Q I’m taking a two-week trip to South America next year, to coincide with the solar eclipse. Where should I go?
Ben Box, author, South American Handbook: The total solar eclipse is due just before sunset on 2 July 2019, tracking from Chile’s La Serena on the Pacific coast to Argentina’s Buenos Aires near the Atlantic. Skies may be cloudy on the Pacific, but clearer inland in Chile, clearer still on the eastern side of the Andes, but it being midwinter, there’s no guarantee.
As bases for a sighting, Chile’s Elqui Valley (about 40 miles east of La Serena) is one of the world’s astronomical centres, with observatories and towns like Vicuña and Pisco Elqui, famous also for pisco distilleries. Or, try the provincial capital of San Juan on the southern margin of the totality.
The eclipse’s path is close to good centres for further exploration: the coast south of La Serena towards Valparaíso and Santiago, or north to the Atacama. In Argentina, San Juan is near the lunar-like landscapes of Ischigualasto and Talampaya national parks, and only 2.5 hours by bus from Mendoza’s vineyards and adventure sports. Then it’s just a short flight to Buenos Aires.
Tom Marchant, co-founder, Black Tomato: Comprising vast landscapes of sweeping deserts and soaring peaks, Chile never fails to ignite our adventurous spirit. Arid swathes to the north of the country are set to take the mesmeric drama up a notch when the total solar eclipse sweeps across the sky. Plunging the country into momentary darkness before sailing across the border to Argentina and tailing off into the Atlantic Ocean, the total solar eclipse offers an unmissable chance to connect with Chile’s stunning natural surroundings. The eclipse should hit its Chilean peak over the coastal town of La Serena, but typically cloudy skies here could serve to obscure your view. Instead, head out to the Elqui Valley, towards Vicuña, where the skies are clearer and local distilleries serve up an excellent pisco brandy.
For a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, Black Tomato can arrange for you to spend time in the valley in one of our signature, bespoke Blink camps. Tailored entirely to you and designed specifically for this occasion to maximise views of the skies, Blink offers the opportunity to eclipse chase in style. Combine days of splendid wilderness here with a few stepping out on to the vibrant streets of Buenos Aires and you have a luxury trip of astrological proportions. British Airways flies direct to Santiago, Chile, four days a week.
Published in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)