In Coquimbo region, near north of Chile in the foothills of the Andes mountain range, we want to highlight the important Transverse valleys : Elqui, Rio Hurtado and Limari, each with its own charm and individuality. We also find here one of the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere and because of this fact various international scientific organizations have settled astronomical observatories in the summits of hills Pachón and Tololo.
The Elqui Valley has been listed as one of the most energetic areas in the world. Benefited by the waters of Puclaro reservoir and long periods of sunny weather throughout the year, growing of fruits and vegetables are an important economic activity. Also grapes for the production of Pisco, a distillate from “Vitis vinifera”variety, are grown in this valley. Picturesque villages with adobe architecture and beautiful churches are mixed among numerous vineyards and distilleries, Vicuña being the main town of the valley and the birthplace of the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral.
Then, following the “Antakari” route, used in ancient times by the Inca people, we find a wonderful green valley: Rio Hurtado. This valley is less touristic than Elqui and the main activity here is agriculture and the rearing of goats. Being a very quiet place, it is perfectly possible to stay here interacting with its people and help in their work: harvesting, grazing, crafts, and enjoying their succulent family food.
In the natural monument Pichasca we can go back in time for a moment learn about the flora and fauna that there was on earth approximately 70 million years ago, as well as human remains from 10,000 years ago.
Going down across Río Hurtado valley of the Rio Hurtado we find the Limari Valley, renowned for its production of white wine and delicious fruits, some of them tropical fruits and only possible to grow in this region of the country. Other economic activities here activity are the mining and the production of lapislázuli and piedra combarbalita , which are unique in the world. Beautiful and exclusive jewelry and crafts are created with lapislázuli and piedra combarbalita by valley artisans.
Among other recommendable places to visit we mention Del Encanto valley, an important archaeological site that has become an outdoor museum of a great cultural and scientific interest because of its petroglyphs and pictographs of the Molle and Diaguita cultures found there. The annual calendar is plenty of traditional festivals, country activities and farming events that are good alternatives and oportunities to learn more about the idiosyncrasies of the rural population of these valleys.