Pick up your car at the airport or the downtown rental office. El Morro, a steep hill to the south of Arica centre is a great place to visit on your way out of the city. You will see part of the Azapa Valley, a fertile valley where olives, tomatoes, and tropical fruits are grown. It is famous for its archaeological sites that date back to the 10th century AD and for the archaeological and anthropological museum 'San Miguel de Azapa'. From Azapa drive back to the Panamerican highway and turn south in direction of Iquique. After approx 65 km turn left on Route A 35 entering Codpa Valley. A pristine and still untouched highland valley. Overnight in at Codpa Valley Lodge.
The scenic route that waits for you today will take you to great heights visiting the petroglyphs of Ofargía and passing through the villages of Timar, Tignamar, Saxamar, Belen and Chaquipiña. Zapahuira was a strategically important trading post for the Inca Empire and situated at Route 11 that connects Arica with Putre. The highland village of Putre is located at an altitude of 3500 m / 11,483 ft above sea level and you will be amazed at the sights of snow-capped volcano peaks when you enter the valley under the same name. Pre-Hispanic Putre is the capital of the Parinacota Province. Overnight in Putre. (B)
On this day you will discover the captivating beauty of the Lauca National Park with its impressive variety of exotic flora and wildlife such as vicuñas, alpacas, Andean flamingos, as well as other species. In the park you will be able to visit Lake Chungará, the highest lake in the world, and the village of Parinacota with its beautiful church. In the afternoon, you will enjoy the views on the Llutha valley while you descend slowly to sea level. Overnight in Arica. (B)
After breakfast you will head southwards and experience the dry desert 'Pampa' at 1.000 - 1.200 m /3,280 - 3,940 ft above sea level. Various deep canyons intersect this high and dry plain. You will then enter the region around Iquique where the 19th century saltpetre boom left its marks. Overnight in Iquique. (B)
For the great part of this long journey, you will be heading south through the Pampa del Tamarugal before turning east to the famous Atacama Desert. During the whole trip roads will be paved. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. (B)
San Pedro de Atacama once was the centre of the Atacama civilization; the museum Padre le Paige in the centre of town has a collection of over 380,000 exhibits, including mummies discovered in the area. We recommend visiting the Salar de Atacama, the largest of the Chilean salt lakes in the morning or early afternoon (100 km/62 mi from San Pedro), then drive to the Moon Valley. The scenery of the Moon Valley at sunset is impressive and should not be missed. Overnight in San Pedro. (B)
After an early start (about 04.00 a.m.) you will be able to visit the El Tatio Geysers, a geothermal field flanked by soaring Andean peaks at an altitude of 4,321 m/14,177 ft above sea level. At dawn, powerful spurts of steam shoot out of various blowholes. After your visit to the geysers, you will drive back to San Pedro; on your way you can visit the Hot Springs of Puritama to relax and warm up in the beautiful thermal baths. Overnight in San Pedro. (B)
After breakfast, you will return your car either in Calama or Antofagasta airport or city office. (B)