Tololo Observatory & Elqui Valley

COW-110 | La Serena (Coquimbo), Chile | See Special Notes

from $239.95*

*Price displayed in US Dollars unless otherwise noted; excursions priced in other currencies may be available on select voyages only. Prices are based on the amount Princess typically charges for each excursion, but your price may vary by voyage date and departure time.

Tour at a Glance

You will visit:

  • Tololo Observatory Tololo Observatory
  • Elqui Valley Elqui Valley

You will see:

Moderate Includes meal

Excursion Length:
Approx. 8 hours

Tour Overview

On an isolated peak in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, the conditions are ideal for studying the southern sky. Here, at the observatory of Cerro Tololo, world-renowned astronomers peer into the universe and visitors learn about the field's latest discoveries on a special guided tour of the mountaintop facility.

Begin your adventure at the pier in La Serena, the regional capital, where local attractions like the Cross of the Third Millennium set the tone for a day filled with intriguing city and country sights. You'll enter the scenic Elqui Valley and traverse a rugged landscape gradually passing from verdant papaya orchards and rolling green vineyards into the Atacama Desert the driest in the world.

A private road winds through the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Marvel at the tree-sized cactus as you begin your ascent to the 6,000-foot-level of Mount Tololo. With some of the clearest skies in the world, the views from the white-domed mountaintop are worth the trip alone!

Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the sixth largest observatory in the southern hemisphere commands an imposing mountain platform. Here, a huge white dome houses the principal instrument, the 4-meter (158-inch) Victor M. Blanco Telescope named after the famed Puerto Rican astronomer and completed in 1976.

Additional domes and outbuildings contain a fascinating array of telescopes, reflectors and cameras where teams of astronomers and researchers devote their lives to skies dominated by the Southern Cross and the stars surrounding the South Celestial Pole. You'll have the opportunity to view the telescopes and domes up close and enjoy an informative talk about the nature of the universe.

Afterwards, continue back through the enchanting Elqui Valley. This semi-arid paradise is said to possess a rare mystic-magnetic energy. The change of the century together with the transition of the cosmic era from Pisces to Aquarius has attracted many esoteric groups linked to astrology, yoga and meditation.

And there is much more to the Elqui Valley, a center of Diaguita culture with sleepy villages, charming adobe constructions, and beautiful rolling hills. An important agricultural area awash with pawpaw and pear orchards, olive groves and vineyards, it is the home of the muscatel grape which is turned into Pisco, Chile's national spirit and the main ingredient of the Pisco Sour.

Continue to the town of Vicuña, famous for its Pisco producers and Nobel Laureate, Gabriela Mistral. Enjoy a photo stop in the town square to see the historic church and to learn about the village schoolteacher who began to write poetry after a passionate romance with a railway employee who committed suicide. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous.

To complete your moderately-active, full-day tour, enjoy a lunch of traditional specialties in a charming, informal atmosphere and then return along the Pan-American Highway sightseeing through La Serena, well-loved for its dazzling beach resorts to the dynamic port city of Coquimbo.

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Detailed itinerary

Tour timeline may vary to avoid overcrowding, etc.

Special Notes


Transportation is not air-conditioned.
The drive to the Tololo Observatory is approximately 2 hours each way.
Tour space is extremely limited due to the unique nature of your observatory tour.

Child Price:

12 years & under only

Number of Steps/Walking Distance:

See detailed itinerary for information about walking distance

Wheelchair Accessibility:

See detailed itinerary for information about wheelchair accessibility

Camera/Video Restrictions:

See detailed itinerary for information about camera restrictions

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