The Chilean Altiplano

Cotacotani Lake

This impressing view was captured by Willy A. Suys during his trip to the Chilean Altiplano in summer 1999

If you want see more views of Chilean Altiplano click here

The Cordillera de Los Andes is a chain of high mountains (above 6000 mt high) trough all the west coast of Latin America. In South Perú and North of Chile the Andes becomes an enormeous plateau of high altitude wich raises avbove 5000 mt high in the highest points. Only in Tibet you find inhabited places at this heigth, so this land is very attractive for those oriented to adventure travel.

There are 3 main ways to trip to the altiplano, each one reach a frontier village with Bolivia. Starting from Antofagasta and San Pedro de Atacama the way climbs to the border in Ollague. From Iquique and Huara you reach to Colchane and finally from Arica and Putre you reach to the frontier in Tambo Quemado. There are also an enormeous web of small roads and horse tracks wich conecct all villages of altiplano

The best way for touristic purposes starts from Arica, is the only one pavimented and it has the most of interesting places. The way from Antofagasta has the attractive villag of San Pedro de Atacama and Valle de la Luna, but it has almost no transit as far you tri to the border, so is not so safe if you experience a panne in the road. The way from Iquique has almost null touristic interest and is used regulary for trucks carring merchandises from the Free Zone of Iquique to Bolivia.


Interesting spots

From Arica, we have Poconchile, Zapahuira, Socoroma, Putre (capitol town of altiplano), Pacollo, Chucullo, the beauty Lago Chungará (National Park) and the laguna Cotacotani.

Branhcing from the main road we found Copaquilla, Chapquiña, Pachama, Belén, Saxamar, Ticnamar and Salar de Surire.

From Iquique we have the gosth town of Humberstone in Desierto de Atacama, next Huara, Pachica, Laonsana, Queldine, las termas de Chusmisa, Puchuldisa, Enquelga, Isluga and Colchane

From Antofagasta we have Baquedano, Carmen Alto, Sierra Gorda, Calama, San Pedro de Atacama, Toconao to Guaytilquina (frontier with Argentina). Returning to Calama y bending to north we have Chiu Chiu, Salar de Ascotán and trhe frontier with Bolivia in Ollague.

My personal recomendation for those who travel for the first time to the altiplano is lstart from Arica and trip for the samll villages of "el interior" (the inner land) wich surround the road Arica - La Paz reaching to Lago Chungará (there are 1-2 days tours fairly cheap). If you like and are adventurer enough you can take the bus "La Paloma" (who is used by altiplano people to trip to Arica) and trip over transversal less known villages, The ideal is visit when the village is celebrating his patron saint aniversary (every village has one). You can do that with lvery few money and you can stay in a boarding house in Putre as operation center.