flavour in some quarters. It is a good place to relax and use as either a stopping point to go further north or when coming from the north to the south. It is also a good place from where you can get to Vicuna (66km inland) or explore the other excellent beach towns, such as Tongoy,  30 to 40km further south.

Dolphins
Located about an hour north, by road, of La Serena is a place called Punta de Los Choros where you can hire a simple fishing boat, with captain, and see dolphins, sea lions, penguins and birds that live on and around the nearby islands (Isla Margarita). The sea tour takes about two to three hours but CAN be quite hairy in a choppy sea! Hat and sun cream essential and we recommend that you take your own beverages and sandwiches as well as warm clothing as it can be chilly out at sea. We also suggest that YOU consider the conditions and NOT go if you are slightly concerned about safety.

Astronomical Observatories
Observatory La Silla (Professional Astronomical Observatory)
Located about 150km north-east of La Serena at 2,240m above sea level. Open on the first Saturday of the month 14:30hrs. - 17:30hrs. Advance registration ESSENTIAL.
Tel: SANTIAGO (2) 228 5006 or (2) 698 8757.
 

Vicuna & The Elqui Valley
A fertile valley running inland from La Serena. The vivid green of the valley contrasts starkly against the barren, brown sides of the mountains. In the heart of the Elqui Valley is Vicuna, the birth place of Chile's Nobel Prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral. The most interesting place to visit is the tiny village of Pisco Elqui, located deep in the mountains about an hour south-east of Vicuna. Pisco Elqui is a tiny Andean village offering general peace and a slow way of life and is popular with hippies and travellers. An ideal place to relax, see the stunningly clear night sky and visit the old pisco distillery.
 
Within our itineraries we offer trips to the local astronomical observatory called Mamalluca, run by local astronomical hobbyists.
 
Astronomical Observatories
Observatory El Tololo (Professional Astronomical Observatory)
Located at a high point of 2,200mts, approximately 45km south west of Vicuna is the El Tololo Radio Telescope (i.e. you do not see through an optical lens) Observatory. Visits are permitted, but ONLY with prior notification and with a permit. Open: 09:00hrs - 12.00hrs and 13:00hrs - 16:00hrs. Tel: (51) 225 415

Mamalluca Observatory
This is an astronomical observatory for enthusiasts offering a short introduction lecture about the universe and then viewing through a number of different optical telescopes aimed at specific, key stars and areas in the night sky. It is located on a mountain side close to Vicuna. Reservations must be made in advance at the Mamalluca Observatory office off the main square in Vicuna.
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