The Chance to Witness Another Total Eclipse—in Santiago, Chile


If you missed seeing the total solar eclipse over the United States in August, you’ll have another chance in 2019 if you’re ready for a South American adventure.

A total eclipse occurs when the moon completely covers the sun, with the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, becoming visible. The next time that will happen is on July 2, 2019, and the best view will be over Chile, on the western edge of South America. While that may seem like a long way away, this is the time to start planning.

The best spot to catch the eclipse is the beautiful Elqui Valley, about 300 miles ­–or an hour’s plane ride – north of Santiago, Chile’s capital.

La Serena, founded in 1544 and Chile’s second-oldest city, is the gateway to the valley, which stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the foothills of the Andes Mountains. In La Serena, visitors will find a thriving street market with stalls selling everything from handicrafts to sugarcoated papaya, and more than two dozen churches, most notably the Church of San Francisco, dating to 1627.

The Elqui Valley is best known for its clear, unobstructed sky, drawing astronomy buffs from around the world to more than a dozen observatories in the area. The eclipse will be visible in the valley for about 2 minutes and 20 seconds in the late afternoon on July 2, 2019. The valley is also one of the country’s most important wine-growing regions, known primarily for the grapes used to make pisco, a distinctive brandy produced in Chile and Peru. It’s easy to plan a trip that combines wine tasting with stargazing and watching the eclipse.

Vicuna, one of the valley’s many charming small towns, is a center of pisco production and is also home to the popular Mamalluca Observatory, where visitors can browse through multimedia exhibits, get a lesson in astronomy and peer through a telescope at the night sky. The town is also home to a museum dedicated to poet Gabriela Mistral, a Vicuna native who became the first Latin American author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1945.

Visits to Chile usually start in Santiago, a scenic city located in a valley and surrounded by the Andes. You’ll want to spend some time there either before or after your trip to view the eclipse. To get a taste of the city, wander through the Central Market, go shopping along fashionable Avenue Alonso de Cordova and enjoy the galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs in the artsy Bellavista neighborhood.

Day trips from Santiago include the seaport of Valparaiso, where you can ride the funicular railways that connect the historic upper and lower towns. In Pomaire, visitors can experience small-town Chilean culture. While you’re there, pick up some of the pottery for which the town is known. June through October is ski season in Chile. The El Colorado and Valle Nevado ski areas are a couple of hours from Santiago.

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Terry DentonComment