One of the first sights our tour guide pointed out to us upon our entrance into Elqui Valley was the observatory atop Cerro Tololo. This observatory is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory group that also runs Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona.
Notice the barren mountains surrounding this lush valley? The Elqui Valley is located in the midst of the driest hot-weather desert on Earth. This is the Atacama Desert, where annual rainfall reaches about .6 inches/15mm. Yet, in the midst of this harshness you’ll find lots of these:
How is that possible? Why is this mid-desert valley so fertile? Because of the Elqui River, which is fed by snow runoff from the Andes Mountains to the east. That’s why you see so many vineyards here — plentiful water to keep grapevines alive, yet the ideal conditions for stressing them to produce the best possible grapes for wines.
You get some truly magnificent photos from the roads overlooking this valley. It’s fascinating to see all this green surrounded by the harshest of deserts.
Here are two more examples: