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Start your journey in Taltal, a quaint seaside town that is home to several national monuments from its 19th-century railroad days, giving the town a preserved European flair.  Particularly interesting are the old buildings made from Oregon Pine that were built starting in 1882 for the Taltal Railway Company. Visit the Club Taltal to see old historical letters and photos of the region.

Head south for some extraordinary outdoor hiking and/or camping, first hitting Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar, a coastal desert landscape of islands and coves, breeding ground for Humboldt penguins, sea lions, and guanacos (similar to a llama), and on the flora side an amazing variety of cactus.  Traveling further south on your way to Copiapo you will come to Bahía Inglesa, famous for its white sand beaches and perfectly turquoise water.  

You can then head inland to the capital of the region, Copiapó, a verdant valley town with ancient roots and important as a settlement for spanish explorers, and most recently as an area rich in mining history, which is why here you must visit the Museo Minerologica. Outside of town is the Nevado Tres Cruces park, and specifically inside that is the must-see two differently colored lagoons of Santa Rosa.  The area around the lagoons is of international importance because of the immense variety of wildlife that it fosters, and it boasts a natural phenomenon of splendid flowers that burst open and cover the hills after a rain.

The largest city in your stay will be the coastal twin cities of La Serena and Coquimbo.  La Serena is by far the most touristed, has large broad beaches, old world markets, handsome architecture and parks (including a formal Japanese garden), whereas Coquimbo is the more industrial and fishing port, but is more affordable and has various charms of its own like a miniature Valparaiso.

However, La Serena and Coquimbo should be townside respites for your concluding piece-de-resistance, the remarkable wine-growing valley right outside of them, Elqui!  While you can take day tours out into the valley that include winery visits and tastings of the locally grown pisco (a sweet liquor) and return back to the city, it's much better to plan to stay in the beautiful villages of Elqui, which include the bucolic Paihuano, the hilltop treasure Pisco Elqui, and in between them the birthplace village of Nobel-winning poet Gabriela Mistral was born and lived her formative years. The Elqui valley is also home to great observatories that take advantage of the unique desert and ocean climate to get unparalleled views of the cosmos at night.


Justice building, Plaza de Armas, La Serena
  • On this route:
  • Cifuncho |
  • Chañaral |
  • Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar |
  • Puerto Flamenco |
  • Caldera |
  • Bahía Ingles |
  • Copiapó |
  • Totoral |
  • Vallenar |
  • Huasco |
  • La Serena |
  • Coquimbo |
  • Elqui Valley |
  • Paihuano |
  • Pisco Elqui!
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