5 top things to do in the Elqui valley in Chile

A hidden gem north of Santiago is the Elqui valley. Discover 5 top things to do in this valley, famous for the distillery of Pisco.

About 450 kilometers north of Santagio de Chile, there is a hidden gem that is called the Elqui valley. A valley known for its grapes and the production of Pisco, Chile’s most famous brandy. The climate is a very sunny and the colors and landscapes in the valley are exceptional. We loved it that much that it is definitely one of our top 5 destinations in Chile. You can easily spend a couple of days in this valley. In this blog post, we listed the top things to do in this perfect spot in Chile.

elqui valley landscape desert
The stunning landscape of the desert like Valle de Elqui


Vicuña is the main town in the Elqui valley. The town was the birth place of the famous Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. You can visit the museum that is dedicated to the poet, Museo Gabriel Mistral. The friendly and colorful town has a beautiful main square. At this plaza the Municipalidad is situated, topped with a medieval-style tower, the Torre Bauer. Dotted around the main square, there are plenty of little cafes where you can drink a Pisco Sour or small ice shops with wonderful ice cream.

colorful cafe in vicuna
One of the many colorful restaurants near the main plaza in Vicuna

Also the most important distillery of Pisco, Pisco Capel, is located next to Vicuña. Although this distillery rather has an industrial nature, it is worth a visit.

Visit an artisan market

There are a couple of artisan markets in the Elqui valley that are definitely worth a visit and that make an excellent place for souvenir shopping. Best time to visit these markets are in the afternoon, when all the small shops are open.

artisan market in horcon in elqui valley
Strolling at the artisan market in Horcon
  • Aldea Elquina – Situated a little out of the center of Vicuña. Fifteen artisans have built this wonderful place.
  • Publito de Artesano – This little, colorful artisan market next to the main square of Vicuña has a variety of local made things and souvenirs.
  • Pueblo Artisanal Horcon – Deep in the Elqui valley, there is a small town that is called Horcon. In this town, there is a splendid artisan market. A feast of colors, with dream catchers, woven clothes, jewelry, natural cosmetics, and so on.

Get lunch at a solar restaurant

A couple of kilometers from Vicuña, there is the town Villa Seca. The Elqui valley is a desert like landscape, where wood is scarce but sunshine is not. To make optimal use of the sun, the people of Villa Seca use the sun to cook their food. Also tourists can taste the food prepared by the sun, as there are different solar restaurants situated in Villa Seca. Definitely a must-do. Note that you can only have lunch in these restaurants, as they need sunshine to prepare the food.

solar cooking villa seco elqui valley
Solar cuisine, where the food gets cooked by using the heat of the sun
solar cooking box in villa seca
This box functions as an oven so all the food gets delicious prepared

Take a star gazing tour in the Elqui valley

The valle de Elqui is not only famous for its sunshine, but also for their clear nightly skies. And that makes for excellent star gazing. There are several observatories you can tour in the valley. The most tourist-friendly observatory is Mamalluca. Tours are in English or Spanish and cost 18000 CLP (~24 EUR) per person. Check the lunar calendar before your tour visit. When it is full moon, you can only see 50% of the stars.

Visit the Mistral distillery

There are 9 Pisco distilleries in the Elqui valley, but if you have time to visit only one, visit the Mistral distillery. It is situated in the quaint town Pisco Elqui. You can take a one hour tour that introduces you how Pisco is made. The tour includes two Pisco tastings and an afterwards drink on the enjoyable terrace as well. The tour costs 6000 CLP (~ 8 EUR) and is totally worth it.

pisco cellar mistral distillery elqui
Where Pisco acquires its taste
entrance mistral distillery
The entrance of the Mistral distillery and the restaurant
distillery pisco mistral elqui
Where Pisco is born!

As you can see, plenty of things to do in the Elqui valley. If you have any comments or want to add other activities in the Elqui valley, do not hesitate to leave a comment below.

Looking for other things to do in Chile? Check out the blogpost “why Lonely planet choose Chile as number 1 destination in 2018“.