Arica is Chile’s most northern city and it’s just 20 km from the Peruvian border the gateway to the Altiplano. There are interesting archaeological “geoglyphs”or ancient wall drawings and “pukaras” or Indian fortresses and the world's oldest mummies at the Azapa valley. Arica has long sandy beaches along with a bustling port.
Iquique is an attractive port and city with well preserved historical buildings. Popular with local and international tourists, Iquique is one of the main towns of the Atacama Desert region. Once the centre of the mining of nitrates (used in explosives and fertilizer), Iquique still maintains the nostalgic mood of that bygone era in many of the older buildings that have been preserved. It was also the site of one of the largest naval battles in history. It features a duty free shopping area and beautiful white sand beaches for those who just want to relax.. Around Iquique, the desert pampa stretches north, south and to the mountains. Mamiña and Pica are within easy reach of Iquique; both are beautiful, tranquil places. A short distance north of the town is the Duty Free Zone which sells all manner of imported items including electronic goods. The beaches at Cavancha just south of the town centre are beautiful and are best visited between November-March.
Here you will discover clear skies 300 nights of the year in the Elqui Valley to appreciate the astronomy that many visitors come to this area to enjoy along with the city and beaches of La Serena itself. The capital of the 4th region of Coquimbo, La Serena, is the 2nd oldest city in Chile. Founded in 1544 by the Spaniard Juan Bohon and after his death it was re-founded, this time by his successor, Francisco de Aguirre. The city of La Serena is located 470 kilometres north of Santiago and has the Elqui Valley nearby. You can relax by the beach in one of the many hotels or cabins on offer or adventure into the Elqui Valley observatories and famous “Pisco” factory.
Putre is the capital of the Parinacota Province in the Arica-Parinacota Region. It is located 130 km east of Arica. It is located at the base of the Tarapaca Volcano, this scenic Aymara village is located on the edge of the Laura National Park and is popular with visitors to the National Park wishing to acclimatise to the altitude. The village has a church dating from 1670 and has a population of approximately 1,200. Putre provides an ideal centre for hiking with an extensive network of trails which lead to numerous villages in the mountains. Close by, there are four archaeological sites with cave paintings up to 6,000 years old.
Hotels and Accommodation
Accommodation in Northern Chile ranges from a luxurious 5 * hotel to comfortable 3* hotels, you can find something in every budget. Please follow the link to hotels for Northern Chile, on this page, for more details.
There are many tours on offer in Northern Chile. Please follow the tours link, below right, for more details.
From the Pacific to the Andes 3 days/ 2 nights
Day 1: Arica-Azapa Valley-Arica
Reception at airport in Arica, and transfer to the hotel. Tour around Arica in the afternoon visiting San Marcos Cathedral and Casa de la Cultura (Cultural House), both designed by Eiffel, the historic Morro de Arica with its panoramic view, the beaches and the fishermen’s pier to watch pelicans and sea-lions. Tour along the Azapa Valley, observing geoglyphs on the hillsides, and visiting the Archaeological Museum of San Miguel that exhibits the “Chinchorro Mummies”, that have a historic data close to 5.000 B.C. Return to hotel in Arica. Overnight
Day 2: Arica - Aymara Villages - Putre
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning journey through the desert to the high plateaus of the Andes. Visit to the Aymara towns of Tignamar, Belén, Chapiquiña, Socoroma and Putre, pre-Columbian settlements that still maintain their traditions and customs, and that remain connected by the ancestral pathways of the “Inca Trail”. Dinner and accommodation at a hostel in Putre.
Day 3: Putre - Chungará Lake - La Paz (Bolivia)
Breakfast at hostel in Putre. Morning departure to the historic town of Parinacota. Entry to Lauca National Park declared a World Biosphere Reserve, where the highest lake of the world is located, Lake Chungará (4.570 m.a.s.l.), surrounded by “Apus” (sacred mountains) and the “Payachatas” (twin volcanoes) Parinacota and Pomerape, which are the Mallkus (Gods) of the Andes. Observation of the local fauna such as alpacas, vicuñas, llamas, and vizcachas. Connection with a scheduled bus service. Arrive at La Paz in Bolivia.