Astrotourism: The Best Stargazing in Chile

Astrotourism: The Best Stargazing in Chile

For those of us who live in light-polluted cities, it can be hard to imagine how magnificent a clear night sky looks. Luminous pinpricks decorate the sky’s deep velvet fabric as celestial bodies convene overhead, and constellations emerge out of a fathomless canvas. In common parlance, stars are to be wished upon and deciphered by horoscopes, yet gazing deep into space can offer a perspective-shifting experience in more remote regions of the world. These encounters have been harnessed by the trend of ‘Astrotourism’ – travelling for space-related experiences here on Earth – and have become increasingly popular among those wishing to appreciate the full glory of our galaxy. With laws in place to prevent light pollution, and an abundance of dark sky sites, Chile is an astronomer’s star-studded dream and the best place in the world for stargazing. Prepare to be starstruck by our list of the best places for stargazing in Chile.


  1. The Atacama Desert, Antofagasta Region
  2. Valle de Elqui, La Serena
  3. Illapel, Coquimbo Region
  4. Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia
  5. Arica, XV Región
  6. Lauca National Park, The Andes
  7. Pucón, Lake District


The Atacama Desert, Antofagasta Region

Chile has been crowned the international capital of astronomy and over 70% of the world’s large telescopes are now situated in the ribbon-shaped South American nation. The country also boasts an astonishing 300 days and nights of clear skies a year, allowing its stars to be seen during every season. By day, the Atacama Desert is characterised by lunar-like landscapes and otherworldly rock formations, but come nightfall, the world’s driest non-polar desert is one of the best places to gaze at the sky’s stellar specks. The region’s high altitude (16,570 feet above sea level) means that it hovers above low-level atmospheric pollution, while its remote location removes it from the light pollution of cities. For aspiring astronomers, the village of San Pedro de Atacama houses the famed ALMA Observatory and plenty of astronomy tours operate from here.

ALMA Observatory Chile


Valle de Elqui, La Serena

Valle de Elqui is another spot where you’ll find the night sky suitably salted with stars. Cerro Tololo Observatory holds the title of oldest astronomical centre in the southern hemisphere, while the city of La Serena is the country’s second oldest city (after Santiago). Nearby Vicuña – the birthplace of poet Gabriela Mistral – is worth visiting for the Mamalluca Observatory, which leads nightly stargazing tours. Elqui is also known for its vineyards, so you can tour the world-class wineries by day and goggle at distant galaxies in the evening with a glass of red wine in hand.


Illapel, Coquimbo Region

Celestial activity abounds in Illapel, a town which is often overlooked on traditional tourist routes. Las Chinchillas National Reserve is a hidden gem of the region and home to some of the last remaining colonies of long-tailed wild Chinchillas, as well as astonishing starscapes come night-time, making it one of the best spots for stargazing in Chile.


Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia

It’s no secret that Patagonia possesses more than its fair share of stunning vistas, and the Torres del Paine National Park is one of Chilean Patagonia’s scenic stand-outs. Visit for the stargazing and you’ll be greeted by a canopy of stars draped across the trifecta of granite peaks which dominate the terrain and give the park its name.

Torres Del Paine Stargazing


Arica, XV Región

Arica, Chile’s northernmost city, is best known for being a sought-after surf spot (and site of outstanding seafood empanadas) and its mild climate has bestowed it with the nickname ‘The City of The Eternal Spring’. Set up camp on one of its caster-sugar beaches for dramatic rust-coloured sunsets, followed by late-night performances from the star-strewn sky.


Lauca National Park, The Andes

Perched high in the Andes (13,000 feet above sea level), near the borders of Peru and Bolivia, Lauca National Park is a rugged expanse stamped with volcanoes, lakes and tiny traditional towns. Join the local populations of llamas, alpacas and flamingos while exploring the park in daylight, before cosying up under the blanket of stars for some truly off-the-grid stargazing in Chile.


Pucón, Lake District

The town of Pucón, in central Chile’s Lake District, attracts intrepid adventurers and thrill-seekers with its water sports, snow sports and extensive hiking trails. Yet Chile’s ‘Adventure Capital’ isn’t only apt for adrenaline-inducing activities; the region also plays host to numerous hot-springs, some of which offer evening stargazing expeditions. Participate in some of Pucón’s heart-rate-raising pursuits before sinking into one of nature’s hot tubs, and as darkness descends, don’t forget to look up.


Written by Luisa Watts