A Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy: Chilean Edition

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BY HUNTER CONRAD

Down a winding road tucked behind the Chilean beach town of La Serena, lies Valle del Elqui, home to the world’s best view of the Milky Way. So good in fact that the US government made an agreement with Chile to put a joint observatory (Cerro Tololo) in the region, which has become an open sky mecca for scientists and stargazers alike.

SEE ALSO: How To Trek The ‘W’ In Torres Del Paine, Chile

I was lucky enough to stumble upon Valle De Elqui while living in Chile, when on whim I took a weekend trip from Santiago to La Serena with a few friends. We all packed our backpacks, hopped on a midnight bus not knowing exactly what we were getting ourselves into. We stumbled out of the bus in the early morning, armed with only our backpacks and a willingness to get a little lost.  

We hitchhiked trying to get to a camping spot at El Río Mágico, a place famed for its mystical occurrences including, alien and UFO sightings. We ended up finally making it to camp after getting lost, walking four miles and watching the sunset over the hills lined with pisco vineyards. We set up camp in the pitch black night, haloed by the expansive view of the Milky Way above our heads.

When we woke up we strolled along the dirt road we had come in on to explore the Río Mágico in the light of day. On the way we stumbled upon a small gate that led to a creek. Right then the family who owned the farm we were peering into drove up in their truck. And without us even asking they graciously let us into their home and showed us their pomegranate and walnut orchard, letting us relax by the creek as the sun beat down in the heat of mid-day.  

Later in the trip we went on to explore an artesian collective and community, and of course drink the local pisco. We hitchhiked our way back into town, hearts full of the kindness of the locals and our eyes full of the memories of the Milky Way.

For anyone traveling to Chile, this is the place to go. It is beautiful, pretty much void of tourists, has free camping sites, and a plethora of pisco vineyards to go drink to your heart’s content. So here are some quick recommendations if you find yourself wanting to get lost under the Chilean stars.

  1. Avoid full moon. You want to be able to see the stars!
  2. Visit the small towns of Vicuña or Pisco Elqui if you want to rent bikes, buy some pisco, or get anything you might of forgotten, while enjoying the desert-craftsmen hippy-feel.
  3. HITCHHIKE. Make sure you go with other people, but it is the absolute best way to meet locals and get recommendations.
  4. WANDER. We ended up stumbling upon an organic walnut and pomegranate farm, meeting the family and eating lunch with them.

Let the magic of Valle de Elqui take you where it will and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Photos: Hunter Conrad

Have you ever hitchhiked? Share with us in the comments.

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Wendy Hung

CEO, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and Russia because they were all so different! St. Bart's was pretty amazing too (wink)!

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