Enfolded by rolling, sun-bleached hills midway between Ovalle and La Serena, ANDACOLLO is a tidy little town of small adobe houses grouped around a long main street. It lies along a side road which branches northeast from the Ruta 43, the most direct, scenic route between Ovalle and La Serena. Andacollo has been an important gold- and copper-mining centre ever since the Inca mined its hills in the sixteenth century, but is best known as the home of the Virgen de Andacollo, a small wooden carving that draws over one hundred thousand pilgrims to the town each year between December 23 and 26 for the Fiesta Grande de la Virgen, four days of music and riotous dancing performed by costumed groups from all over Chile. The town is also home to one of the country’s newest observatories, open to the public for evening stargazing.

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