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Two hours southeast of La Serena by bus lies the city of Ovalle, a place relatively untouched by tourism despite its central location amid a large handful of tourist destinations. Though the valley’s more famous northern cousin, the Elqui Valley, is better known for pristine skies and pisco production, the Valle del Limarí, in which Ovalle sits, lays claim to some equally impressive, albeit less famous sites. A city of manageable size with a pleasant Plaza de Armas, Ovalle serves visitors as a jumping-off point for the surrounding valley’s sites and activities.

The city of Ovalle was founded in 1821, shortly after Chile won its independence from Spain, and was named after the late Vice President José Tomás Ovalle Bezanilla. It currently has a population of about 54,000 inhabitants.


As travelers don’t often visit the city, accommodation options are limited. The chic Plaza Turismo, with its own café and prime location on the perimeter of the Plaza de Armas, provides a comfortable though expensive choice. The Hotel Roxi is a safe mid-range option with brightly colored rooms, a spacious patio, and shared or private bathrooms. But if you desperately need a budget room, you’re out of luck. Residencial Atenas isn’t clean (there’s black mold on the walls in several of the rooms), but it’s the cheapest option in town.


For a tasty cup of coffee and a treat, Café Haiti just off the Plaza de Armas serves very good espresso in a classy mirror-filled atmosphere that’s smoking only, and Calle Independencia has dirt-cheap lunch options that are surprisingly delicious. If you’re looking for a nice night out, try nouveau Mexican food at El Relajo. For a quirky evening of drinks in a literary, leftist diva bar, try El Quijote on Arauco.


Visitors should note that during winter, it’s nearly impossible to get from Ovalle to popular destinations like Valle del Encanto or Fray Jorge National Park without access to a private vehicle. For a price, you can hire a chauffeured van year-round from Transportes Leonor, which is based in the Valley.


Restaurant El Relajo

Antonio Tirado 177

Tel.: 5-363-2441


El Quijote

Arauco 294

Tel.: 5-362-0501


Café Haiti

Paseo Ahumada #140


Plaza Turismo

Victoria # 295

Telephone: 565-362-3258, fax: 565-343-3243



Hotel Roxi

Libertad # 155

Phone: 5-362-0080



Transportes Leonor

Bulnes 11, Monte Patria

Phone: 8-377-3855, 09-958-4287



Other places nearby Ovalle: Guanaqueros, Alto del Carmen, La Serena, Copiapó, Los Vilos, Hurtado, Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar, Chañaral, Vicuña and Vallenar.

By Lauren Yero
I am a recent liberal arts graduate who travels as a compulsion. I have lived in several regions of the US as well as briefly abroad in England and...
17 Jul 2009

Things to do in Ovalle


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Cruz Del Sur Observatory

Although the Cruz del Sur Observatory is over 100 kilometers from Ovalle, it can be visited as a day or weekend tour if staying overnight in Combarbalá, the closest town. The observatory opened in ...
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