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Altiplano Andino

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The Dazzling Andean Altiplano

While it may be hard to believe, the altiplano is inhabited. As you come in from Arica through arid and isolated landscapes, you'll reach the town of Putre, which is home to buildings dating back to the 17th century including a church that was built in 1670 and restored in 1871. The community celebrates Carnival in February, the celebration of the Virgin Asunta on August 15th and the procession of Cristo Rey ("Christ the King") during the last weekend of November. These special occasions offer visitors and locals alike the opportunity to dance to the sound of tarkas (a kind of flute).

In Socoroma, the traditions of native peoples like the Aymara and Inca and Spanish conquistadors are still practiced. Communities like Parinacota, Isluga, Colchane and Cariquima also maintain their traditional customs and celebrations, and share the same stone and mud architecture. Carnival is celebrated with dances and horseracing in Socoroma, and the Cruz del Mayo religious festivities are held in a church that dates back to 1560. Isluga, a former Aymara ceremonial center, is uninhabited, but you can visit the pucará (pre-Columbian fortress) of Isluga and the Usamaya Cemetery.

If you begin your journey in Calama or San Pedro de Atacama, you'll also have the chance to explore Aiquina, which is known for its stone houses with mud and straw roofs and the beautiful church where the Virgin of Guadalupe festivities are celebrated each September. Other local attractions include Chiu Chiu, with its 17th century church (a National Monument), and Caspana, a small town perched next to a river that allows its inhabitants to grow fruit and other crops (despite the altitude of 3,305 meters). There is also a small museum that explains local history and customs.

The altiplano offers astonishing scenery and a chance to experience communities in which native traditions are interwoven with those of the Spanish colonists, a rich blend of cultures that is evident in the local celebrations and rituals.



Altitude Sickness    
It is not uncommon for people to experience altitude sickness when they travel to these areas. Be sure to drink plenty of water (or infusions made with coca leaves), move slowly and refrain from running.    



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