Discover the rolling green hills, lines of vines and the deliciously distilled Chilean pisco in the cute, traditional village of Pisco Elqui, found near the town of La Serena. Deliberated for centuries as to who is the real founder of pisco between the Peruvians and the Chileans, discover how it’s made in Valle del Elqui.
The Elqui Valley is accessible from both La Serena and Vicuña bus stations. Hop aboard and watch the beautiful countryside whizz past you. Once you have reached the valley, you will see vines after vines nestled between the steep hills.
Pisco is derived from distilling fermented grape juice into a spirit, providing either a colourless or yellow-amber coloured brandy. In Chile, pisco sour is the national drink, but beware – it can leave you with a rather pounding headache if gorged on! The spirit is made in both the Atacama and Coquimbo regions, where the distilleries are required to grow their own grapes. The two categories come in the form of muscat which are fragrant, or the Pedro Jiménez which is more subtle.
Just on the outskirts of Vicuña, before you reach the Elqui Valley is the Planta Capel – Capel being one of the household names of Chilean piscos. It is the largest pisco distillery in the Elqui Valley, with a small museum outlining the history of pisco as well as tours in both Spanish and English.
In the heart of Pisco Elqui is this distillery named after Gabriela Mistral. Join either an English or Spanish tour where you will learn about the production processes, beginning when the grapes are picked between February and May to when they are stored and aged, then finally sold. Experience the product through a number of tastings and visit the museum to find out more about the history of pisco.
You can either dine at the distillery while tasting variations of the pisco sour, whether you want to choose the original pisco sour, one made with basil, avocado, ají or one of the other flavours available. Or opposite the church, designed by Gustave Eiffel, you will spot El Pisqueña, which has a range of local produce on offer as well as divine pisco cocktails.
Producing pisco the old-fashioned way, this artisanal pisquera was established in 1868 and is the country’s oldest winery, producing aguardiente, pisco and sweet wines. The process of the production, harvesting, and the preparation techniques of the grape are in keeping with the age-old traditional pisco recipe.
If you don’t feel that you’ve tasted enough of the local pisco, why not visit this artisan pisco distillery that has run in the family for the last 20 years. Delicately selecting Muscat Pedo Jiménez and Rosada Pastilla grapes that are grown and produced in the Elqui Valley, and left in the oak-aged barrels, you’ve got to taste their artisanal pisco.
In the heart of the Elqui Valley is the Cerro Mamalluca Observatory, where they offer night tours to tourists who want to gaze up at the celestial sky through a 12-inch telescope. Magnified, see the twinkling lights and learn more about what you can see from the Elqui Valley.