There is a common saying in Chile, “between Tongoy and Los Vilos”. It is a way of saying “in the middle of nowhere”. Most Chileans would have you believe that, a handful of coastal resorts aside (Tongoy and Los Vilos among them), the 500 km stretch between Santiago and La Serena is an uninteresting wasteland. Yet this could not be further from the truth. There are rich rewards for those prepared to rough it and take a few risks.
Inland you will find one of the world's highest concentrations of petroglyphs, spectacular mountainsides speckled different colours by rich mineral deposits, and desolate tracks winding through some of Chile's best high-mountain scenery. To the north is the resort of La Serena, the usual centre for visiting the
distilleries of the fertile Elqui Valley. This valley is one of the world's most important astronomical centres, with five observatories, including two built especially for visitors - it is also the focal point of Chile's New Age movement, and was the birthplace of Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral. South of La Serena is the lively market city of Ovalle, an ideal centre for forays into the
and for visiting the Parque Nacional Fray Jorge, a temperate rainforest that survives in this dry region due to the sea mists that hang almost constantly over its hills.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF