July’s total solar eclipse earns region in Path of Totality place on annual ‘Best in Travel’ list
Eclipse-chasers will go anywhere to see a total solar eclipse, but it helps when that place just happens to be one of the world’s most alluring destinations. Chile’s Elqui Valley, a favored observation site for the total solar eclipse on 2 July 2019, has just been selected by Lonely Planet for its annual Best in Travel 2019 guide to destinations, trends, journeys, and experiences to have in the year ahead.
Dark skies trend
Although Italy’s Piedmont, the USA’s Catskills, and Northern Peru took gold, silver and bronze positions in Lonely Planet’s ‘best regions’ for 2019, Chile’s Elqui Valley also made the top ten. “The total solar eclipse is going to pass overhead here, but we also feel that dark skies are a big trend in travel, and the Elqui Valley is a place that certainly fits into that,” said Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s Editorial Director, to WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com. “This area of Northern Chile is an incredible place for stargazing, but in the book, we also talk about other things which can be found here – vine-covered hillsides and lovely unspoiled villages,” said Hall. “It’s a very sunny place with 320 days of clear skies and yet it’s not a place that people have traveled to in large numbers.”
That, of course, is about to change, with an influx of eclipse-chasers expected next July. “We choose places for Best In Travel that are topical, places that people should think about going to in a particular year, and something like a total eclipse is perfect for that,” said Hall. “It’s not necessarily a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it is something that a lot of people will only experience only once.”
Hidden from view
Inside the Best In Travel 2019 book, Lonely Planet author Regis St Louis is enthusiastic about the Elqui Valley. “Mountain rivers wind their way through vine-covered hillsides, chiseled peaks and serene villages slumbering beneath star-filled night skies,” he writes. “The valley has remained largely hidden from the world’s gaze [but] word is slowly getting out about this remarkable region, and astro-tourists are coming in increasing numbers to view its famously clear skies, particularly in 2019 when a total solar eclipse will pass directly overhead.”
What to do in the Elqui Valley
On 2 July, 2019, eclipse-chasers will converge on Vicuña, the main gateway to the region, which is about 90 minutes’ drive east of the city of La Serena. However, there’s a lot more to the region that the eclipse. Among the experiences Lonely Planet recommends for visitors to the Elqui Valley are going on an astronomy tour, visiting the Museo Gabriela Mistral (dedicated to Chile’s first Nobel Prize–winning poet, hiking and horse riding in the secluded valley of Cochiguaz, going on a guided trek around Pisco Elqui, sampling Chile’s finest pisco and wine, and browse for locally made arts and crafts in the market in Horcón.
Image credit: M. Druckmüller, P. Aniol, K. Delcourte, P. Horálek, L. Calçada/ESO