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Chiu Chiu

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Chiu Chiu: A Place to Take A Break in the Atacama Desert

For centuries, Chiu Chiu has offered shade and rest to travelers in the Atacama Desert. Named San Francisco de Chiu Chiu, the town sits 30 km from Calama at an altitude of 2525 meters. The Atacameño communities who live here hold firmly to their rhythm and way of life and have begun to combine traditional agricultural activities with tourism.

Apart from its surroundings, Chiu Chiu is famous for architecture. The Church of San Francisco, which dates back to around 1600, is believed to be the oldest in Chile. Built using traditional Atacameño techniques, this adobe and cactus wood structure is simply stunning.

Chiu Chiu was one of the stops on the "Inca trail," and is still a rest stop for travelers in the desert. Many people come here on their way to the Coya Lake, the Fortress of Lasana or the Fiesta of the Virgen de Guadalupe in Aiquina, a smaller version of the Fiesta de La Tirana, but equally packed with visitors.

During these celebrations, the quiet of this small town is broken by colorful dances, the boom of drums and strident trumpets. Depending on what is being commemorated, local residents may throw confetti with flour and water at each other, and drink fermented algarrobo juice, known locally as aloja.
If you are traveling to Calama or San Pedro de Atacama, be sure to pass through Chiu Chiu. It is not to be missed.

 

Featured Destinations of San Pedro de Atacama

A  Valle de la Muerte and Valle de la
        Luna
B  Los Flamencos National Reserve

C  Toconao D  Chiu Chiu
E  Atacama Salt Flat F  El Tatio
G  Ollagüe

 

Getting There

en avion
By Air
Flights from Santiago to Calama (2 h) are available but there are no direct flights to San Pedro de Atacama. Transfer services, taxis, and jeep or pickup rental are available at the airport. You can also take tours from the airport to Chiu Chiu.
bus
By Bus
Buses leave from Calama, with agencies at the following street addresses:
Antofagasta 2041
Granaderos 3048
Abaroa 2106
In San Pedro de Atacama there are special tours to this and other small towns in the area.
en auto
By Car
From Calama, take Route 21 east (31 km). You can't get lost as this is the only road into town, and it is in good condition.
From Santiago to Calama take Route 5 north until it splits at Carmen Alto, then Route 25 northeast (1,574 km).
 

Tips

01

Where to Stay Just for Veggies  Dining
There are a limited number of simple places to stay near the plaza, though you might dig up some additional options if you search online. You can also stay in Calama or San Pedro de Atacama and visit Chiu Chiu on a daytrip. One of the jewels of this town is its succulent carrot crop. These sweet, aromatic treats are available at all stalls and stores in town or at the Feria Modelo de Calama (Calama Market). Delicious.. In Chiu Chiu, you can also try some unique Atacameño dishes. Local highlights include quinoa, which is added to soup or sweetened and eaten with milk or yoghurt, and the famous patasca, a thick stew made with maize, potatoes and llama meat.

02

Inca Coya Lake The Pre-Hispanic Fortress of Lasana Aiquina
This circle of water near Chiu Chiu is surrounded by desert and fed by underground aquifers. There are interesting legends about the lake, which is a good spot for swimming. You'll find this fortress in the town of Lasana, to the north. There are areas with petroglyphs nearby. This small town to the East is almost deserted except between September 3 and 10, when the Fiesta of the Virgen de Guadalupe is held.

03

Toconce  The confluence of the Salado and Loa Rivers  Climate and When to Go
This town is located to the east of Chiu Chiu on the steep banks of a ravine. Terrace agriculture is still practiced here. The road to Chiu Chiu passes by the confluence of these two rivers, one of freshwater and the other saltwater. The Loa makes a heroic 443 km run to the sea. You can visit Chiu Chiu throughout the year. The average maximum temperature is 25°C and the minimum is 17°C. Rain is not in the cards; barely a brief shower falls in the summer months.

04

Non-stop Sunblock
Always protect yourself from the sun in summer and winter. Starting in August, take extreme care and use high protection factors, a brimmed hat and sunglasses, and wear long sleeves if you have light skin.


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