“In a remote valley between Santiago and Atacama, a celestial escape where you can touch the stars from your domed or stilted refuge”
Setting foot in the main reception/restaurant dome, starry magic starts to rub off on you with the welcome message: 'may the stars be with you, shining for your eyes along their celestial dance'. A poolside astronomical tour will help novices to appreciate the wonder of the skies. While the stars are sleeping get out and explore the valley on foot, bike or horseback, and admire the contrast of the dusty brown mountains - which glow pink at sunset - and the verdant farmland at their feet. Fittingly for an astronomic hotel, the food is pretty stellar, too.
- Spectacular views all around you and a total absence of light pollution
- Sitting on your veranda with a glass of pisco (the potent local liquor), watching the mountains change colour as the sun sets or checking out the constellations through your telescope
- Realising that you can't hear a single sound
- Falling asleep gazing at the stars through the open roof of your dome or the vast glass panels of your house
- Cooling down in the outdoor pool
- It's seriously off the beaten track, midway between Santiago and Atacama, and 3km from the nearest village
- The interior furnishings are functional, with clear signs of wear and tear
- There are generally only 2 members of staff on site, and no room service
- Domes are close to one another and not sound-proofed
- There's no bar - aside from the limited selection in your dome's fridge
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant (open daily)
- Over 2s welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Board games
It's not every day you get to lie in bed gazing up at the stars, and it's a pretty fantastic experience, particularly in this privileged spot.
The 7 domes are set along a central path heading upwards towards the mountains. Made from white plastic-covered canvas over a metallic frame - like a tent but much more sturdy - they can sleep up to 4. Inside, a pine structure creates a ground-floor lounge with armchairs, sofabeds, a wardrobe, a heater, a kettle and a minibar. There are several windows, although removing their covers is a little fiddly. Above, a mezzanine level holds a double bed under a removable roof.
Round the back of the living area is a small bathroom, with a toilet, washbasin and shower. Here, the décor is white, with a couple of decorative splashes adding a bit of colour. Towels and small sachets of shampoo and shower gel are provided.
If sleeping under canvas isn't your thing, opt for one of the 4 stilted wooden houses, known as Observatories. These angular structures have been added since our visit, but they look wonderful: perched on the highest point of the site, they have vast panes of glass set in their walls and ceilings, offering panoramic views of the valley below and the sky above. Each has a double bed set on a mezzaine, plus a bathroom with a shower and a sitting area with benches and striped cushions. An additional single bed can be added on request.
The furnishings in both the domes and houses are quite basic, so your attention is quickly drawn outside, where your decked terrace invites you to soak up the sun by day and indulge in some star-spotting by night. Best of all, a large telescope is already set up and ready to use.
- Coffee / tea making
- Extra beds
- Plunge pool
A main dome houses the minimalist restaurant, furnished with small glass-topped tables and hard-backed chairs, which match the pine trim of the rooms. It verges on canteen-esque, but the unfussiness and cool atmosphere rescue it. By day, the full-length windows show off great views of the mountains and valley.
For a mid-range hotel, the food is excellent. We were the only guests when we visited during the low season, but this didn't faze Carlos, the bubbly chef, who knocked up a fine 4-course dinner with just a couple of hours' notice. We weren't given a choice, but the menu of perfectly cooked prawns with salad and a simple spicy sauce, followed by a good steak then a perfect chocolate and mint mousse, would have pleased most. The appetiser of mussels with a pisco sour aperitif was spot on.
All diets can be catered for with advance notice. There's a decent list of Chilean wines, on which Carlos can provide guidance. Just don't ask him about the stars: in his words, his skills are 'gastronomic not astronomic'!
Breakfast is a more rudimentary affair, but perfectly pleasant - a couple of bread rolls served with fruit conserve and slices of ham and cheese, plus tea or coffee.
If you have your own transport, there are several restaurants in and around Pisco Elqui. Miraflores, on the road out to Elqui Domos, is recommended for parrillas (barbecued beef), while Hotel Elqui just off the main square serves good traditional Chilean dishes. Los Datiles is a great option for well-priced good food.
- Coffee / tea making
- Vegetarian menu
- Stargaze - this is one of the best places in the world to do so, given the incredibly clear skies. Every room is furnished with its own telescope, and it's worth spending a couple of hours getting to grips with them and gazing into the depths of the cosmos. The hotel runs an astronomic tour by the pool to guide novices around the southern sky and introduce them to stellar evolution and cosmology
- See how the professionals do it: visit the European Southern Observatory at Cerro la Silla to check out its 14 telescopes, or, more locally, the Communal Astronomical Observatory of Vicuña
- Take a local tour: highlights include the nearby village of Pisco Elqui and its pisco distillery, the mausoleum of Gabriela Mistral (Chile's Nobel prize-winning poet), the artisanal village of Horcon, and the pretty church in Alcohuaz
- If you have basic mountain-biking experience, get an adrenaline rush on the 20km descent from Alcohuaz village, with unrivalled views of the terrain as you go
- Saddle up and explore the valley on horseback. Local companies offer outings by the hour, but for the keen rider a great option is the trip along River Cochiguaz, with overnight camping at Laguna del Cepo or Laguna Verde
- Hike through the mountains. All levels of fitness and experience are catered for, with hikes ranging from easy to challenging
- Submit to some intensive relaxation. Massages, Reiki and meditation sessions can be arranged. Pisco Elqui is known as a New Age centre, so take your pick from the alternative therapies on offer
- In this astronomical environment, you may be curious about what the stars hold for you - engage the services of a local tarot reader
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Horse riding
- Mountain biking
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being