Vicuña, Elqui Valley, Southern Atacama, Chile


Vicuña is known for having over 300 days of sunshine each year, but due to its altitude of 620m above sea level (similar to Santiago), and therefore low humidity, it is also not overly hot which makes its climate almost perfect. The town has the reputation as being the “capital of astronomy” along with a cultural history connecting it to the Chilean, Nobel Prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral who was born here.

The style of the Town is “very Chilean” in so much that it was not created for tourists and not founded by European settlers. To this end, it maintains an authentic ambience with many adobe-constructed buildings and a certain rusticity, which is not typically found elsewhere in Chile. In short, it is a “genuine” Chilean town.
Officially the town was founded in 1821 and the current population is around 25,000 people.

The notable, historic constructions and places of interest are the Church and Bauer Tower by the plaza, along with the History Museum, the Gabriela Mistral Museum of literature and works, and the Madariaga House and Museum.

Just outside of the actual town, the Hill of the Virgin Mary is a great place to walk up and get a panoramic view over all of Vicuña.

Nearby Places of Interest

Vicuña is also an excellent base from which to venture out and explore the area where there are Pisco distilling plants and wineries as well as small, Andean villages. One such village is called Pisco Elqui, but please refer to the Pisco Elqui page.

The Aba Pisco Distillery
A small, family owned Pisco distillery where the grapes are hand picked and fermented at low temperatures and then distilled into copper-made tanks. The tour here will include a walk through the vineyard, and presentation of the facilities of the pisco production process followed by a tasting. The vineyard is located in the heart of the Elqui Valley.

Elqui Wines Vineyard
Another small vineyard specialising in the production of varietal wines Pino Noir and Malbec, that only accepts private tours with a prior reservation. The guide will explain about the wine-making process.

Mamalluca Observatory
Due to the dryness of the air and overwhelming number of nights without clouds, Vicuña is one of the ideal locations from which to view the stars. For this reason, there are a number of professional astronomical observatories in the Elqui Valley, however, at Vicuña there is also one where visitors can look through a telescope and see with their own eyes the planets in the solar system, as well as far away galaxies and exploding stars, all accompanied by an educated explanation of what is what, usually offered in different languages.

To participate in one of these “shows” you need to pre-book at the Mamalluca office located one block off the plaza near the Church Tower in central Vicuña. Groups are configured into the language the tour leader will speak in. Visits to Mamalluca are late at night and end around midnight, or later. They are very popular therefore it is best to get to the office early, unless ExperienceChile.Org has already arranged for tickets within your itinerary.

Share this...