Pisco Elqui, Elqui Valley, Northern Chile


Pisco Elqui is located halfway along a tributary valley off the main Elqui Valley, about 36km south-west from Vicuña.
The road east from Vicuña leads to the Chilean border, but at a place called Rivavia there is a turn off to the right heading to Paihuano, Montegrande, Pisco Elqui and eventually Alcohuaz villages.

This route is incredibly attractive, and the villages are each small and retain their historical heritage.

The Route to Pisco Elqui

On the way to Pisco Elqui the road will enter the small village of Paihuano.

The scenery en-route to this village comprises narrow valleys with beautifully green valley floors and steep-sided, orange and sand coloured valley walls offering a stark contrast between the greenness of the lush vegetation and a bareness of the natural valley wall.

In the village the streets are lined with old, colonial buildings, an historic church and rural restaurants.

Only 4kms prior to arrival at Pisco Elqui is the Montegrande village. This is where Nobel prize-winning poet Gabriel Mistral is buried, and where there is also a small museum near her place of rest. And, just before entering Montegrande there is a vineyard called “Cavas del Valle” open for tastings.

Close to the village centre, on the left, if coming from Vicuña to Pisco Elqui, there is an art gallery called “Zen”, that offers modern-style paintings displayed within the ambience of tranquil “Hindu” instrumental music and incense-filled air.

Pisco Elqui
Considering that “pisco” is the national liquor drink of Chile (however, is it also claimed as the national drink of Peru too, and has created a bit of a dispute over the years between the governments), and the key ingredient in the “Pisco Sour” drink, the village of Pisco creates a natural curiosity for the visitor to Chile.

Located in the heart of the Elqui Valley in the middle of the scenic landscape of the Andes foothills, this small town is synonymous with leisure, relaxation, and good drinks. But, surprisingly it does not offer, as one would expect, much evidence that this is the “pisco centre of the universe”. There are not lots of bars offering different types of pisco and not lots of distilleries either as one may imagine. Yes, there are some bars, but they follow the normal style of a bar offering varied drinks, including Pisco, but not perhaps lots of types of Pisco. However, there is one, small, artisanal pisco distillery by the main plaza and that is worth a tour.

Although it appears that no one has yet cottoned on to the obvious commercial link between pisco and the village of the same name it is known to be the birthplace of the artisanal piscos in Chile.

Apart from pisco, the village of Pisco Elqui and the surrounding area posses a kind of “magic” not found elsewhere in Chile. It appears to radiate a very positive energy. It is a very relaxed place, lot of sunshine and all “easy going”. For this reason, it is worth visiting and even staying over for a few nights.

Horcón is located at about 8kms further up the road from Pisco Elqui, and at a higher altitude. This is a settlement of a few houses only and where there is a handicraft market, as well as a small cattle rodeo centre where local Chileans will, sat upon their horses, chase a cow around an arena and ram the cow’s body into the side of the “half-moon” shaped wall. Consequently, these areas are called “media lunas” (half-moon). This is the Chilean version of the rodeo found in cowboy country in the USA.

Even further up the narrow valley side and at the end of the road, literally, is the village of Alcohuaz. This is about 20kms from Pisco Elqui. Here there are a few houses and a small astronomical observatory offering night tours.

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