There’s only a million more people in Chile than there are in Los Angeles. Yet, Chile at 291,930 sq miles, is about twice the size of the entire state of California. That means there’s a lot of open country. A LOT.
While the coastal and inner city populations are steadily growing, alongside development due to modernization, industrialization, and commercialization, harsh geography including the Atacama Desert and the Andean Mountain Range leaves most of Chile pretty remote. In fact, in terms of population density over landmass, there’s only 59 people for every square mile in Chile. So besides open country, what does that mean a lot of? Stars.
It may be safe to say there is no better star gazing in the world. And if you’re planning a trip to Chile to gaze upon the boundless vistas of our humble little galaxy, consider the following 5 places.
Elqui Valley, La Serena, Coquimbo Region
Great wine, great beaches, great stars. La Serena is the country’s second oldest city, after Santiago, and you could spend weeks exploring the beauties of this mountainous valley. Lose yourself to the mouth-watering wines in the Elqui Valley vineyards and refresh in the region’s beautiful Pacific waters. But at night, don’t forget to look up.
Illapel, Coquimbo Region
Fairly easy to get to from Santiago, Illapel a town rarely visited by tourists. It remains one of the poorest regions of Chile but both the people and the place have real charm. A bonus of stopping in Illapel is heading over to the Reserva Nacional Las Chinchillas where both star-gazing and volunteering abound. Spend a few days working in the valley at the Save The Wild Chinchillas station and take in the starry sites over some Chilean vino en la noche. The photo is taken in the Vicuña area a little ways north of Illapel at the Observatorio del Pangue.
San Pedro-de Atacama, Antofagasta Region
Home to both the VLT (Very Large Telescope) at the Paranal Observatory, and the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory, this is the ultimate. The mecca. If you love stargazing, this is where you want to be.
Arica, XV Región
Arica is a world-famous surfing destination, Chile’s most recently acquired territory, and home to some of the best seafood empanadas you’ll ever have. It’s also an incredible place to spend some time beach camping (for free) and see the stars. Arica is the northern most city in Chile, just 11 miles south of the Peruvian border, and a place I never would have found had I not been denied entry to Peru. That’s a whole different story, which you can actually watch play out here. But should you ever find yourself this far north in Chile, know that you’re about to witness some of the most incredible sunsets and starry nights of your life.
Torres del Paine, Southern Patagonia
Beautiful vistas are in no shortage in Patagonia and the list of star-gazing spots here could be endless, but this is one place you want to check out. Skyward stretching glaciers on jagged Andean peaks perfectly compliment the Southern Hemisphere skies as the glow of countless stars illuminate the brilliant white ice. If you’ve got a bucket list, put Parque Nacional Torres del Paine on it.
Chile’s unique combination of high-altitudes, nearly year-round clear skies, low levels of light pollution, and very little rainfall result in some of the most breath-taking night skies you could ever hope to witness. So, what should you be looking for up there?
If you’re from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, remember you are looking at different stars than you’ve likely ever seen. Keep an eye out for the famous Southern Cross, the Jewel Box, Magellanic Clouds, and Alpha Centauri, among others.
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