Both being a fan of a good glass of wine, as Lyndsay and I travelled south from the Atacama desert in Northern Chile towards Valporaiso, we knew we would be passing some stellar Chilean wine producing regions so it seemed rude not to take a few days to go and explore.
The Elqui Valley seemed like the obvious place, not too far from the Panamerican highway, so easily accessible by bus as we journeyed south. For anyone who is a fan of a good wine, the Elqui Valley is sure to have something you’ll be able to have one too many of. Some of Chile’s best wines are produced here as well as a LOT of Pisco.
We decided to try and get off the beaten track, so headed for the sleepy Pisco producing village of Pisco Elqui. A two and a half hour bus ride up Elqui Valley gave us an opportunity to take in the views of this amazing region. Huge valley walls carved by the river Elqui towered above the bus as we zigzagged across the valley floor between the wineries and Pisco distilleries.
The floor of the valley, as well as the lower slopes, are a green carpet of vines stretching from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Andean slopes. The valley is best known for producing top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenere, and some of South America’s best Pisco.Get off the beaten track we did! There is virtually nothing in Pisco Elqui itself apart from a couple of guest houses, a restaurant or two and some ice¬†cream stands. You’ll be hard pushed to find much to do other than go for a walk and have an ice cream… so that’s what we did. Hard life, I know.
There is a bike hire shop that opens at random hours of the day, so after trying at several different times during the day finally managed to hire some bikes one afternoon and cycle up the valley to Los Nichos, a lovely old Pisco distillery dating back from 1868 where we took a half hour tour. Among other things the Spanish tour around the distillery takes in the giant fermentation vats, the storage cellars, and a creepy crypt where the owner’s predecessors are buried behind the Pisco bottle-lined walls. After emerging from the crypt back into the daylight, the tour guide showed us photos taken in the crypt of other tour groups, where mysterious ghostly figures appear in group’s photos. Then on a more cheery note she brought us some delicious Pisco samples that made the bike ride back down the valley more fun.
Culinary highlights of Pisco Elqui came in the form of an odd food kiosk-come-post office where we got freshly made empanadas cooked to order for us, and an airy cafe called Los Jugos that served up great pizza and killer Pisco Sours. If nothing else, the empanadas alone made the journey worthwhile.
If you’ve never had a Pisco sour I encourage you to get down to a decent cocktail bar and order one, or four. They are delicious, but and deceptively punchy.
After two nights of good wine and too much Pisco we decided that if we stayed any longer we might end up spending our entire trip here so decided to move on and push south towards the metropolitan Santiago and bohemian Valparaiso.
Pisco Elqui is a fantastic stop if you’re travelling south from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso or Santiago. Definitely somewhere to sleep and drink your way into holiday heaven!