Elqui Domos

Elqui Valley, Atacama Desert, Chile
Book from GBP Book from £116 per night

Elqui Domos

Elqui Valley, Atacama Desert, Chile

In a remote valley between Santiago and Atacama is this celestial escape where you can touch the stars from your domed or stilted refuge

In a remote valley between Santiago and Atacama is this celestial escape where you can touch the stars from your domed or stilted refuge

This is a fun and quirky concept hotel: 7 'geodesic' (spherical) domes with removable roofs plus 4 stilted wooden houses with glass ceilings, all set in the stunning Elqui Valley, famed for clear skies that attract astronomers from all over the world. Conceived in 2003 by local businessman and astronomer Esteban Zarate, who spotted a star-shaped gap in the market, Elqui Domos is a true retreat from the world. Its small size confers a feeling of exclusivity and intimacy, for a very reasonable price tag.

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 when we stayed was 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 restaurant isn't always open (check when enquiring), and there's no bar
  • Interiors are simple, with signs of wear and tear: you might want to check the latest feedback before booking
  • Service is limited, with just 1-2 staff members, no-one to help carry bags, and no room service
  • Domes are close to one another and not sound-proofed

Best time to go

Time your visit to coincide with a new moon, when the stars are at their brightest; if you're not a fanatical astronomer, full moon is always wondrous through telescopes. High season is the Chilean summer, from December to February, but the hotel is also busy during its 'mid' seasons, in March and April, June and July, and September and November. The national holidays of All Saints Day (1 November) and Independence Day (18 September) tend to be particularly popular.

Our top tips

Bring clothes for both hot and cooler climes. Adventures at altitude can be colder, so if you're planning on heading into the mountains, pack accordingly. A strong sunscreen is a must, as well as sunglasses and a hat.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11 rooms
  • Restaurant
  • Over 2s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car essential
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym


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, with the further ones up a steep hill (not for those with limited mobility). 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 (which we haven't seen yet) 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 mezzanine, 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.

Features include:

  • Fan
  • In-room treatments available
  • Minibar
  • WiFi


A main dome houses the minimalist restaurant (check ahead of time for closure days), 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.

When we visited, we thought the food was excellent for the price. We were the only guests, but this didn't faze the chef, who knocked up a fine 4-course dinner with 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.

Breakfast is a more rudimentary affair - 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.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian options


  • 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, and there's a hot tub. 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:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Stargazing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Yoga


Children are welcome, but the hotel doesn't offer services such as babysitting or kids' entertainment, and there aren't any TVs in the rooms. Extra beds are available for a supplement, but there are no baby cots.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:


Elqui Domos is in the Elqui Valley, which is 580km to the north of Santiago, in Coquimbo. It's 110km inland from the coastal city of La Serena, not far (as the crow flies) from the Argentine border. It's 3.5km from the nearest village, Pisco Elqui, so you'll need a car (taxis are virtually non-existent).

By Air:
La Serena (110km away) is the nearest airport. It's served by domestic flights from Santiago (580km to the south) and Antofagasta (750km to the north). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving each airport.

From the Airport
Car hire can be arranged by Elqui Domos (they receive discounted rates through a local company), as can taxi transfers - though you'd probably feel isolated without a car.

By Bus:
If you really don't want to hire a car, buses run every 30 minutes from La Serena to Pisco Elqui. The hotel arranges transfers for the 15-minute drive along the valley from there.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Chile and getting around


  • La Serena La Florida 105.0 km LSC


  • Beach 105.0 km
  • Shops 105.0 km
  • Restaurant 3.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 3 independent reviews from i-escape guests


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