Taking a 6 hour bus ride from Santiago you can arrive in the small town of La Serena. From here it’s easy to travel deeper into the Elqui valley to pay a visit to La Vicuña and its famous star gazing observatory.
The budget conscious traveller
Travelling South America on a tight budget is a pretty difficult task. After paying for the bus to La Serena we chose to give the observatory a miss (saving £25) and instead booked a hostel in the valley with a roof top – Hostel Cosmo Elqui Stage (£13 per bed for a dorm).
The sun set around 8pm and by 10pm the sky was flooded with stars, easily seen by the naked eye. As we aren’t astronomical experts, the view from the rooftop was more than impressive and kept us entertained for hours. However, if you’re interested in picking out specific constellations and learning about the stars it would be worth visiting the observatory.
La Serena by day
La Serena by day is a pretty small town. It’s around 10km to run from the centre of the town to the end of the beach and back, passing lots of shops, restaurants and ice cream parlours along the way. The beach itself is a nice walk and although it was pretty chilly and windy when we visited (April) there were still plenty of people in bikinis braving the cold and taking a dip in the sea.
Vicuña valley by day
Vicuña is a tiny little town surrounded by tall mountain ranges. It takes less than an hour to walk around the main streets which are pretty but very quiet. If you’re tight for time, and unless you’re going into town to book the observatory trip, La Serena is a much better option to stay in.