Stargazer Heaven: Elqui Valley Hotel in Chile

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The Atacana Desert in Chile is the fairy tale setting for this unique astronomical observatory hotel. There are only seven astronomical hotels in the world, with the Elqui Domos being the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. The region is said to have the clearest atmosphere on earth. There are two official observatories at the hotel, equipped with Ceslestron telescopes with CGEM equatorial German frames which offer unparalleled star gazing (the likes of which most have never seen). Additional high-quality manual telescopes are available for guest use in your room – after all, that’s what you’re here for – to observe the universe in motion. What more could you need?

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Need, want…they’re different things. The hotel offers many amenities, including a full restaurant, pool, barbeque area and common inside areas that include living/relaxing space for reading, conversations or connecting to WiFi. You can book a horseback ride, a massage, a lesson on stargazing in the observatory, Reiki treatments, guided meditation or even tarot card readings. And if you can ever take your eyes off that sky, wait until you see your rooms.

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The official hotel observatory has two domes with motorized retractable roofs and professional grade telescopes. Hour-long lessons (booked 24 hours in advance) are available for those who would like to know more about what they’re looking at in the vast sky above. The hotel is located 100km from La Sirena, an old coastal city with the closest (regional) airport. The town of Elqui Pisco is just 3.5km away. The local brandy/drink is Pisco – and you may well find the best Pisco Sour cocktail you’ve ever tasted in this neck of the woods. But that’s hardly why you’re here. The location provides for maximum viewing – far from the lights of the big cities (Santiago is 580km away). And the stars wrap the hotel in a blanket of magic every night.

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Unreal!

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Lie by the pool during the day, go for a dip, have a snooze — you’ll be spending most of your nights awake and wondering at the heavens. You can swim outdoors year round – the climate is gentle with highs in the mid 20s (Celsus, which is roughly 85 degrees Fahrenheit) – gentle because it’s dry, not humid and it has very little wind. It’s still a high desert (at 6,000 ft above sea level) and gets cool at night, so be sure to pack something warm to wear after dark. The valley is known for its prolific vegetable and fruit production (including the gourmet chirimoya fruit), along with its vineyards that produce world-class Chilean wines.

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The hotel dining room serves lunch and four-course dinners (breakfast can be delivered to your room) in a charming, bright space attached to the common areas.

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Choose between a dome room (above) or observatory room (below). Both have living areas, full bathrooms and sleeping areas with great views for stargazing as you fall into your dreams.

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The observatory rooms are made from wood and have three levels – with a living area and bathroom on the main floor and a double bed with large, slanted windows perfectly optimized for lying in bed and looking to the heavens. And the millions of stars that seem to be falling from the sky. The third floor is an open deck, where you have unfettered sight lines to the sky and the mountains. Maximum capacity for the observatory rooms is three, with double bed and an additional single bed.

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Even the sliding panel for the bathroom has a star theme! The living area is a nice size with a double bed on the second floor – and perfectly angled windows for your viewing pleasure.

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The windows in the bedroom allow you to fall asleep while wishing on a star. How magical is that?

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The dome rooms are two-story metal frame geodesic structures covered in PVC tenting. The bathroom and living areas are on the main floor – the bedroom on the second floor, with a (partially) removable roof so you are looking at the night sky in all of its raw glory. There’s also a deck off the main living area for personal star mapping.

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Part of the roof is removable, so you can watch the constellations move through the night – hey, wait a minute, wasn’t Sirius over there the last time I looked? Oh, I must have fallen asleep… (A Sirius sighting assumes a trip to the Elqui Domos in the summer – as the visible constellations naturally change by season.)

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You spot something from one of your large windows, so you wander out to your deck to get a better look with the telescope. The air is thinner here, at this elevation, the weather is calmer. You’ve just had a wonderful four-course meal at the main hotel of local delicacies and a fine Chilean wine. Time to go lie in the double bed and watch for falling stars? Nah, you don’t want to visit this place, do you?

More information: Elqui Domos


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