Putre and Chungara Lake, a sanctuary in height
Putre is the capital of Parinacota province in Arica and Parinacota region, at the north of Chile. Located at 3500 meters above the level of the sea, in Altiplano Andino, it's a place with incredible landscapes, amazing twin volcanoes, impressive lagoons, brilliant sunshine, animals that walk freely in the zone, cold winds, mountains, national parks and colonial history.
Putre is located at 140 kilometers away from Arica, a city characterized by its archeological patrimony. It also counts with the best services in hotels and gastronomy, besides of wonderful beaches and a pleasant weather to enjoy the stay. To get from Arica to Putre, you can reach first the city by plane and then by land to Putre. Is recommended carry gasoline, because there are no gas stations in the way between the two locations and cars use more fuel in the height.
In Putre, the time seems to be stopped, and there are still buildings from XIX century or even XVII century, from the time of the economical apogee, because of the Choquelimpie gold's exploitation. There are historical streets as O'Higgins Street, which is crossed by a small stream and counts with stone bridges, and historical buildings such as Putre's Church, which was built in 1670 with stone. Here are celebrated the most important festivities from a religious town such as Cristo Rey and the Asunta of Virgin (The Ascension of Virgin) and other celebrations like February's Carnival and Pachayampe, of potato's festivity.
Other interesting places to discover are the Chilcacahua terraces, with plantations of potatos, marjoram and lucerne, the farmyards for llamas and alpacas, which are classified by their size and color, and other nearby towns such as Pachama, with its aligned houses, courtyards and adobe walls, and Guallatiri, a town located at opposite of Guallatiri volcano, characterized by its religiosity and the presence of many churches and celebrations such as Saint Andrew, Saint John, Saint Rose, among many others.
But there's no doubt that one of the biggest attractions of the zone is to visit Lauca National Park, where you can see the impressive Chungara Lake and Parinacota volcano, which is reflected on its emerald waters. The lake is one of the highest lakes in the world, and it's located at more than 4500 meters above the sea, in front of Pachayata Volcanoes (Twin Volcanoes in aymara): the Parinacota volcano and Pomerape volcano, the both with more than 6 thousand meters of height. At the surroundings of the volcanoes is also the mythic town of Parinacota (Place of parinas, a specie of flamingos, in aymara), with houses gathered around its church, considered National Monument. The inhabitants of this town use to join together in the houses just when they had a religious festivity. The town is also important for being one of the three places of Chile where the aymara is the language.
In the Lauca National Park is located the Bofedal of Parinacota, a vegetal formation compossed by grasses and sedges, with lagoons that are the habitat of hundred of birds, such as giant taguas (a chilean duck) and llamas and alpacas (species of camelids which lives in height) that walk freely around the zone. Nearby you can visit the Cotacotani Lagoons, which count with many islands produced by solidified lava from the volcanic activity, also inhabited by local fauna.
Chungara lake is one of the most beautiful spots of Lauca National Park, and counts with unique fauna, such as wonderful flamingos and parinas, with a shinning rose colored in its feathers, and wild ducks. Its green waters reflects the summit of the impressive Parinacota volcano, which has a huge glacier which starts at its 5200 meters of height and ends in an impotent crater, of 300 meters wide.
In the surroundings and at 160 kilometers aproximately away from Chungara Lake, is the Salar de Surire (Surire Salt Mine), where the visitors can also watch species of native fauna, such as chilean rhea or suri, flamingos, alpacas and llamas.
To access to this wonderful height world, which offers beautiful colors at sunrise and sunset, and impressive landscapes, you have to take the CH-11 route from Putre, which is also the nearest town with services, lodging and supplies. It is recommended to stay a few days in the town to get used to the height, which can produce some inconvenient because of the lack of oxygen.
The last advice is to carry a photo camera ready to take hundreds of unforgettable pictures, sunblock and much enthusiasm to discover friendly llamas, beautiful animals with human eyes, beautiful flamingos, a resplendent sun and incredible flora, such as llareta, which is a kind of moss that sticks to the rocks, creating green stones; and salt mines, volcanoes and the mystic of the mountains in one of the the most incredible natural sanctuaries of the world.
Mariel Lizana, journalist
- 30, 1899, 00:00