Believed to emit a special energy, the Elqui Valley has attracted numerous spiritual communities, yoga and meditation centers, alternative therapy groups, and, naturally, UFO believers to the area. Its namesake river is ice-cold, fed by snowmelt heading down from the Andes to the ocean. Winding roads lead to little towns like Cochiguaz and Montegrande, Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral’s childhood home. The overall vibe in the sunny Elqui Valley—where the trees are laden with fruit and the fields carpeted with wildflowers—is one of contentment and tranquillity. And this being Chile
, you’ll spot grapes on the vine everywhere. A nearby distillery turns that fruit into an eau-de-vie that until recently was the country’s most popular form of alcohol. Wind your way from town to town, beginning in Vicuña. Young hitchhiking backpackers are common along the road. In short, the place is so laid-back and esoteric you’d swear you could pay with a tarot card.