7 days / 6 nights
This exciting self-drive tour takes you to explore the little-known extreme north of Chile. From Arica on the Pacific coast, cross the spectacular highland (Altiplano), where natural wonders such as the Lauca National Park and the Surire Salt Flat await you. The majestic Andean scenery with volcanoes reaching over 6,000 m (20,000 ft) in height accompanies you all the way. Due to the summer rainfalls (“Altiplano Winter”), the recommended travel period for this trip is outside of December to March.
Your journey begins in Chile´s northernmost city close to the Peruvian border, Arica. Upon arrival at the airport, pick up your rental car and drive to your hotel in the city center. The rest of the day is at leisure in the “City of Eternal Spring”. We recommend visiting the “Morro” – a tall rock overlooking the city and the coast. Arica´s railway station and the customs house were designed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel.
Overnight in Arica.
2 h drive– 105 km/65 mi
From the Pacific Coast, drive up to the highland today. An interesting stop on the way is the Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum in the Azapa Valley, where some of the world´s oldest mummies were found.
Continue up all the way to the small village of Putre, which is located at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft). Take it easy and give your body time to acclimatize; the nearby Jurasi Hot Springs are the ideal place to relax.
Overnight in Putre. (B)
3 h drive – 150 km/93 mi
One of Chile’s most impressive protected areas is located close to Putre: Lauca National Park. Apart from surreal views of volcanoes, it offers a diverse avifauna with more than 150 different species. Its spectacular Chungará Lake, located at an altitude of 4,500 m (15,000 ft), reflects the colossal volcanoes Parinacota (6,110 m/20,000 ft) and Pomperane (6,232 m/20,500 ft). Despite the relentless highland climate, there is abundance of flora and fauna – you might be able to observe flamingos, guanacos, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, condors and vizcachas.
Overnight in Putre. (B)
3 h drive – 80 km/50 mi
Your journey continues south today. Drive through the impressive landscape of the highlands until reaching the small village of Guallatiri. Today´s accommodation is located nearby, next to the river Lauca.
Overnight near Guallatiri. Simple and remote accommodation. (B)
6-8 h drive – 170 km/105 mi
On your way south today, you pass by the National Reserve Las Vicuñas and the impressive Volcán Isluga National Park. An obligatory stop is the Surire Salt Flat, whose special conditions make it the ideal habitat for several different species of flamingos. You might also have time for a quick dip into the Polloquere Hot Springs. The route then continues south to the village of Colchane, located in close proximity to the Bolivian border. The road conditions and driving times on the highland vary, depending on the summer rainfalls from December to March (“Altiplano Winter”).
Overnight in Colchane. (B)
Approx. 4 h drive – 255 km/160 mi
Leave the highland today and drive west towards the coast until reaching the oasis town of Pica. It gives its name to the Pica lemon, main ingredient for the Chilean Pisco Sour. The fruits that grow along the side of the road here differentiate through their particularly strong and fresh aroma.
There are several points of interest in the surroundings, such as the nearby Pampa de Tamarugal National Reserve and a variety of hot springs.
Overnight in Pica. (B)
2 h drive– 115 km/70 mi
Your journey through Chile´s Altiplano ends today. Drive to the coastal city of Iquique, where you drop off your rental car at the airport. From here, you can continue your journey to another region of Chile or fly back home via Santiago. (B)