Whales & pisco

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La Serena 

This town in northern Chile looks like a small Miami beach – with long white sand beaches and plenty of sun. The old town has a cute little plaza, when we were there there was even an artisanal market with food and juice booths. 

We used La Serena as a base to visit nearby attractions. Our first led us to the Elqui Valley. 

Valle de Elqui

Easily reachable by local transportation it just takes 2.5 hours to reach Pisco Elqui at the end of the valley. The region is famous for Pisco, wine and astronomy. The small village of Pisco Elqui is the perfect place to relax for a couple of days with cabañas featuring pool and cute charming restaurants. One day we visited the Mistral Pisco Destilería, named after the famous Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral. You can take a 30mins tour through vineyard, cellar and production followed by a Pisco tasting in the barrel room and a fresh Pisco sour at the terrace. While there are big observatories in Vicuña, you can find several small ones in the valley. We went with one of the small ones and could gaze at the stars and learn about the constellations during a whole evening guided by a very knowledgable local.

Whale watching

While the most popular attraction of the region is Isla Damas with penguins and sea lions we heard about the possibility to do whale watching closeby. Instead of taking one of the overpriced and inflexible agencies we just rented a car and drove the 2.5 hours to Chañaral de Aceituno. Half of the way was dirt road along the sea which made the ride even more fun. Upon arrival we checked in into our cabaña right at the beach and were amazed by the unspoiled beauty of the place. Chañaral is a fishing village located on a small peninsula with rocky cliffs and beaches. The waves clash against the rocks day and night and the sunset was absolutely stunning. In the morning we strolled down to the port where various operators offer 3 hours whalewatching tours for about 10.000CLP(~15EUR).

We boarded our small nutshell (fishing boat) together with 10 other passengers, a skipper and our guide. Like in previous whalewatching experiences we tried hard to spot some movement in the sea. Little did we know that just a few minutes later we would be surrounded by about 15 fin whales. It was absolutely magical to observe these giant creatures from such a close distance. We then took a tour around the island spotting some sea lions and penguins. After an unsuccessful hunt for a blue whale (apparently you sight them in 70% of all tours) we headed back to the port. 

Tips:

  • Cabañas El Tesoro Pisco Elqui – nice rooms and cabins with access to beautiful swimming pool. Restaurant prepares nice pasta, burgers and breakfasts 
  • Mistral Destilería – interesting tour followed by good tasting. Good prices at their local shop. Don’t eat at the restaurant.
  • Eco Turismo – astronomy tour 
  • Cabañas el Español in Chañaral. Amazing seaside cabañas with kitchen, terrace and view.
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