Arica and the trip to Nacional Parque Nacional Lauca

Arica Travel Blog

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We arrived safely at our Hostel in Arica.  Our first impressions of the Jardin Del Sol was that it was a bit like the rooms out of the hit BBC "comedy" Hi-Di-Hi, but it is fine!  Our first impressions of Arica are a bit like a cross between Torquay and Porthcawl - a bit of a scruffy seaside town, but it does have some very nice looking apartments and is very more "European" in appearance than anywhere we visited in Peru (not that is necessarily a good thing!).

We booked our tour to Lauca, opting for the 2 night / 3 day trip.  This is something that we had been looking at since we began looking at Chile months ago.

View of Parinacota from Parque Nacional Lauca
  We hoped it would be a beautiful and peaceful place to visit, but we certainly had our expectations surpassed.......

The first day was pretty-much a gentle introduction to the altitude.  We visited the Arica museum and leaned a bit about human life in the area, which seemed to have been around for 9,000 years (so not a huge time by anthropological measurements).  We also stopped at each identifiable geological level (so we were told!) on the way up the first valley - which was an amazingly green valley nestling in the most barren desert, famous (in Chile) for the production of olives and olive-oil, although all sorts of tropical fruit is grown here.   We did the visit to the Arica City Museum (not out of choice, although it was fairly interesting) which had a good grounding of human activity in the area of Arica and the mountains, which has been since about 7,000 years BCE.

"Lolly he Friendly Llama" gets friendly with Javier, our tour guide!

We visited the "Geogliphs" - stone shapes made over 1000 years ago on the sides of the hills, although this wasn´t that spectaular. The candelabra cactus grows by the side of the road, which has a very peculiar shape and is like a very solid and dry wood.

Eventually, after some walking around a spectaular canyon and a trip to Socorama, a tiny hamlet with only ten families (although they must have been very big families, because there were about 50 houses there!) we arrived at Putre, where our stop-off point would before we went to visit Lauca the next day (which couldn´t be done in one go because of the altitude change  that can be very problematic and can cause "Soroche" - altitude sickness).

Flamingoes in Surire de Salar

The next day we drove further up Ruta 11 towards Bolivia to get to Lauca itself and the serence Lago Chungara (which is supposed to be the "highest lake in the world" at 4,500m above sea level).  The graceful Vicuna and peculiar looking alpaca graced upon the Altiplano and virtually ignored us (until we came too close!) and the birdlife was beautiful.  We visited the white-washed village of Parinacota (also the name of our excellent tour agency and of the imposing mountain, which imposed itself just a few miles from Lake Chungara).    We also went for a swim in the hot springs about 15 miles from Putre, which were indeed very hot in some places!  Jeremy made the mistake of plastering himself in mud and had to wash it off using very hot water (unfortunately it wouldn´t have been acceptable for him to jump into the pool as he was!).

Parque Nacional Lauca
  It was very refreshing and in the most breathtaking valley.       When we returned to our hostel at Putre, we were very tired (and Jeremy was suffering from a hideous upset stomach!) after a day wandering around at such a high altitude.

The next dmorning, we set-off to the Salar de Surire - a salt flat and lake.  The "road" (it was more like a stone track) was very bumpy and the sun hammered-down through the windows of our mini-van.  We stopped several times - to visit the tiny hamlets on the way and to admire the Volcan Guallatire, which still gently coughs-out it sulpherous smoke, although hasn´t erupted for centuries (so we were told!).   We eventually reached the Salar itself (there are many such "Salars" around this part of the Andes and the Bolivia-Chile border), greeted by Flamingoes feeding and a large expanse of white in contrast against the Altiplano with its arrid sand and small prickly plants.

Alpacas grazing in Lauca Park
  We had a picnic lunch at the local police station (looked like a very cushy number with their lunch spread next door and a homely lounge with home cinema set-up - there isn´t anyone regularly visiting up here - let alone criminals!!).  We walked around the lake - there were literally no other tourists there at all - just our party of 4 and Javier our excellent guide.  We moved around to the hot spring lagoon, which was about 40c and a beautiful colour.  We only dipped our feet in (although it would have been nice to go for a swim like we did the day before).    We went back to pick-our stuff up from Putre before making the long and entirely downhill journey to Arica, which was terribly slow due to the amount of heavy goods lorries heading to the coast from Boliva (which has no access to the sea of it´s own). 


Photos to be posted ASAP - but not from this slow internet computer!!

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View of Parinacota from Parque Nac…
View of Parinacota from Parque Na…
Lolly he Friendly Llama gets fri…
"Lolly he Friendly Llama" gets fr…
Flamingoes in Surire de Salar
Flamingoes in Surire de Salar
Parque Nacional Lauca
Parque Nacional Lauca
Alpacas grazing in Lauca Park
Alpacas grazing in Lauca Park
Vicunas on the salt flat.  SdS
Vicunas on the salt flat. SdS
photo by: jendara