Back in 2017, the “Great American Eclipse” stirred up a massive amount of interest, even among those who never considered themselves amateur astronomers. Much of the excitement was due to the fact that it was visible across the USA – from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans – along a heavily populated path. It was described as the most viewed eclipse in human history and caused a tourism boom along the path of totality in the US, with booked out hotels, massive camp-outs, special tours and much more.
Luckily a total solar eclipse is visible somewhere on Earth about every year and a half. The best viewing for any eclipse is along “the path of totality”, the centre of the path where the full effect of the eclipse can be seen. The further you move from the true path of totality, the eclipse will become only a partial one. The path of totality for the 2019 eclipse will cross a smaller section of land over central Chile and Argentina.
But if you want to get as close to the path as possible, there are a variety of places to consider. It will be visible just outside Buenos Aires, but as this is the most populated area along the path of totality it will likely get quite busy. In Chile, the eclipse will conveniently pass over the stargazing mecca Elqui Valley – which is why it’s one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 regions in the world to visit in 2019. The Elqui Valley is famous for its clear skies and high elevation – which is why it was declared the world’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary. The area is already spotted with observatories – like the European Southern Observatory facility at La Silla, Chile – and amateurs to want to be in the region can already start plan their trips.
There are already scores of different tours available – and many that are already sold out – for anyone looking to enjoy the eclipse in Chile’s Atacama and Coquimbo regions, or areas of Argentina, including Buenos Aires. Some will feature experts and eclipse chasers, while others expand their focus beyond the eclipse to other aspects of South American culture, like wine and hiking.
According to NASA, travellers may try to head where the eclipse can be seen for the longest – the path of totality – but checking the conditions may be the best way to get a view. “It’s much more important to watch the weather forecasts a day or two before the eclipse and choose a location with the best chance of a cloud-free sky during the eclipse. Good weather is the key to successful eclipse viewing – better to see a shorter eclipse from clear sky that a longer eclipse under clouds”.