Putre, Parque Nacional Lauca, and Reserva Natural Las Vicuñas

On this trip we have gotten a lot of pleasure from visiting the less well known spots. Putre in northern Chile fits the bill. Comparing pictures this area is just as magical as San Pedro de Atacama, but with significantly fewer people. We rented a 4×4 VW truck with Europcar in Arica and drove out to Putre for two nights.

There isn’t a lot of information online, but here were some of the best resources:

  • Flavio at Terrace Lodge -we bought maps from his website and stopped by and chatted with him to get his recommendations on what to do. Even if you’re not staying there, definitely stop by. He has the best coffee in town to boot.
  • Chile in Third Gear — Parque Nacional Lauca – great description of what is out there.
  • Mayuru Tour – guides for the area, we used their tour outline as inspiration for our itinerary. In particular this one.

North of Putre

On the first day we drove north from Putre. Our destination was Suriplaza where on one side of the road the terrain looks white like the moon and but it is red on the other side like Mars. On the drive we got some beautiful vistas and saw herds of llamas and alpacas grazing on the desert grasses and shrubs. Pleasantly we did not see any people.

South of Putre – Salar de Surire

The second day our main destination was Salar de Surire. Reading online made it seem very difficult to get there, in reality there was a pretty good dirt road the entire way. Our only complaint was there were many semi trucks on the road from nearby mines, but they were always polite in letting us pass. The lake and surrounding landscape were surreal.

Lake Chungara

On our last day we really wanted to get to Lake Chungara and get some of the beautiful views of Volcan Parinacota. Unfortunately the trucks heading to Bolivia were backed up miles from the border and it was impossible to drive on highway 11 to the lake. We tried some of the side dirt roads and also didn’t have any luck. As a conciliation prize we did see a bunch of adorable viscacha.

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