Gateway to the far north of Chile, Arica not only offers a chilled out ambience but is also the perfect base from which to reach the stunning volcanic landscape of Lauca..
Chile is more than 4,300km long, stretching from the Peruvian border, inside the tropical zone, to wind-blasted Cape Horn. Arica, in the far north, is the logical gateway into the top end. Known as the “city of eternal spring”, it’s got a laid back vibe, beaches (and a surf scene) and is the site of one of Gustave Eiffel’s most remarkable foreign constructions; the San Marcos cathedral was actually built in the engineer’s workshops in Levallois-Perret in the late 1860s and shipped over to be assembled on site.
During the 1879-1883 war of the Pacific, Chile and Peru fought over this region – both wanted the valuable port at Arica and access to the mineral riches of the desert – and the Morro, an eyecatching granite bluff to the south-west of the city, was the last bulwark used by the Peruvians. It is certainly an astonishingly steep lump of rock but ultimately proved ineffectual as the Chilean forces were victorious.
Easy day trips from Arica include several indigenous ruins and museums – and a chance to see the Chinchorro mummies – as well as oasis towns and hot springs. An overland journey from Arica takes you to Lauca National Park, which sits on the Pacific Fire Rim of active volcanoes. Among the many peaks inside the park, visitors can easily get to see – and hike – the stunning snow-capped Pomerate and Parinacota volcanoes. They are photogenically perfect, framed by the huge blue sky – it’s rarely cloudy up there – and the grasslands below, where alpaca and guanaco graze and Chilean flamingos flock in mirror-calm reflective lakes below.
Visiting Lauca National Park in the Altiplano. It’s home to vincuñas, snow-capped volcanoes and the sparkling green Cotacotani lagoon.
Sample itinerary Explore Chile’s remote far north on the nine-day ‘Northern Chile’ itinerary including Lauca National Park, remains of pre-Columbian cultures and Incan fortresses from £2,695. Or call the Chile experts at Cox & Kings about tailor-made itineraries on 0845 619 6094.
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