Astronomy of Chile: the Solar Eclipse

Chile

One Off | Space and Astronomy

Scenery, stars and the solar eclipse: a special tour of Chile

15 days £6,595 pp This is the price per person for a private tour (based on 2 people travelling) excluding international flights. Contact us for pricing for other group sizes including individuals.
Intro, Dates & Prices

Intro

Travel to Chile for this once-in-a-lifetime astronomy tour that culminates with the awe-inspiring solar eclipse. Lose yourself in the fascinating history and colonial architecture of Chile’s capital city, Santiago and explore the sweeping coastal vista of Viña del Mar before meandering through the sloping streets and past the jumbled houses of the country’s most colourful UNESCO World Heritage Site: Valparaíso. Fly north to study the mysteries of the cosmos with an astronomy tour from San Pedro de Atacama, before heading into the Atacama Desert to behold the otherworldly scenery found there. Witness the dramatic outbursts of the Tatio Geysers, the world's third largest geyser field, then step back in time as you discover Chile’s second oldest city, La Serena. Be amazed with a visit to the rustic Elqui Valley, where the deep sky comes to life with the dazzling lights of distant stars, and visit the renowned Cerro Mamalluca Observatory. Finally, venture south to Temuco in the picturesque Chilean lake district and find yourself surrounded by towering waterfalls, verdant forests and smouldering volcanoes. The climax of the tour is the breath-taking solar eclipse that will occur over the dramatic landscape of Chile's northern Patagonia region. Return to Santiago with memories to last a lifetime.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Chile's vibrant capital city, Santiago
  • Glamorous seaside resort of Viña del Mar
  • Colourful, bohemian port city of Valparaíso
  • Otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama Desert's Moon and Death Valleys
  • Exceptional stargazing in the Elqui Valley
  • Dramatic volcanic landscapes of Chile's lake district
  • Witness the incredible phenomenon of the solar eclipse

Places Visited

Santiago de Chile - Viña del Mar - Valparaíso - Atacama Desert - La Serena - Elqui Valley - Chilean lake district - Temuco

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks

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Itinerary
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Day 1 : Arrival in Santiago de Chile

Arrive at Santiago de Chile airport where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore Santiago at your own pace.

Overnight in Altiplánico Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile

Meal plan: n/a

Chile’s capital, Santiago, is a vibrant city located in a valley between the dramatic, snow-capped Andes mountains and the Chilean Coastal Range. Originally founded in the 16th century, the city was destroyed by indigenous Mapuche warriors before being rebuilt. Juxtaposing neoclassical, colonial and modern architecture styles, Santiago is a fascinating city that is finally emerging as a destination in its own right.

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Day 2 : Santiago de Chile: Half-day city tour

Depart from your hotel in Santiago and head towards the city centre. Visit Piedras Australes handicraft shop where you may appreciate the beautiful pieces of lapis lazuli and enjoy an authentic Pisco sour cocktail. Travel downtown to see modern buildings alongside colonial architecture. Visit Santa Lucia Hill, where the city of Santiago was founded in 1541. Later, continue to the Plaza de Armas to see the Cathedral of Santiago, the Municipality, the Post Office Building and the National History Museum. Your journey continues to the Government Palace, where you will have the opportunity to walk through some of the most traditional streets and neighbourhoods. The tour ends with a transfer back to your hotel in Santiago.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Altiplánico Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Plaza de Armas has been the heart and soul of Santiago since 1541. It was initially a military training ground where the population could gather for protection in the event of an attack. It is now the buzzing centre of the city's social and commercial life, where locals gather to play chess, watch performers or listen to religious preachers. It also holds some of Santiago's key buildings, including the lavish cathedral, the Central Post Office and the Royal Palace.

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Day 3 : Full-day tour to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso

Depart from your hotel in Santiago towards the central coast of the country. En route to Viña del Mar, make a brief stop at a vineyard in the Casablanca Valley to enjoy a glass of wine.

Your visit begins in Viña del Mar, also known as "The Garden City", thanks to the large number of parks and gardens. Make a stop at the Quinta Vergara, Carrasco Palace, and see one of the mystical Moai statues from Easter Island. Next, continue towards the most important coastal edge of the central coast and arrive at the famous flower clock of the city.

Then, travel on to Valparaíso, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, full of multicoloured houses in the hills, parks and various national monuments. One of these attractions is the Plaza Sotomayor, an important civic plaza of the city, located on the shores of one of the main ports of Chile. In the afternoon, you will be transferred back to your hotel in Santiago.

Overnight in Altiplánico Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile

Meal plan: Breakfast

With beautiful manicured boulevards lined with palm trees, stately parks and a continuously blooming floral clock, Viña del Mar is often referred to as the Garden City. A glamorous seaside resort with plentiful boutique shops and fine dining, it is a popular tourist spot for Chileans, attracting visitors to its picturesque beaches and bustling promenade. While multiple earthquakes have destroyed the majority of the city's old areas, a handful of historic buildings remain, including the Germanic Wulff Castle overlooking the sea.

With colourful street art around every corner, the coastal city of Valparaíso exudes bohemian charm, but don’t be fooled – this is a large, bustling port city that is the unlikely host of the largest New Year’s Eve fireworks display in South America. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valparaíso lies across steep terrain and working funicular railways provide a less strenuous way to explore the city. The renowned Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, drew considerable inspiration from the city, and its reputation as the culinary capital of Chile is growing. 

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Day 4 : Fly to Calamá - San Pedro de Atacama, evening stargazing tour

In the morning, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Calamá. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama.

In the evening, head out of the town and away from the artificial lights for a stargazing extravaganza. The guide will explain the night sky visible to the naked eye, then using a powerful laser pointer, the guide will point out the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere and demonstrate how to read a sky map. When the moon is visible, it is possible to take close-up photos of it through a telescope. At the end of the tour, there will be time to share your experiences over a warm drink before returning to San Pedro de Atacama.

Overnight in La Casa de Don Tomás, San Pedro de Atacama

Meal plan: Breakfast

Cradled in the heart of north Chile's most spectacular scenery 7,900 ft (2,400 m) above sea level, San Pedro de Atacama is a great base for excursions into the surrounding landscape and to nearby archaeological sites. A picturesque desert town developed from an old mining set, its quiet adobe streets and tree-lined plazas make it popular with visitors, while many locals believe that the laid-back, happy atmosphere in the town can be attributed to the high quantities of quartz and copper in the region.

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Day 5 : San Pedro de Atacama: Full-day Valleys of the Atacama Desert tour

In the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel then head towards the Domeyko Mountains, where you will be able to enjoy the desert landscape and breath-taking views of the Andes. The tour continues to the Hierbas Buenas area with its volcanic rock formations that tell the history of the people who inhabited the place through their petroglyphs.

Next, cross Matancilla, a land of ancient shepherds and old farms, and reach the Rainbow Valley (Valle de Arcoíris), which owes its name to the hills of varied colours such as red, green, blue, grey and violet, which shows the mineral composition of the area. Then visit the town of Rio Grande, a town in the foothills of the Andes that seems to be frozen in time, with typical buildings of adobe mud and stone. Here we will visit the old streets and enjoy its originality. Return to San Pedro de Atacama for lunch (not included).

In the afternoon, depart from your hotel and head to the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range) to visit Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), which forms part of the National Flamingo Reserve. Next, visit Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), which holds a unique geographical beauty; its salt formations appear as works of art. End the tour with a magical sunset at Kari Viewpoint, one of the highest points in the Cordillera de la Sal. Return to San Pedro de Atacama and the evening is at leisure.

Overnight in La Casa de Don Tomás, San Pedro de Atacama

Meal plan: Breakfast

The highest, driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert in Chile’s north is truly a sight to behold. Small adobe villages nestle in dramatic red rock scenery, and the comparisons to lunar landscapes are justified. The Atacama Desert, along with La Serena, is also arguably one of the best locations in the world for stargazing. 

With an otherworldly scenery of rock, sand and salt, the landscape of the Atacama Desert is extraterrestrial - it's no wonder NASA and the European Space Agency tested their Mars Exploration Rovers here. The Moon Valley showcases many impressive rock formations, with its salt rock shaped through erosion to create different layers of colour and texture within curved canyons. The hanging rock of Coyote Stone offers spectacular views overlooking the valley. The Death Valley consists of a red sand landscape, with 330-foot-high dunes offering breathtaking panoramic views across the valley. Those with a taste for adrenaline can even try sand surfing down the dunes at high speeds.

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Day 6 : San Pedro de Atacama: Tatio Geysers and Machuca village

You will be collected at dawn from your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama. Depart towards the Altiplano, reaching an altitude of 4,320 metres above sea level, to visit the Tatio Geysers; one of the most important geothermal fields in the world. Thanks to the extreme cold temperatures, see impressive geothermal manifestations with fumaroles that easily reach 10 metres high and geysers up to 8 metres. Don't forget your swimwear, since after watching this delightful spectacle, it is time to spend a refreshing dip in a hot pool.

On the way back to San Pedro de Atacama, there will be time to stop for a few minutes in the wetlands of Putana, where you can see different species including vicuña, coots and flamingos, against the backdrop of the Colorado Volcano. Finally, visit the village of Machuca, a little town where the original Altiplanic architecture is reflected in the St. James Church, then return to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama where the rest of the day is at leisure.

Recommendations: The night before the excursion, please eat a light dinner without red meat and alcohol. This tour is not suitable for people with hypertension, children under 6 years old and pregnant woman. Temperatures are always below zero degrees.

Overnight in La Casa de Don Tomás, San Pedro de Atacama

Meal plan: Breakfast

Lying at 4,300 metres above sea level, the Tatio Geysers are the world's third largest geyser field, with 80 active geysers, hot springs and over 500 geothermals in total. Translating to 'oven' in native American, geysers are formed when cold underground rivers hit hot volcanic rocks, causing the water to heat, rise and project up to the surface. The best time to visit is in the early morning, when the contrast between the sub zero temperatures and hot water is greatest, causing the steam to rise high in dramatic plumes.

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Day 7 : Fly to La Serena, afternoon city tour

Today is an early start, and you will be collected from your hotel then transferred to Calamá airport for your flight to La Serena. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your accommodation.

In the afternoon, you will be picked up for a half-day tour of Coquimbo and La Serena. ​On arrival in Coquimbo, your first stop is La Herradura beach and its viewpoint, from where you have a magnificent view over the bay. Next, visit the Cross of the Third Millennium and then the English Quarter, dating from the time of the mining and the port's heyday.

Return to La Serena via the Avenida del Mar, which runs parallel to Peñuelas beach, linking the two cities. Take a tour of the historic centre, La Recova market and see the cathedral. End the tour at the viewpoint from the University of La Serena, which offers beautiful views over the city of La Serena and the towers of its churches. You will be transferred back to your hotel and the evening is at leisure.

Overnight in Hotel Mar de Ensueño, La Serena

Meal plan: Breakfast

Founded in 1544, La Serena is Chile's oldest city after Santiago. With a beautiful golden shoreline, it is one of the country's top beach destinations. It also offers some beautiful colonial and neocolonial architecture, and visitors with an interest in churches are spoilt for choice here - there are 29 in total. The region surrounding La Serena is home to several international astronomical observatories thanks to the outstanding transparency of its skies.

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Day 8 : La Serena - Vicuña

Today you will be transferred from La Serena to Vicuña, in the heart of the Elqui Valley. The rest of the day is free for you to rest or explore at your own pace.

Overnight in Terral Hotel and Spa, Elqui Valley

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 9 : Full-day Elqui Valley tour with Gabriela Mistral's home

Depart from your hotel in Vicuña to visit the Plaza de Armas and nearby buildings such as the Torre Bauer and the church. Visit the Pisquera Capel plant to learn about the production of the region's iconic drink, Pisco, and enjoy a tasting.

After a traditional lunch in a local restaurant, the tour continues along the meandering path that crosses the Elqui Valley through the typical villages of Paihuano and Montegrande, nestled between majestic mountains. Arrival in Pisco Elqui and spend a little time in the church and central square. 

Returning to Montegrande, visit the tomb of Gabriela Mistral, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945, as well as the house-museum dedicated to her, which is built in the garden of her former home. The nature of the valley and the purity of its children inspired many of her works, which come to life when contemplating the beauty of the place. Return to your hotel in Vicuña and the evening is at leisure.

Overnight in Terral Hotel and Spa, Elqui Valley

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

With quaint villages, world-famous wine and apparent UFO sightings, the Elqui Valley is a unique amalgamation of culture, farming and tourism. As the main pisco-producing region in Chile, the valley slopes are blanketed in vineyards dotted with pisco distilleries, while a plethora of outdoor activities include trekking, horse riding and cycling around the stunning landscape. For those looking to unwind, the area is widely renowned for its healing energies and meditation, becoming a mecca for hippies after Tibetan monks came to the valley in the mid 1970s. With 320 days of sunshine a year, it is also the world's first International Dark Sky Sanctuary and is a spectacular spot for stargazing.

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Day 10 : Elqui Valley: Half-day Alfa Aldea solar tour and evening visit to Cerro Mamalluca Observatory

Today, you will be collected from your hotel and travel to the interior of the region, arriving at Alfa Aldea Natural Planetarium. Here, you are invited to enjoy a unique experience relating to our most important star, the Sun. 'Listen' to the Sun through the radio telescope and make use of the planetarium's exclusive telescopes for solar observation, all supported by a 3D video about the creation of the universe. Return to your hotel in Vicuña for a few hours' free time before your evening excursion.

Depart from your hotel to visit the Cerro Mamalluca Observatory. You will be welcomed with an introductory astronomy talk, accompanied by informative videos. Then proceed to observe the stars, planets and nebulae with instruments such as a 12-inch telescope and a Meade LX200 telescope. After two and a half hours, return to your hotel in Vicuña.

Please note: The tours on Friday 11th December are subject to availability and will be confirmed closer to the date. If we cannot offer either tour, a suitable alternative will be offered.

Overnight in Terral Hotel and Spa, Elqui Valley

Meal plan: Breakfast

Offering tours for everyone from the interested beginner to the advanced astronomer, Cerro Mamalluca Observatory, 9 km outside of Vicuña, was purpose-built for public use and is run by the Municipalidad de Vicuña. Their tours offer amazing opportunities to see not only the starry night sky but also planets, nebulae and even distant galaxies. As well as being able to have a look for yourself through the 12-inch telescope, visitors will be guided through a two-hour visually and audibly submersive exploration of the universe.

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Day 11 : La Serena - Temuco

After breakfast, transfer to La Serena Airport for your flight to Temuco via Santiago. On arrival in Temuco, you will be met and transferred to your hotel, in the heart of the northern Chilean lake district. The rest of the day is at leisure for you to rest or explore at your own pace.

Please note: During this busy period in the Chilean lake district, transfers and tours will be shared with other international travellers.

Overnight in Diego de Almagro Hotel, Temuco

Meal plan: Breakfast

In the north of Patagonia, the Chilean lake district is a beautiful region comprising ancient forests, volcanoes, lakes and mountains. Centred around the charming city of Puerto Varas, the lake district offers infinite possibility for exploration and adventure. The Mapuche culture is still prevalent in the northern lakes area around Pucón, and it is possible to visit traditional rukas for a glimpse into the community’s traditions and way of life. 

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Day 12 : Chilean lake district: Half-day Caburgua Lake tour

Drive for approximately 2.5 hours through the scenic Chilean lake district to the picturesque Caburgua Lake. This special area offers many attractions such as dense forests and looming mountains, as well as the Trancura and Liucura rivers, known for rafting and fishing. Enjoy spectacular views of the three surrounding volcanoes: Villarrica, Quetrupillán and Lanín.

2 kilometres from the lake, visit the Ojos del Caburgua (Eyes of Caburgua) to observe stunning waterfalls featuring great colours and natural river pools filled with glistening aquamarine water, surrounded by typical native Valdivian forest. Locals believe that a huge extinguished crater lies in the middle of Caburgua Lake, which is said to be the reason why it's impossible to reach the bottom of the lake.

Visit Playa Negra at the southern shore of the lake and take time to appreciate the natural scenery with mountains totally covered by native Valdivian woods, and dip your toes in the warm water; the result of hot springs found in the lake. Return to Temuco where the rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Diego de Almagro Hotel, Temuco

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 13 : Chilean Lake District: Solar Eclipse

Today is the big day!

After breakfast in the hotel, head to the chosen viewing site, from which you will experience the magnificent solar eclipse. The path of a new lunar shadow is in 2020 and will bring millions of eclipse seekers to Chile and Argentina. This time it will show itself in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, 1,000 km further south than the solar eclipse of 2019.

The climate for the 2020 eclipse track is largely controlled by three factors: the large sub-tropical high-pressure systems (anticyclones) over the South Pacific and South Atlantic, the cold Humboldt Current along the coast of Chile, and the 3 to 4 km-high Andes Mountain barrier that creates a vast rain shadow over much of south central Argentina. In both Chile and Argentina, summer is the dry season, with the amount and frequency of rainfall well below the winter maximum.

At the viewing site you may find a quiet place to prepare your equipment, enjoy a typical country barbecue or simply take a rest before the main event. A stargazing experience is included as part of the tour. The viewing site will be fully equipped with chairs, tables, tents, toilets, mineral water, wine, juice, tea, coffee, lunch and all the comfort that you may need for a memorable experience.

Overnight in Diego de Almagro Hotel, Temuco

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Tear your eyes away from the dramatic landscapes and look to the skies for the even more phenomenal sight of a solar eclipse. The only shadow that will be cast on your trip is a physical one as the new moon moves in front of the sun, blocking out the light, except for a rather eerie and mystical ring around the edge of the moon. This is described as a total eclipse and is particularly rare due to the numerous logistic variables that need to line up for it to occur. Timing is key to see this serendipitous event, which only occurs globally every 18 months for just a couple of minutes.

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Day 14 : Temuco - Santiago

At a suitable time, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight back to Santiago de Chile. On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Your final evening in Chile is at leisure.

Overnight in Altiplánico Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 15 : Departure from Santiago

At a suitable time, you will be transferred to Santiago Airport for your international flight home. 

If you would like to extend your trip in Chile with a visit to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia or another destination, please speak to our Travel Specialists for more information.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Altiplánico Bellas Artes

Santiago de Chile (4 nights)

Located in the Bellas Artes district of Santiago, the cultural and artistic hub of Chile, Hotel Altiplánico offers guests a fantastic base from which to explore the neighbourhood and the city beyond it. Bellas Artes' streets are lined with bohemian architecture, galleries, theatres, historic monuments, and many other charming sights. Set in a former colonial house, the quaint hotel's 24 rooms are sleek, stylish, and modern. Given its small size, Hotel Altiplánico doesn't serve meals, though there are many restaurants within walking distance and rooms contain a mini-fridge for guests' use.

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La Casa de Don Tomás

San Pedro de Atacama (3 nights)

Located in the Atacama Desert, La Casa de Don Tomás provides comfortable accommodation with great access to the desert landscape’s mountains, valleys and many other impressive features. The hotel’s rooms feature a homely decor of neutral desert tones, a terrace and a few modern amenities including Wi-Fi. During their stay, guests may also enjoy on-site dining, access to an open-air pool area and a range of excursions including horse-riding and swimming in the nearby natural hot-springs.

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Hotel Mar de Ensueño

La Serena (1 night)

Situated on Ocean Avenue, the hotel is just a few steps from the beckoning beachfront and only 10 minutes from downtown La Serena; the twelve beaches of Avenida del Mar are a particular draw of this area. With 50 rooms, varying from single to quadruple and family sized, there is a space to suit everybody’s needs. The rooms are brightly decorated and ensure maximum comfort so guests can feel as though this is a home away from home. Free buffet breakfast is included. This family-friendly hotel has plenty to keep guests entertained during their stay, so be sure to make use of the outdoor pool, games room, and fitness centre.

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Terral Hotel and Spa

Elqui Valley (3 nights)

Located in the magical Valle del Elqui, which boasts the clearest skies in the world, Terral Hotel provides the ideal location from which to watch the cosmic world light up before your eyes. Terral even has a telescope installed on the roof in case you want a closer look. Retaining some of the structure and design of the ancient city upon which this hotel was built, and recycling the wood of a local demolished convent in their construction, the hotel itself radiates a sense of the local history; yet guests are certainly not short of modern comforts with contemporarily designed rooms, a swimming pool, and even hot tubs on the roof for a perfect stargazing option. A wonderfully unique hotel and experience.

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Diego de Almagro Hotel

Temuco (3 nights)

This modern hotel is close to the downtown area of the colonial-style city of Temuco, providing easy sight-seeing access. The rooms utilise a simple, natural colour scheme that combines comfort with contemporary design. Guests have access to complimentary Wi-Fi and a free buffet breakfast. After a long day of exploring, making use of facilities including the gym, sauna and heated indoor pool. The treasure of this hotel is the Loncoche restaurant that offers guests a fusion of traditional southern Chilean cuisine with original twists and international influences.

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Extensions

Classic Chile (16 days)

From mountains to desert - Chile's wild highlights

Astronomy of Chile: the Solar Eclipse (15 days)

Scenery, stars and the solar eclipse: a special tour of Chile