Salinas from Surire and Coípasa

Salt Lake Surire and Coípasa

5 days
Starting point:


The tour starts in Arica, Chile’s northernmost city (2,085 Km North of Santiago). Arica can be reached by public transport from Santiago (Chile), La Paz (Bolivia) and from Peru.

Tour description

Day 1 - Arica city tour, boat ride to Humboldt penguins and sea

Arica – Chile’s northernmost city is a green oasis in the middle of the Atacama Desert located on the Pacific coast. A city tour takes us to the famous Eifel cathedral and to Arica’s highest point and city landmark, the Morro. In the evening we visit Arica’s sea lion and penguin colonies during a boat tour. The boat offers a good view on the cute Humboldt penguins and sea lions. The evening ends with a cozy sunset picnic on deck. Overnight in Hotel Bahía Arica, directly on the Pacific coast.

Day 2 - Archaeological Tour, drive through Atacama Desert up to the Andean highlands, aclimatization hike in Putre

On the archaeological circuit through the oasis valleys Azapa and Lluta we reach back to the beginnings of humankind. Gigantic drawings in the sand dating from the pre-columbian era, so-called geoglyphs, lead the way. We have in front of us one of the most mirific rides crossing the pass which connects Bolivia with the Pacific Ocean. We leave the oasis valleys behind us, cross the desert and reach Putre located at 3,500 m altitude. On the way we see the Candelabro-cacti which can grow more than 5 meters high, experience magnetic related phenomena and visit Inca fortifications. Once arrived in Putre we go on an easy hike at the foot of the Taapaca in order to get aclimatised. Overnight in the Mountain Lodge Chakana.

Day 3 - Lauca National Park, hike Salar de Surire, hot baths of Polloquere

We drive to Lauca National Park’s giant volcanos which go beyond 6,000 m altitude and to lake Chungará situated at 4,570 m altitude. We follow the evergreen Bofedale, the grazing fields for Lama and Alpaca, and reach Parinacota village at 4,400 m. The next highlight is Guallatire, an altiplano village located at the foot of the Guallatire volcano which is also known as the "smoking volcano". Guallatire is the highest active volcano worldwide. Crossing the altiplano offers good oportunities to see wildlife like guanacos, vicuñas, vizcachas, flamingos and the suri. Three out of the six species of flamingo living in the area can be seen on the shores of the salty Lake Salar de Suri located at 4,245 meters. The name of the lake comes from a species of oestrich which lives in the highlands surrounding the lake. We come very closed to the flamingoes during a short hike along Salar and admire in the same time the surrounding volcanoes whose shapes are reflected by the salt lake. The hot springs of Polloquere invite us at the end of the day to a relaxing bath in the middle of the salt lake. BL, overnight in Conaf in the hut Salar de Surire, simple double rooms.

Day 4 - Colchane National Park Isluga Volcano, hot springs at Enquelga, hike at Salar de Coípasa

We leave Lauca National Park and drive to Volcano Isluga National Park where the landscape is also predominantly shaped by volcanoes covered in ice, bofedale and Aymara settlements. Always the 5,530 meter high volcano in sight, we pass several Andean villages and the Arabilla lagoon where flamingos can be seen as well as a rich avi-fauna until we eventually reach the hot springs of Enquelga. We are now closed to Colchane (3,730 m) at the Bolivian border. In Colchane we taste a typical highland meal before we continue the trip towards the Salt Lake Coípasa. Salar Coípasa is a high-value insider tip. We discover the small part of it which belongs to Chile on a short hike which leads to a lookout point overlooking the salt lake, the lagoons, volcanoes and giant cacti. Overnight in a simple accommodation in Colchane.

Day 5 - Drive Altiplano to Atacama up to Iquique, geoglyphs, desert cemetery Huara, Tamaruga forests, Humberstone ghost town, mining town of Pozo Almonte

Within just a couple of hours we experience a dramatic change of scenery. We leave the Altiplano behind and the landscape becomes increasingly dry. We pass by cactus forests and reach viewpoints with beautiful views on oases. Eventually we reach the Atacama Desert. The desert mountains unsheathe geoglyphs, giant drawings in the sand. In Huara, the oasis town, we visit a desert cemetery dating back from the time when salpeter was expoited here. The most exciting highlight of the day is however the visit in Humberstone – now a ghost town which long ago grew out of nothing along with the saltpeter mines. The town shows today the story of saltpeter which has shaped the fate of the Atacama Desert like nothing else. Only a few kilometers away is Pozo Almonte, a mine town still alive. From here we drive through the montainous desert back to the sea level up to Iquique, a charming town on the Pacific shore with attractive beaches and a beautiful downtown. BL, overnight in Iquique.

Day 6 - Return to Arica (optional)

Today you can continue the journey on an individual basis or return with us back to Arica. The trip back to Arica is as exciting as it was during the previous couple of days. We drive the Panamericana crossing the Atacama desert. Along the way we spot gigantic geoglyphs, old mine towns and green tamaruga forests. Half-way we visit Pisagua on the seaside, a town rich in history, once the main export site for saltpeter but also a torture center under Pinochet. On the way to Arica we pass colorful desert mountains and their green oases, and the "Tutelares", Aymara deities shown as sculptures pointing to the sky.

Services included

  • Local English speaking guide
  • All transfers (4x4)
  • 5 x accommodation in double room in Arica, Putre, Salar de Surire, Colchane, Iquique
  • Lunch boxes days 3, 4 and 5
  • 1 dinner in Salar de Surire
  • Entrance fees
  • Boat tour in Arica


4 persons:
709 EUR p. P.
3 persons:
816 EUR p. P.
2 persons:
999 EUR p. P.
1 person:
1,512 EUR p. P.

Important Notes

  • On request sit-in bookings possible
  • Single supplement 75 euros


The Salar Coípasa near by Colchane Salar de Coipasa and huge catuses Cactus in North ChileSeagull colony near by Arica