Parque Nacional Lauca   2 comments

Monday 6th October 2014

Straight after breakfast we head to the car rental station near our hostal and ask for a small car that will get us into the Lauca National Park, 160 kilometres east of Arica on the Chilean Altiplano.

Lo siento, says the lovely señorita behind the counter, we don’t have any small vehicles anymore, only camionetas, 4×4 pick-ups. Although she gives us a good price, a 4×4 pick-up is still more expensive than a car and, to be honest, quite a big truck. We try a few more rental services in the neighbourhood but to no avail – they don’t have any vehicles at all that day, are not particular interested in helping us or they are apparently closed on Monday mornings.

Well, time is pressing, the first offer was a lot better than anything we have seen online the previous evening, the agent is very friendly and accommodating, and regarding the intimidating size of the vehicle, hey-ho – I drive a Transit van at home after all. And so we return to Europcar where Señorita Soraya deals with our request in the most helpful and efficient way imaginable. 20 minutes later we are the proud temporary owners of a Mitsubishi L200 Katana, a 2.5 l Diesel with 175 bhp. As it turns out later it is the perfect vehicle for our trip.


Our first destination is the Museo Arqueológico San Miguel de Azapa.

Home of the oldest mummies in the world (8,000 to 2,000 BC)


The people of the Chinchorro culture developed different techniques of mummification over the centuries.

(click on the picture if you want to know more)


… and, most fascinating, they even regarded still-born fetuses as members of their community and prepared them in the same way as the adults.

This photo proves all of you wrong who think that Johannes doesn’t visit museums

What palm trees look like when they are not trimmed regularly


From San Miguel de Azapa we take the Ruta 11 through the Lluta Valley east.

Within 170 kilometres, the ‘Ruta del Desierto’ climbs from sea level near Arica up to over 4,600 metres on the altiplano.

After 145 kilometres we reach Putre where we will spend the night


For dinner we have regional dishes made with Llaita, a freshwater algae that is growing in the wetlands of the altiplano.


Tuesday 7th October 2014

We climb even higher – from 3,500 to 4,500 metres above sea level

… before we enter the national park

Road conditions are not the best – natural traffic calming, we suppose…

… to protect the wildlife

The Twin Peaks – Volcán Parinacota (6,342 metres, Chile) and Pomerape (6,282 metres, Bolivia)



Lagunas de Cotacotani

Living stone

They are really plants…

… not just moss growing on rocks

Lago Chungará on the border with Bolivia

Volcán Parinacota

I catch up with an old acquaintance…

… who still offers a fantastic tea made from coca leaves and chachacuma that helps if you are suffering from soroche (altitude sickness)

Even up here there are road works…

… to build a better country

We visit the village of Parinacota

… with its famous 17th century church

… which has been closed for two years now for emergency restoration

You can still climb the belfry

Around the corner we spot a vizcacha

On the way back to the main road we take a different route

Our last stop before returning to Arica

In 2010 I spent over an hour to get a shot of one vizcacha here…

This time we are spoilt for choice

We even see a family!

… and some more vicuñas


I think I’ve fallen in love with the L200; a fantastic car for this kind of excursion, comfortable, easy to drive and capable of mastering all sorts of road conditions. And it pulls a herring off the plate… 😉

We even contemplate briefly keeping it for the rest of the trip…


After returning the pick-up, we find excellent accommodation at the Hostal Sunny Days near the bus terminal. Its tag line is ‘a home away from home’ and that’s really true. Lovely hosts, a friendly welcome with juice and cake and loads of well-thought through details, facilities and services.

On the roof terrace

Beach of Arica by (almost) night


The visit to the national park was certainly another highlight of our journey! All Lauca pictures here.


Posted 10 October 2014 by Pumpy in Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

2 responses to “Parque Nacional Lauca

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  1. Love the car! Great pics, love the blog too!

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