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HomeTravelA place to go: Elqui Valley, Chile

A place to go: Elqui Valley, Chile

A woman and her partner set out to see the Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017. As the couple began planning their trip, they grew hesitant following the reality of having limited time off. The pair didn’t prepare for the volume of other people with the same idea as them. By the time the duo decided to go, they could not get flights to their desired viewing location of Wyoming. 

The pair proceeded with their trip, put obstacles aside, got a flight to Colorado, rented a car, and drove it to Wyoming. When they arrived, the pair continued to go where their cabanas were for during the solar eclipse. Yet another obstacle kept the couple from properly watching the eclipse; the traffic. Cars pulled off the streets, outlining them for miles as the eclipse went into full effect. 

Pamela Maingon is a physician’s assistant working in cardiothoracic surgery at Lennox Hills in New York. Her passion for exploration has led her far and wide. After slacking when it came to see the great American eclipse in 2017, Pamela made it her mission to see the 2019 solar eclipse without fail.

Atacama Desert

The pair’s trip led them to what was the world’s first dark sky sanctuary, Elqui Valley, Chile. They flew into Santiago airport, and from there, the duo set out to get their pre-rented car to head to the first hotel of their trip. Due to the large influx of tourism in this part of Chile, the couple could not get the car, even though they had it reserved. They then found themselves in the center of Santiago, looking for a car to rent. Once they finally found one, they drove to Elqui Valley, which took longer than anticipated due to the traffic, the darkness, and windy roads. 

After a long and tiring trip, the couple finally made it to their cabana in the Valley. Pamela said that everyone warmly welcomed and seemed excited about everything happening; she specifically mentioned how eager the locals were to have everyone there celebrating their homeland alongside them.

Pamela and her boyfriend stayed in Elqui Valley for two nights at their cabana. They were able to book an all-inclusive trip that cost them $5,000 for four days and three nights through a group called Explora. Explora is an all-inclusive, expert-guided activity for all different levels of physical abilities. They keep a carbon-eco-friendly resort, but Pamela appreciated how the guides cared about preserving their land and respected that they were ‘very big on following the rules.’

The day after they arrived in the Valley was the day of the eclipse. Tour guides took the pair, with the accompanying groups, to a viewing location where they were given blankets to lay on the ground and glasses and enough room between groups to set up telescopes. Before the eclipse, Pamela described the preparation for it with one word, ‘festive.’ Among the tourists setting up their viewpoints were locals loading the scene with culture; the smell of food sifted through the air as Chilean folklore filled everyone’s ears. With music playing in the background and everyone embracing everything simultaneously, Pamela described the scene as almost euphoric.

As the eclipse began, silence fell upon the crowd, unifying the viewers. When speaking on this part of her experience, Pamela said, “Important for us, humanity, for our planet. It’s kind of like a blessing.” When the eclipse ended, everyone around her felt more connected to her. The music resumed, and food got thrown back on the grills, but the connection she felt granted her a sense of peace that sounds rare to feel. 

Atacama Salt Flats

After getting to experience the solar eclipse in its totality, the pair still had many more excitements to come, which included seeing salt flats, going to hot springs, hiking up a volcano, and spending the night at the Atacama Desert. A smile was painted on Pamela’s face, inspired by the adventures that lay around every corner. She was able to see a mix of flamingos, foxes, and Huancos.

Dinner at Explora Resort

The pair enjoyed what was described as gourmet food at every meal, met with a wide range of Chilean wines that were perfectly paired alongside the live Chilean music, among some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen photographed. It sounds like the perfect mixing pot of Chilean culture and tourism, allowing customers to experience Chile as many aspects as possible. 

A video of the group dancing to local musicians

Pamela said that her favorite part of the trip to Chile, aside from the breathtaking views and life-lasting experiences, was seeing the Milky Way. During the group’s time in the Atacama Desert. The average temperature in the desert is approximately 60 degrees; it doesn’t get hot like the Sahara. Overall, Pamela described it as pretty mild, but she admitted that it gets cold at night, saying she was wearing a coat. 

The company Pamela and her boyfriend had been traveling with had its observatory. Explora gave their customers a chance to go to the observatory with astronomers to learn more about space. Pamela admitted that she didn’t see the Milky Way at first, that it was just black, but after letting her eyes adjust for three to four minutes, she was able to see the beauty that was and marveled at it. 

Elqui Valley Photograph of the night sky

Looking at space can give anyone introspection on how to humble themselves. Traveling to Chile opened not only Pamela’s mind but also her eyes to the ceaseless beauty constantly around humanity. As culture flared from every corner, the stars opened a window into how vast and magical our universe can be.

A time-lapse of the Atacama salt flats at sunset


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