Eggs and a pitch of Sand: Easter in Tongoy

Easter weekend in Santiago tolls the end-of-summer bell. La Semana Santa offers a final chance to escape from Santiago’s smog and head north for a few days, to the blissfully isolated coastal village of Tongoy.

 Photo by Sophie Halart
Photo by Sophie Halart

A sandy promontory in the Elqui Valley, Tongoy is a fishing village located south of La Serena and a good five hours drive from Santiago, via the pleasant Ruta 5 that runs between the Ocean and the pre-Andes plains.

 Photo by Sophie Halart
Photo by Sophie Halart

The town of Tongoy itself does not have anything spectacular: a few deserted streets, sleepy dogs lounging in the sun and armies of seagulls trying to pitch a fish from the small market stalls. However, the landscape and the view onto the ocean from the top of the dunes make it all worthwhile. And while the town may get overcrowded at the peak of the tourist season, the atmosphere that reigns in the calmer months of September, October, April and May is one of pure relaxation.

The ocean is still warm enough for the bravest to swim in and the two beaches that frame the village, the Playa Socos to the north -- leading to Tongoy’s posher alter ego Puerto Velero -- and the Playa Grande to the south are full of hiking opportunities. For the inexhaustible culture vultures, the childhood house of the poet Victor Domingo Silva has been turned into an interesting little museum dedicated to the life and work of one of Chile’s most important poets.

 Photo by Sophie Halart
Photo by Sophie Halart

And to provide fuel to all this exercise, the small restaurants lining up Playa Grande provide the perfect food. The specialities range from delicious marisco empanadas to piping hot ostiones a la parmesana, all accompanied by terribly treacherous pisco sours that the waiters prepare according to your preference: seco, intermedio or suave.

While a minimum stay of three days is required to fully embrace the balm of the town, Tongoy also works as a prefect base for longer stays to explore the rest of the coast and the inland Elqui valley with its pisco plantations. Away from the touristic hot spots, Tongoy is accessible to all budgets. For the backpackers, the slightly derelict Hotel Tongoy Tongoy in the harbor offers bedding from CP$10,000 (US$22) per person per night with unbeatable views upon the ocean. Slightly more upmarket, the Hosteria Tongoy Costa overlooking Playa Socos is a great alternative. If you are organizing a convoy of friends, the best option may be to rent a cabaña for a few days. Most of them have a garden in front with barbecue and enough bushes, trees and flowerpots to hide your Easter eggs in -- as long as you don’t mind them a little crunchy, that is.

 Photo by Sophie Halart
Photo by Sophie Halart

Accommodation
Hotels, cabañas and houses rentals are all listed on www.tongoy.cl

Hotel Tongoy Tongoy
http://www.tongoy.cl/hotel_Tongoy_Tongoy/index.htm
62476269
fernandohadadc@hotmail.com

Hosteria Tongoy Costa
http://www.hosteriatongoycosta.cl/
Avenida Costanera Norte 10
(51) 391203 Fax:(51) 392438
hosteriatongoycosta@yahoo.es

Getting There
By car: a 4-5 hour drive on Ruta 5.
By bus: A 6 hour drive. Tickets available from www.turbus.cl. A return ticket in low season is about $17,000 (US$ 36.78) for a semi-cama and $26,000 (US$ 56.24) for a salon-cama seat.

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