The High Heartland of Chile

  • Port

    Arica, Chile

  • Activity Level

    Strenuous

  • Excursion Type

    Local Sightseeing, All

  • Wheelchair Accessible

    NO

  • Cost

    USD USD USD

    Price between $101-$150
  • Minimum Age

    Information not currently available.

  • Duration

    Approximately 7½ Hours

  • Meals Included

    Yes

Head inland to discover the Lluta Valley -- a beautiful fertile area that is green and rural in nature. As you travel, you'll glimpse the area's famous geoglyphs -- figures made of stones placed on the yellow slopes flanking the valley. These ancient glyphs depict llamas and human figures.

The first village on the road is Poconchile, dating from pre-Inca times. It used to be a resting station in the route to the high plateau and a way station during the construction of the Arica-La Paz railway, which runs alongside the road. Stop here to see the local cemetery.

Sixty miles from Arica, you'll find the Pukara de Copaquilla National Monument -- one of a collection of ancient defense fortresses set up by the native inhabitants. It is located close to the road, on a hilltop, surrounded by a double wall. Dating from the 12th century, the fortress was restored in 1979 by the Chilean University of Tarapaca.

Also, keep an eye out for the modest Tambo de Zapahuira -- a resting station dating from Inca times that provides an insight into the way the Andean people lived and traded along the Inca Road. You'll stop at the little village of the same name. Nowadays, Tambo de Zapahuira village is a frequent stop for the trucks and buses that cross this route between Chile and Bolivia. Further along, the route becomes quite mountainous, hugging steep slopes and skirting deep gorges. A collection of high plateau cacti ekes out a frugal existence here.

Not far away, the landscape opens up and a wide valley nestles under the massive snowcapped peaks of Putre. The town of Putre, three hours' drive from Arica, is the capital of the Parinacota province, with nearly 1,200 inhabitants. It lies at 11,500 feet above sea level and dates from pre-Hispanic times. The Putre of today was laid out in 1580, when the Spaniards settled here to escape the malaria epidemic of Arica. This remote spot was a logical choice at the time, as it provided services for the traffic between Arica and the Potosi silver mine. Its boom-time, ushered in in 1643 by the discovery of a nearby gold mine, started to decline in 1825 as a result of Bolivian Independence and the consequent rerouting of export traffic to seaports on the Antofagasta coast. However, Putre still offers much in the way of interesting architecture from the colonial days.

Visit O'Higgins Avenue -- the oldest past of town, with a ditch along its middle spanned by stone bridges. Nowadays this is a farm-to-market city devoted to agrarian trading in corn, artichokes, potatoes and other vegetables. And don't miss the main square with the Town Hall and church with an adjacent parochial house. The church was built in 1670 to replace its predecessor. Legend holds that the original church, a tribute to the town's heyday, was lined in silver and gold. This of course raises the question, what happened to it all?

You'll have plenty to ponder as you enjoy refreshments and return to the ship.

Notes:

The drive to Putre is approximately three hours each way over many steep, winding roads. Guests who are prone to motion sickness should consider this before booking and/or take appropriate medication. Moderate walking is required over uneven surfaces and pathways. Putre's elevation is 11,500 feet above sea level; not advisable for guests with heart or respiratory conditions.