Parque Nacional Lauca doesn’t offer a great many hiking possibilities, and most people are content to just admire the scenery and the wildlife. There are, however, at least three half-day or day walks you can do, and many more possibilities for climbing. Remember to respect the altitude, and to allow yourself more time to cover distances that you could walk quite easily at lower elevations. You must get authorization from DIFROL (governmental borders organization) if you are planning on climbing any or the mountains or volcanoes in the region. Fill in the authorization form on their website (difrol.cl) at least two days before climbing, or else ask Putre’s municipalidad to do it for you.
Cerro Choquelimpie No technical experience or equipment is necessary to climb this 5288m peak, reached in about four hours from the refugio at Lago Chungará. From the top, you get views down to the gold mine behind the mountain, and on to Lago Chungará and Volcán Parinacota.
Cerro Guane Guane A slow but straightforward climb up this 5096m peak is rewarded by panoramic views over the park. It’s suitable for any fit person used to hill-climbing and takes around four hours to the top from the Conaf centre at Parinacota, and two to three hours back down.
Lago Chungará to Parinacota (or reverse) This 18km walk from the refugio at Lago Chungará to Parinacota takes about six hours. Follow the paved highway as far as the mirador de Lagunas Cotacotani, then climb down to the lakes, from where a jeep track continues to Parinacota.
Parinacota to Lagunas de Cotacotani A rewarding, not-too-difficult walk, taking about three hours (one way) from Parinacota; ask the Conaf guardaparque to point you in the direction of the jeep track you need to follow.
Sendero de excursión de Parinacota An easy, 6km circular walk, marked by blue stones starting behind the Conaf centre, taking you past the bofedal de Parinacota, where you can observe numerous grazing alpaca. Good views onto surrounding mountains. Allow two to three hours.
Volcán Parinacota Suitable only for experienced climbers carrying crampons and ropes (though it’s not always necessary to use them). Allow two days to get up and down from the base camp (a day’s hike from Parinacota), including one night camping on the volcano. Avoid this climb between mid-December and February, because of the weather conditions. Volcan Parincota’s brother volcano, Pomerape, is just across the border and makes an equally interesting climb.