Alto Andino Nature Tours

copyright B. Knapton   Hippocamelus antisensis near Putre, Chile

Hippocamelus antisensis near Putre.  Andean Deer, Taruka, Huemul, listed by the IUCN as "vulnerable".  "Taruka population in Chile might be around 1,000 individuals, based on census data from Sielfeld et al. (1988)."  photo copyright B. Knapton

When is the best time to come to Atacama Chile?  And what to bring.

Best time by activity:
:  taking into account the weather the best months are March, April, early May, then August through December. 
:  Choose the drier months of mid-March through December.  
Photography:  depends on the target species or landscapes desired. 
Botanizing:  By far the most interesting period at this latitude is from
March through May for the desert flora. And then for the altiplano,  October through December is also interesting, just before the rainy season.  See  Alpine plants of Lauca in December,  Desert Flora, Bog Wildflowers, and our suggested itineraries for plant trips.  Throughout the year you'll find one or more species of cacti in bloom, although all species don't bloom at the same time.  

Best time to come by weather:

The rainy season is usually in January and February.  2011 was quite rainy and the moisture was perfect for wildflowers.   In Putre the rainy season is characterized by sunny mornings often with afternoon thunderstorms, rain, fog.  In the altiplano the mornings are normally windless, but by 2 pm the storm clouds blow in from Bolivia and the afternoons may have bouts of fierce thunderstorms and snow or hail (="Bolivian winter").  Professional photographers should take heed that they may lose their afternoon and possibly their morning shots in this time period. Birding, botanizing, and photography are great in February and early March if you have time to work around the weather. 

What to bring on your trip to Parque Nacional Lauca:

sun lotion,  sun hat and glasses
ask if your doctor recommends medicine, ie Diamox, and read about Gingko biloba.
lip protection 
small flashlight
dust protectors for cameras
batteries if they are part of your gear
altimeter or GPS
wind jacket, fleece jacket, long underwear in June to August, (silk is good).
For those with a digital camera charger the electricity is 220. If you are touring with or using our guide service, bring a couple of blank CDs or a DVD and Barb will back off your digital photos to free up memory cards.

"zero administration cost" charity:
  If you'd like to bring or send a present for village children, we suggest kids' books.  Some rural kids grow up here with very few books in the house.   English, French, or German to Spanish picture dictionaries are perfect. The next books we receive will go to Visviri, near the point where the borders of Chile, Bolivia, and Peru meet.

after the rains there is a profusion of flowers, singing birds, and sunny days.  The upper portion of the Atacama desert is frequently in bloom in February to May.  If you're interested in any certain plant species or communities, let Barb know so she can help plan the best time for your trip.  For instance the incredible tiny altiplano bog orchid Aa nervosa is in full bloom in April.  From April to December there is seldom precipitation in Putre, although in August there may be a week or so of snow in up in the parks, making the side roads muddy and impassable.  Mid-May to the end of June usually has the coldest nights in Putre (about -5 C) and in the altiplano (could get to -20 C).  But because we are situated so close to the equator, the sun's warmth  dependably arrives at about 8 am. July through December are the high season months for adventure/trekking tourism, given the sunny days and lack of rain.  Good time for hiking around Putre to sites of cave art and to neighboring pueblos following ancient trails that once connected the altiplano of Bolivia with the Arica valleys. This is a good season for people who like to photograph altiplano Cumulopuntia cactus flowers, camelids, and birds. In July-August one can see very young flamingos and in Putre the Ornate Tinamous and ground doves are nesting. In October to December you might be lucky enough to see the male Puna Rheas trailed by 20-30 "polluelos".    

More about naturalist guide service

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Atacama culture, Altiplano wildlife, Coastal marine mammals:  5 days, 4 nights nature tour
Slice of the Andes for the Birds:  5 days for the birds 

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