Almost 380km north of Santiago – some 140km beyond Los Vilos – a lone sign points to the little-visited market town of OVALLE. The town’s main claim to fame is as the birthplace of one of the country’s outstanding contemporary writers, Luis Sepúlveda. It’s also a good base for exploring the dramatic Hurtado Valley or the deeply rural Limarí Valley, home to a few low-key attractions, including the Monumento Natural Pichasca, the Termas de Socos hot springs and the petroglyphs at the Valle del Encanto.

If you have your own car, you can take the scenic road northeast of Ovalle – an alternative route to Vicuña and the Elqui Valley – which winds slowly up into the mountains, passing ancient petrified wood stumps at Pichasca and the delightful oasis village of Hurtado. If you head west, you’ll find a concentration of rock carvings in the Valle del Encanto, a hot springs resort at the Termas de Socos and the impressive cloudforest reserve of Parque Nacional Fray Jorge.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Chile features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

National parks are some of the world's most awe-inspiring natural places, taking in mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and forests (sometimes all in the same one…

02 Jul 2015 • Rebecca Hallett help Quiz
Off the map in the Atacama: Chile's eerie ghost towns

Off the map in the Atacama: Chile's eerie ghost towns

Thousands of foreign travellers visit the geysers, salt flats, oases and volcanoes of north Chile’s Atacama Desert, but few make it to two of the region’s m…

14 Jan 2015 • Shafik Meghji insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month