Chile: Lauca National Park

Happy Thursday y’all!  I am just dropping in with another recap from my SA travels.  🙂 After Peru, the plan was to go down to Arica (north of Chile) and fly from there to Buenos Aires.  The flights were cheaper and we wouldn’t have to back track to Lima.  We decided that while in Arica, we’d check out the town along with make an additional stop to visit Lauca National Park.  The park is located in the Andes mountain range and has stunning views of mountains, volcanoes, and altiplanos (high plains) along with being home to various species of animals and plants including more vicuñas and llamas (like Peru!).  Everything is high altitude varying between 3,200 and 6,300 meters (10,500 and 20,800 feet).

We only stayed one night in Arica before heading to Putre, our home base while exploring the park.  Putre, which sits at 3,500 m, is tiiiiinnny.   We could walk around the entire town in like 10 minutes!  When we arrived, we needed to find an agency to tour the park with.  We walked to various offices trying to find one and most were still closed for the day.  We started making some calls instead and it turns out that most just work off of phone and email correspondence and many did not have availability, but luckily we were able to find one that did.  We ended up joining an Italian couple and our tour guide, Mr. Oriolf, for two full days of exploring.  This area is not very touristy at all so a lot of times, it felt like it was just us in the middle of nowhere which was really nice and a welcomed change from some of the very touristy places in Peru. 🙂

Now on to some photos!!

Arica:  We only spent an evening here, but I liked the town.  It was very lively with people out and about.  We just walked around a bit and treated ourselves to a sushi dinner.

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Catedral de San Marcos
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Morro de Arica (the big hill) – we wanted to walk it to see the views, but arrived a little too late.

The tiny town of Putre (like a ghost town):

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Tour day 1 photos:

For this day, we actually didn’t even make it into the National Park.  We went to an area north of Putre, making stops along the way and had a picnic lunch at the furthest destination.  The entire day was spent at a high altitude averaging around 4,700 meters so our guide kept reminding us to take it easy and to walk slowly.  Altitude sickness is no joke!

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First stop: Quebrada Allane (a small canyon like ravine)

We came across several of these green moss like plants called Yaretas.  We later googled and found out they grow really slowly and can live to be 3,000 years old!  They grow really tightly and compact and can actually hold the weight of a human.  We assumed they were growing on rocks, which some of them are, but not all of them.

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The guide told us we could make tea with the leaves so we collected some to try that evening.  Supposedly it has health benefits, but hasn’t really been proven yet.  Tasted like grass tea.
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Cute alpaca faces

The main event and furthest destination for the day was Suriplaza.  The mountains here are various colors due to being composed of different minerals.  We walked around a bit and enjoyed a surprisingly healthy picnic of chicken, quinoa, and tomato, cucumber, and avocado salad.

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Tour day 2 photos:

For this day, we visited some areas in the north of Lauca National Park with the main event being a stop at Lake Chungará, a high altitude lake surrounded by pretty views and volcanos.  Of course there were several stops along the way as well.

We saw several of these little rabbit/kangaroo guys as we walked along a short trail at one of the stops:

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Their official name: Vizcacha

Some of the cool views from this day:

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(Jessie walking in the distance)

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We tried to get a selfie with this guy, but he wasn’t really having it:

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And this guy was always trying to photo bomb:

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Seriously he was cracking me up:

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Lake Chungará and nearby volcano Parinacota:

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The water was a bit low, but we still got some reflection action.

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It was really beautiful, but it was also a bit loud.  The lake is close to the Bolivian border and the route it used by several large trucks.  On top of that, there was a lot of noisy and dusty road construction going on, so there was a massive line of trucks waiting to pass said construction. :/

Here is a short video of the views (videos do a little more justice than photos!) along with audio evidence of the sketchy photo bomber llama trying to attack Jessie when she attempted a selfie with it!

After the lake visit, we slowly made our way back to Putre, stopping in the even smaller town of Parinacota for a late lunch.  This town is like a legit ghost town.  I think only 3-4 families actually live there!

The old town church:

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We arrived back to Putre in time to take quick showers (sooo much dust) and catch a bus back to Arica.  It was the start of the longest travel date yet including spending a night in the Santiago airport.

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(more on this travel day in my next post!)

Well that’s all for this post.  I will be returning home soon (on Monday!) and will eventually have more time to catch you up with the rest of my SA travel adventures!

Until next time (from the states!!),

Kimberly

P.S. Google Photos Album:

Chile: Arica, Putre, and Lauca National Park

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