The Atacama Desert is home to some of the clearest and darkest skies in the world. With over 80% of days offering cloudless skies and nothing to produce light pollution for many miles around, it’s no surprise that some of the world’s largest space laboratories have invested millions in building their most powerful telescopes here. And while the scientific community has long made the most of the unique natural characteristics of this remote region, in recent years it has also began to develop as an astrotourism destination, catering to anyone from enthusiastic amateur astronomers to those with a simple curiosity about the sky at night. It’s perhaps apt that an area with celestial links (the Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley is named for its otherwordly appearance, and even has a ‘dark side’), is one of the world’s top places from which to explore the heavens.

Visitors to the Atacama Desert can decide just how serious they want to be in their exploration of the night sky. On one level, small group tours are taken to the Elqui Valley, where visitors can learn about the basics of astronomy over blankets, warm soup and hot bread (desert nights do get quite chilly), before getting their chance to enjoy the night sky through scientific telescopes. Other private tours have a distinct educational element, with slideshows and tips on identification of the different stars and planets.

For those wanting to experience the biggest, most powerful telescopes, a new visitor facility has opened in 2016 at ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. The ALMA observatory has developed the capability of seeing stars billions of light years away; you’re effectively looking at objects as they were at a time not that long after the birth of the universe. The main telescopes (or antennae to be precise) are at 5,000 metres above sea level, but thankfully visitors don’t need to reach those oxygen-sapping altitudes to enjoy the views. Instead the visitor facility is at a more comfortable 2,900 metres. As well as a purpose-built visitor centre, guests are able to see the control room and laboratories in action. While most of us consider stargazing a nighttime activity thanks to our familiarity with optical telescopes, here the mechanics of radio telescopes mean that darkness is not an issue; as a result tours usually take place in the bright morning sun. ALMA arrange transport for guests between the nearby town of San Pedro de Atacama and the visitor centre, and guests are not allowed to make their own way up to the centre.

To make life easier for holidays to faraway Chile, from January 2017 British Airways will operate a non-stop flight between London Heathrow and Santiago, the country’s colourful capital. At 14 hours and 40 minutes, this will be BA’s longest route, but despite what is a long stretch on one place, it will significantly cut down the overall travel time involved in getting to Chile.

Sunvil Traveller can arrange tailor-made itineraries to northern Chile, including stargazing tours. There’s also a 5-night Stargazing in Chile itinerary.

Atacama Desert, Chile Atacama Desert, Chile
Stephen Bray

By Stephen Bray

27th July 2016



Talk to our Chilean Vineyards expert

Stephen Bray
Stephen Bray

Steve joined Sunvil in June 2011 and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of central and south America. He has a passion for putting together complicated itineraries, each one a challenge. Having spent 11 years with other specialist operators he could not have had better experience in crafting the best itineraries. Give him a try, he’ll soon tell you what does or does not work.

Call one of our experts to discuss your next holiday with Sunvil on

020 8568 4499

We open today at 9:00 AM

Make an Enquiry

Please use this form to request further information about a Sunvil holiday or destination.

We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Spain, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

Required Information

* Mandatory Information
Title *
First name *
Surname *
Telephone number *
Alternative telephone number
Email address *
Confirm email address
Preferred method of communication *
If you would like to be called during a specific period, please specify

Details

Preferred departure date *
Duration *
Preferred UK departure airport *
Party size *

Back

  • Adults(12+ yrs)
  • Children(2 to 11 yrs)
  • Infants(Under 2 yrs)
Budget range
Other comments:

Email newsletters

We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Spain, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

Required Information

* Mandatory Information
Title *
First name *
Surname *
Telephone number *
Alternative telephone number
Email address *
Confirm email address
Preferred method of communication *
If you would like to be called during a specific period, please specify
Booking reference number *
Alternatively, please enter your query in the box below:

Email newsletters

Thank you for your enquiry

Thank you for your enquiry. A member of our specialist reservation teams will be in touch shortly.

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

Your details have been saved

Feel free to continue to browse the site and add to your enquiry. Don't forget to send the enquiry before you leave!

My Suitcase

We understand that so much choice can be overwhelming which is why we have developed 'My Suitcase'. This facility allows you to save and compare your favourite holidays, and even allows you to return to your selection at a later stage.

Why not use 'My Suitcase' to compile a wish list of your future Sunvil holidays?

 

Sign in


New to Sunvil?

Create Account


Already have an account?

Password reset

Back

Close

Close