To the south of the cities of La Serena and Coquimbo, there is a valley full of vineyards. It is known as the Green North, although its real name is Limarí Valley. This area, which is famous for its agricultural production and in particular the pisco grape, is today also synonymous with high-end wines. Next, we invite you to discover a little more about this unknown corner of the world.
In the Limarí Valley there are some of the best terroirs for the production of premium wines. There, some Chilean winegrowers have been experimenting with different soils and areas close to the mountains or the sea. Quebrada Seca is one of them, located at 190 meters above sea level and only 22 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean on the north bank of the Limarí River. This location is synonymous of vineyards with a great coastal influence and calcareous soils, which makes the grapes ripen slowly as a result of the fresh breeze that comes from the sea so the wines have a fresh and mineral character. Amelia Chardonnay 2018 and Amelia Pinot Noir 2017, for example, are two of the Concha y Toro wines that come from the Limarí Valley. A valley that has established itself as one of the alternative terroirs to the more traditional coastal valleys (such as Casablanca) for the production of white wines, but also very elegant red wines.
But we could say that, if it weren’t for the vineyards, these lands have gone quite unnoticed. So much, that today they reappear on the tourist circuit as a natural and authentic destination with much to offer. A destination to be rediscovered.
To get to the Limarí Valley, it is possible to do it by land from Santiago, either by bus or by driving around 4 hours along Route 5 North. Or by flying to the city of La Serena and then traveling by land for about an hour to the south. Given the distance, it is convenient to go early and stay at least one night in the city of Ovalle. Minutes from the city centre is Keo Hotel, a 4-star hotel and part of the facilities of the new Ovalle Casino & Resort, which has modern facilities and, in addition, the Samay Wine Spa. There they offer facial and body treatments based on the properties of grapes and wine, perfect for relaxation and to experience the other benefits that the vine offers.
Once in the area, there are many options. If your thing is trekking and adventure, the agency Trashumante Expediciones offers various excursions whose focus is to make known the hidden valleys of the Limarí. Its most popular tour is Panguesillo Trekking, which consists of three hours of walking in which there is bird watching, a visit to a native forest of chañar (trees with yellow flowers and brown fruit, with which honey and mistelas), observation and interpretation of petroglyphs, visit to the puma trail, among other incredible experiences. Now, if you really enjoy the expeditions, they also have two-day programs to further explore the Limarí.
At lunchtime, you can not miss Fuente Toscana. It is probably the best restaurant in the area, where they offer a cuisine with Italian and Spanish influences, but rescuing the best of local products. Salads with vegetables grown in their own garden, homemade pastas such as Fetuccini Cuello de Cabrito (goats’ neck pasta) or Provoleta goat cheese with papaya jam, are some of their unmissable dishes.
To continue discovering, 80 kilometers from Ovalle (in the Limarí mountain range sector) is the town of Tulahuén. Few know that Sergio Larraín, who was probably the most important Chilean photographer of all time, took refuge here. At the end of the 50s, he became the promise of the Magnum agency after photographing the Italian mafia, but after deciding that this was not his thing, he went to Tulahuén. where he continued photographing corners of his house, shadows, plants and mountain herbs. The documentary The Eternal Instant, released in 2021, tried to answer that big question: Why did he decide to abandon the successful career he had achieved and take refuge in Tulahuén?
In any case, this corner of the world does have charm. In fact, did you know that there are only two lapis lazuli mines in the world? And that one of them is in Tulahuén? The Cordillera Azul workshop is one of the places you can visit to see the work with this wonderful stone, and the artist Rita Álvarez, who sells all kinds of jewellery and silver work there.
As you see, there are many reasons and activities to do in this quiet wine valley. Even away from the masses, it is an oasis that is worth visiting.