Atacama-desert in the northern part of Chile is one of the oldest settlements in this area. It was inhabited by the Atacama around 500 AD. We stayed in San Pedro, a small village where you can get from one side to the other in 20 minutes by foot. Its main source of income is tourism – numerous hotels, hostels, shops, tourist agencies, restaurants form a lively centre. There’s a lot to do around here: Valle de la Luna, lagoons with flamingos, you can try sandboarding or stargazing. We decided for stargazing because we wanted to get to know the southern hemisphere constellations. Astronomy was also one of the pick-up lines Jure used on me a good decade ago.
Stargazing is organized by tourist agencies, just look for a telescope outside. 🙂 Usually they have two tours: one in English and one in Spanish. But because we were there at low season they just had one. Meeting point was at the agency, then we drove for only 5 minutes to an observatory – a house with a big room, where tea and hot chocolate were served and in the meanwhile we watched a short documentary. Afterwards we went to the backyard. 2 telescopes were waiting for us and the moon lit the place with mysterious light. The extremely enthusiastic astronomer explained and showed different star constellations. We had the chance to use the telescopes and admire the galaxies far away. At the end we tried to take pictures of the moon through the lens of the telescope – judge for yourself if we did it well. 🙂
We enjoyed the tour, but we do have some tips for an even better experience:
- Don’t go on the tour if the moon brighter than the half moon.
- Ask how big your group is going to be (the smaller, the better).
- Ask how many telescopes will be available.
- Ask where the observatory is (everything under a 15 min drive is not the best)
- Check the weather forecast (we know it is a desert, but we were there at the time of El Niño which resulted in a few clouds)
- Bring your mobile, because it can be easier to take a picture through the telescope.
- Bring warm clothes, the desert can be chilly at night.
Let the moon and the stars enchant you 😉