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Herd of vicunas at Salar Surire - Fauna rich high altitude salt flats surounded by extinct volcanoes - altitude 4,245m a.s.l., Salar de Surire Natural Monument, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Altiplano, Chile
 
Andean Altiplano, Northern Chile
5 to 10 days high altitude Andean adventures
October to December 2012 and March to May 2013, monthly departures
Special adventure tour for paraglider pilots November 2012
 
  The Andean Altiplano is one of the biggest high mountain plateaus in the world, second only to Tibet's. It is surrounded by Andean ranges with enormous peaks of active volcanoes reaching up to more than 6,000m (20,000ft) above sea level and towering over the plateau, which itself lies at 4,000m (13,000ft) elevation. The air is thin at this altitude and the climate is arid, cold and windswept. Nevertheless this land of extremes supports a diverse range of animal life, including llamas, vicuñas, alpacas, vizcachas, the Andean condor, and large groups of flamingos, which favor wind-exposed salt lakes of the Altiplano as breeding grounds. Very few humans live here; most are Aymara and Quechua Indians with their distinct languages and cultures inhabiting scattered villages that still remember past glories of the great Inca Empire.  
   
   
  High altitude adventure  
Yareta plant - grows only one millimeter per year, some specimens can be thousands of years old, Las Vicunas Nature Reserve, ChileAlpaca bearing pom-pons as marks of its owner. Altiplano, ChileFlowers in the village of Guanacagua at the bottom of Quebrada Sivitaya canyon, ChileLarge endangered endemic Eulychnia iquiquensis cactus on the rim of the upper reaches of Quebrada de Camina canyon, Pampa de Tana, ChileBofedal de Parinacota - high Andean wetland - Lauca National Park, Chile
 

During this trip we visit places at very high altitudes up to 5.000m (16,400ft) above sea level. As we start our trip in Iquique at sea level we need to climb 5km (3.1 miles) up! The only way to enjoy trip to such heights and avoid altitude sickness is to acclimatize slowly. Therefore minimal length of the trip is five days. First two to three days we spend on medium altitudes of 2.000m to 3.000m (6,500ft to 9,800ft) visiting ancient villages and natural attractions in the Atacama Desert and mountains of Andean Precordillera allowing our bodies to acclimatize to high altitudes. Then we move to the main highlight of the trip - Altiplano with an average altitude of 4.600m (15,100ft) where daily temperature amplitudes often exceed 30 degrees Celsius (54°F). Trekking at high altitudes of Altiplano is more strenuous than normal but offers great rewards. We will trek to a volcanic island on white expanses of Salar Coipasa located in a bowl of sky reaching volcanoes of Tata Sabaya, Cabaray, Isluga and Coipasa. Well acclimatized trekkers can test their lungs ascending slopes of active Guallatiri volcano from where one can enjoy the best panoramic views of plains, lakes, and mountains of Altiplano.

Every night of the trip we will camp at an interesting area with extra time in the evenings and mornings allotted for exploration of the surroundings. The first night is spent camping on a rim of the upper reaches of a deep desert canyon of Quebrada Camarones where you can sleep outside looking straight into millions of stars. Atacama Desert is famous for its clear skies and we carry with us a laptop computer with astronomical software to help us locate celestial objects. Another night we spent camping at natural hot springs of Termas Polloquere at Salar Surire where watching the sun rising above volcanoes of high Andes while taking a hot bath is a truly remarkable experience.

 
   
   
  Itinerary  
Guallatiri church - Adobe church from 17th century located in a precolombian altiplanic vilage of Guallatiri at 4,260m above sea level. Las Vicunas Nature Reserve, ChileOpuntia cactus - Edible cactus commonly farmed in deep desert canyons of Atacama Desert. Timar vilage, Quebrada de Gaza o Calizama canyon, Pampa de Chaca, ChileVolcano Parinacota - Located at the border of Chile and Bolivia with a perfect cone and altitude of 6,342m is a part of Nevados Payachatas. Lauca National Park, ChileVizcacha - High Andes furry rodent with a characteristic long bushy tail. Lives in family groups in rocky areas near water. Las Cuevas, Lauca National Park, ChileLlamas - Domesticated Andean camelids. Used since Inca times as a pack animal and for its fiber and meat. In the background volcanoes of Nevados Payachatas. Lauca National Park, Chile
  We start the trip in the port town of Iquique and head straight into the driest desert in the world - Atacama. Some of the highlights of the trip we should visit include:

Humberstone - A ghost town and museum declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded the end of 19th century around a center of saltpeter mining industry. Here in the remote desert thousands of pampino workers lived processing the largest deposit of saltpeter in the world and producing the fertilizer used across the world.

Pampa del Tamarugal - Vast desert plateau where the only plants you can see are endemic Tamarugo trees (Prosopis tamarugo) which survive on highly saline soil without any rain.

Tiliviche geoglyphs - Southern slopes of Tiliviche canyon are covered in more than 100 giant figures of camelids and humans. Made by local tribes between 1000 and 1400 A.D. by scraping ground surface and stacking round stones. Because of its shear size they are best viewed from the opposite rim of the canyon.

Caleta Camarones - Beautiful deserted beach located at the mouth of spectacular canyon. The beach is surrounded by steep 1000m high cliffs. Perfect place for a picnic or an overnight camping. Frequented by sea lions and Humbolt penguins.

Codpa - Prehispanic oasis located in canyon of upper Vitor river. Even today it is an important center of desert agriculture. Famous Pintatani wine comes from here and it has been used by Spanish conquistadors during christianization of South America. You can visit in Codpa one of the oldest churches in Chile.

Ticnamar Viejo - Old town from the 17th century destroyed when a river flooded the area. We will visit abandoned church and houses.

Belen - The only village of Altiplano founded by Spanish in 17th century on an important trade route from Potosi in Bolivia. At the middle of the square there is an adobe church build in 18th century with a wooden altar. Its bell tower stands separate from the church and has three still operating bronze bells. The Belen area is famous for its oregano fields.

Portezuelo de Chapiquina - The mountain pass serving as gates to Altiplano. It divides mountain chain of Precordillera and the high plateau of Altiplano. The views are spectacular.

Guallatire - Village of pre-Columbian origin of houses built in white adobe and grass roofs. Populated by Aymara Indians herding llamas, alpacas and sheep on the surrounding mountain marshlands (bofedales). In the middle of the village, facing the Guallatire volcano there is an old adobe church from 17th century with a traditional Altiplanic style tower.

Salar Surire - Highlight of the trip. It is an area designated as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Consists of salt flats and salt lakes at altitude 4,200m reach in wildlife and surrounded by volcanoes. Three species of flamingos permanently reside here, large herds of vicunas usually graze at surrounding bofedales, and shy running nandu birds can be often spotted on adjacent pampas. There are picturesque natural hot springs in the eastern part of the salar.

Termas Polloquere - Hot springs located at Salar Surire. Hot water creates here multiple pools and streams of various temperatures up to 66C. A perfect place for a relaxing hot bath with volcanic views.
 
   
   
  Trip details  
Herd of vicunas at Salar Surire - Fauna rich high altitude salt flats surounded by extinct volcanoes - altitude 4,245m a.s.l., Salar de Surire Natural Monument, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Altiplano, ChileCandelabra cactus (Browningia candelaris). Extraordinary, big up to 5m tall, endemic to high altitudes of Northern Atacama Desert, very rare. Quebrada de Gaza o Calizama canyon, Pampa de Chaca, Chile.Puchuldiza geyser field. One of the highest-elevation hydrothermal geyser fields in the world, Altiplano, ChileAndean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus andinus) over Salar Surire. One of the three species of flamingos living in Salar Surire. Its habitat is restricted exclusively to Altiplano. Salar de Surire Natural Monument, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Altiplano, Chile
  Dates
We leave from port town of Iquique to Altiplano every three weeks in the season.

Prices
Price of the trip vary depending on selected itinerary and length of the trip. Example five days Altiplano trip starts as low as $850 per person.

Included in the Price of the Tour
• Transportation in a luxury 4x4 off-road vehicle
• Food, water and non-alcoholic drinks (three meals per day)
• Outback camping
• Trekking and wilderness guiding services
• Local geographical, historical and cultural information

What you need to take with you
• Layered trekking cloths for temperatures from -5°C to 25°C (23°F to 77°F )
• Warm hat, sunglasses (must have!), sunblock
• You will need your own sleeping bag preferably with a sleeping mat
• Towel and swimwear for hot springs
• Flashlight
• Camera with five time more memory and battery capacity than you think you will need
• Your favorite snacks, music, etc.

Remember, this is an active adventure trip therefore participants are expected to take active part in daily activities of preparing meals and setting up a camp.
 
   
   
  Contacts  
Nevados Payachatas - Volcanoes Parinacota and Pomerape surrounded by wetlands and one of the highest lakes in the world - lake Chungara, Nevados Payachatas, Lauca National Park, Altiplano, ChileTermas de Polloquere - Natural thermal baths at altitude of 4,245m with thermal pools surrounded by volcanoes. Water is very hot (66C) and rich in minerals. Salar de Surire Natural Monument, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Altiplano, ChileAltiplanic highway - Trail in the endless meadow of a wild grass called paja brava - a plant specifically adapted to high winds, strong UV radiation, and desert climate, Pampa Parajaya, Area of abandoned village of Mucomucone, Las Vicunas Nature Reserve, Altiplano, ChileRare James's flamingos (Phoenicopterus jamesi) - Thought to be extinct fifty years ago. They survived at remote salt lakes of Altiplano where they winter at hot springs lagoons while surrounding air temperature can drop to -30C. Salar de Surire Natural Monument, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Altiplano, Chile
  • Jaroslaw Zygmunt Wieczorek
tel. in the USA: (303) 800 6340
tel. in Chile: +56 9-8269-6562
website: www.antofaya.com
email: jarek@antofaya.com
 
   
   
Where do you want to go?
Contact our guide to set up a custom itinerary in Chile or Argentina