Directly south of Parque Nacional Lauca, the RESERVA NACIONAL LAS VICUÑAS stretches over 100km south across spectacular altiplano wilderness filled with wild vicuña, green bofedales, abandoned Aymara villages, groves of queñoa – spindly, rickety-looking trees belonging to a species that miraculously defies the treeline – and sweeping vistas of volcanoes. The reserve’s administrative centre is about a ninety-minute drive from Putre, in Guallatire (4428m altitude), a pretty hamlet with a traditional seventeenth-century Andean church. There’s also an obligatory carabineros checkpoint here, and a Conaf refugio that is seldom in service. Looming over the village, snowcapped Volcán Guallatire puffs wispy plumes of smoke from its 6060m peak, while a grassy-banked stream snakes at its foot.
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