Puna Rhea in Parque Nacional Lauca, Chile

Alto Andino Nature Tours, northern Chile

Atacama Desert nature tour
 Altiplano wildlife & native plants, history, culture, coastal marine mammals

This is our 16th year with this popular, comprehensive tour which includes pre-Hispanic cultural sites, the precordillera of the Andes with its surprising diversity of birds and native plants, covering up to 7 nature reserves and 6 historic national monuments.  The route is flexible; there is an optional day in a small fishing village where fur seals, sea lions, and near-shore birds feed in the rich upwelling of the Humboldt Current.  

This trip includes nearly 3 full days of high elevation, so we encourage a "free acclimatization day" in Putre, you won't have to pay for a tour or a guide for that day.   There are many interesting things to do around Putre.  Also offered are routes that focus more intensively on Parque Nacional Lauca that do not include nights in the altiplano, please inquire.   

Depending on the season, we can focus on wildflowers and cacti, but check out our more concentrated wildflower itineraries.  Birders should refer to our birding page for more specific birding routes. 

All tours are private and reservations are necessary. 

Atacama desert history & culture, Altiplano wildlife,  Coastal marine mammals 


4 days, 3 nights or 5 days, 4 nights.    Start Arica 

1 day naturalist guide service, 3-4 days with Chilean Spanish-speaking guide, or all 4-5 days with naturalist guide
Day 1
Arica: archaeological museum, Chinchorro-era mummies,  many geoglyphs, hummingbird garden with possible sighting of the rare and declining Chilean Woodstar.  Later: Reserva Natural Municipal Desembocadura del Río Lluta to see the array of estuary birds and intact native vegetation.  Afternoon: Atacama Desert and the Monumento Natural Quebrada de Cardones, Browningia candelaris in addition to 6-7 other cacti species at higher elevations along the way.  Monumento Nacional Pukara de Copaquilla, then probably many Guanaco.  Pueblo of Socoroma and short hike to see some of the intact paving on the Inca trail that used to connect the villages.  Possible Andean Deer.   Overnight Putre.

Insert "free acclimatization day" here

Day 2:  UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Parque Nacional Lauca with B. Knapton as your guide.  Lago Chungara, Monumento National Iglesia de Parinacota with the haunting frescoes. Massive Chucuyo cushion bog, many birds, camelids, bog wildflowers.   Spotting scope provided for the best wildlife viewing. Optional bath at hot springs.  Overnight in Putre for an extra night of acclimatization before continuing on through the parks.  

Day 3:
Reserva Nacional Las Vicuñas, Ramsar Site Monumento Natural Salar de Surire, hotsprings, active volcano, vicuñas, rheas, flamingos, tinamou, caserios. Parque Nacional IslugaPolylepis tarapacana copse, Isluga church.  If desired, short walks can be interspersed throughout the day. Overnight in altiplano.

Day 4:
Giant Echinopsis cactus and other cacti not present in Lauca, bizarre geological formations, remote pueblos. Descend through absolute desert, visit enormous geoglyph at Cerro Unita. Reserva Nacional Pampa del Tamarugal to see the Tamarugo Conebill and the Prosopis plantations, then down to end tour in Iquique. 

Or add a 5th day of tour.....

Day 4:  Same as above......then down to sea level for the evening in a fishing village. 
Day 5: 
Morning beach walk to most northerly of Chile's fur seal colonies. Photograph fur seals, sea lions, boobies, pelicans, endemic Chilean Seaside-cinclodes.  Then an excellent seafood lunch.  If heading back north to Arica, we visit the famous English cemetery where James Humberstone, one of the principal nitrate barons, is buried.  Continue north through the ghostly, barren Atacama Desert, stopping for superb geoglyphs along the way and periodically descending into the deep quebradas that were carved by massive amounts of water long ago.  Tour ends in Arica or Iquique.   


Vicuñas:  Mom and kid, Parque Nacional Isluga, Chile
Vicuña population now >18,000 in the extreme north of Chile

hot mud outdoor spa, 
still undeveloped for the time being.....

hike to marine mammal colonies, lots of seabirds around, 
plus archaeological sites

Note fellow chasing errant llama while his dog stands guard; nursing mother in foreground; and an obviously "male" camelid, front left. 

Humboldt Current fur seals near Iquique
good views possible, with no threat to the fur seals which are located on offshore islets

pinturas rupestres, or "cave paintings" near Putre, Chile
optional 10 km hike to pinturas "cave paintings" in Putre

Isluga Park: each group of houses, or "caserio"  has a church
every altiplano caserio has its 
distinctive chapel

Itineraries:  birding   nature   wildflowers   cruise ship shore birding       Birds & Fauna:   resources    area birds    Puna Rhea   Diademed Sandpiper-plover   Giant Conebill   Torrent Duck   James' Flamingo   seabirds  Andean Lapwing   Andean Deer    birding in Patagonia  Hornby's and Markham's Storm Petrels   Mountain Parakeets    Wildflowers & Vegetation:   flora    Lauca's extreme alpines   Atacama wildflowers    alpine cushion bogs   Polylepis   Unique places:   PN Volcán Isluga    Ramsar Site Salar de Surire    Putre     Details:   guiding    home    FAQ    reservations   altitude    planning    Blog: Andean Desert Gardening & Village Life 

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