North and Atacama DesertAltiplano, Atacama Desert and a starry sky that you can only see like this in Chile.
Route of Parks of Patagonia
“Imagine the most beautiful scenic route in the world already exists, and it is in Chile
This unique experience leads you into Chile’s extreme north: The territory of the Aymara. This is the right tour for you if you want to learn about the customs and traditions of this indigenous people while at the same time exploring the Altiplano highland and the coast around Arica. Get to know traditional agriculture and weaving craft and participate in the spiritual ceremony in which the two most important deities are called: The Pachamama and Inti Tata. This tour takes you to unique natural sites such as the Lauca National Park – undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parks in Chile – and the famous Chungará Lake, one of the highest lakes in the world.
This tour starts in Arica, Chile’s northernmost city. We pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel in Arica, where you have some time for lunch if arriving in the morning. In the afternoon discover the most important sights of the city on a guided tour, such as Plaza Colon, the Cathedral of San Marcos, the Cultural House and the Fishermen’s Mole. End with an ascent to Mount El Morro, which offers a wonderful panoramic view of the city.
Accommodation: 3-4*Hotel in Arica
Discover the nearby Azapa Valley today. The first stop is at the large vegetable market, where local produce of the valley is offered for sale by its indigenous population. You’ll be able to buy the leaves of the Coca plant, the Aymara’s remedy against altitude sickness. The trip then continues along the old road of Cerro Sombrero, past the geo-glyphs in Alto Ramírez and into the interesting Archeological Museum of San Miguel. It exhibits mummies of the Chinchorro culture – some of the oldest mummies in the world.
In the afternoon, you have the option to help the local Aymara harvest vegetables and fruits such as papayas. It is a great opportunity to learn about their traditional agricultural methods, but also about modernized approaches. Drop irrigation systems, for example, have made it possible to significantly increase the cultivated fields in the Azapa Valley in recent years.
Accommodation: 3-4*Hotel in Arica. (Breakfast, lunch)
Leaving Arica behind, we travel to the village of Belén at around 130 km (80 mi) distance, located 3,240 meters (10,600 ft.) above sea level. This village was founded in 1625 by the Spaniards; today it counts with around 140 inhabitants. On the way we stop at the canyon of Cardona and Lluta Valley with its geoglyphs and petroglyphs.
An afternoon hike takes you to the Pukara de Huaihuarani, a Pre-Inca fortress that was declared a historical monument in 1983. It is located around 6 km (3.7 mi) west of Belén and is still in its original (not restored) state. Enjoy great views over the traditional terraced fields with potato and maize cultivation.
Accommodation at an Aymara family house in Belén. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner)
After a family breakfast, pay a visit to Socoroma, another picturesque Aymara community in the pre-Andean region, situated at 2,800 m (9,100 ft) above sea level. Its 130 inhabitants live mainly off alfalfa and oregano terraces. We continue on to Putre, one of the most important towns in the Chilean part of the Andean highland, the Altiplano. It was founded in 1580 and currently counts with around 1,200 inhabitants.
Upon arrival, you are welcomed by the Yatiri (shaman of Aymara) and receive a woven bag containing coca leaves, in line with Aymara tradition. During the following ceremony, the Yatiri calls for the ancestors and the forces of nature (the “Pachamama” – Mother Earth). The ritual expresses gratitude for the fertility of plants, animals and people. It is also used to ask for protection and well-being, in exchange for coca leaves.
Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Putre. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner)
The spectacular Lauca National Park awaits you today. It was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1981. On the way, we stop at an Apacheta, a ceremonial site that was used centuries ago by Lama caravans. Laying a stone here is a gesture of gratitude towards the Achachilas, the guardian spirits of the Andes highlands.
The Lauca National Park administration and visitor center is located in Parinacota, one of the most beautiful villages of the Chilean highlands. Its well-preserved church of Catholic missionaries has been declared a national monument. From here we walk a picturesque hiking trail to Chungará Lake, located 4,517 meters (14,800 ft) above sea level. Soak up the view of Parinacota and Pomerape volcanoes during a picnic with packed lunch.
In the afternoon, we visit the village of Chucuyo, where you can watch the local Aymaras making textiles before returning to Putre.
Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Putre. (Breakfast, lunchbox, dinner)
From Putre, we take you back to the airport of Arica today. Take a flight back home via Santiago, or continue your journey in another region of Chile. It is recommended to book an afternoon or evening flight.