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See & Do | Chile

The Stargazing Hub Gearing Up For a Total Eclipse Words by Mark Johanson

You couldn’t ask for a better place to witness a total solar eclipse than Chile’s Elqui Valley. Not only are cloud-free skies guaranteed, but you can toast the daytime darkness with locally made piscos and wines.

At the southern edge of the world’s driest non-polar desert, on the fringe of a landscape used by NASA to test instruments for Mars, lies the burgeoning stargazing hub of Elqui Valley. The International Dark-Sky Association declared this verdant oasis in arid northern Chile the world's first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2015 thanks to the unrivaled purity of its ink-black skies. Come July 2, that same cloudless roof that makes Elqui ideal for stargazing is all but guaranteed when the moon blocks out the sun in a total solar eclipse.

A Stargazing Mecca

The Elqui Valley snakes inland from the pounding Pacific Ocean, carving a path through the snow-capped Andes near Chile’s second-oldest city, La Serena.

It’s estimated that, by 2020, Elqui and the greater Atacama Desert will host an astounding 70% of the world’s telescopes due to a perfect combo of high altitude, low population density and ideal atmospheric conditions.

Discover why scientists the world over visit this remote region at valley observatories like Cerro Mamalluca and Cerro Tololo. The former does nightly viewings of star clusters and nebulae through a 30cm telescope, while the latter offers weekly visits to gawk at its enormous 4m telescope.

THE WORLD IS waiting

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