Author Archives: michaeljrobison

Pica and Matilla, Chile

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Lauca National Park


volcan parinacota

lago chungara

sajama, bolivia





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Lauca Trip Planning

Perhaps the most recommended places to visit are the Chungara Lake, the Cotacotani lagoons, the bofedal ponds and the Las Cuevas hot springs. There are also places of archeological and historical interest here. For instance, the town and church of Parinacota, the Chucuyo village and the ranches in Chungara, Ajata and Cruzane.

Excursions: throughout the park
Wildlife observation: throughout the park
Highlights: Las Cuevas, Refugio Rocosa Las Cuevas, Chacus Incaico Las Cuevas and Tambo de Chungará. Town and Church of Parinacota, Chucuyo Village and the Chungará, Ajata and Cruzane’s stays.
Fishing: in the Lauca river.

The park has several trails that allow you to observe and learn about the park’s natural and cultural treasures. At an altitude of 4,500m (14,760 ft), they can result difficult and therefore, are not recommended for people who are affected by altitude. The excursion trails are self-guided, but the visitors can request a pamphlet if they wish.

Cotacotani Excursion Trail: 8km (5 mi) and approximately 4 hours long.

Parinacota Excursion Trail: 3km (1.8 MI) and approximately 1 hour long.

Area administration: Located in Parinacota town, 19km (12 MI) from Chungara Lake and 46km (29 MI) from Putre. The sub-administration of the park is located in Putre, provincial capital of Parinacota. Operating hours are 09:00 am to 12:30 pm and 1:00 PM to 5:30 PM every day of the year.

Ranger offices: the park has, in addition to the Parinacota Administration, two guard posts, located in: Las Cuevas, 5km (3 MI) from the main entrance of the unit, on the border of the Arica-Tambo Quemado highway (CH-11); and the Chungara guard post, located on the banks of the Chungara lake. There is also a guesthouse in Putre.

Environmental Information Center: located in Parinacota, it provides visitors with general information of the area.

Camping and Picnicking Areas: in the Chungara Lake there are 3 places for camping and 6 for eating.

Lodging and restaurants: there are only 3 rustic restaurants, property of villagers, in Chucuyo town, where beverages and typical food are served. Outside the park there is a hostelry and two restaurants that also provide food.

Out-of-area services
Gas stations: there are no nearby places to buy gasoline. You may find car fuel in the La Paloma, Cali and Eca supermarkets.
Telephone and Fax: Putre
First Aid: Putre Clinic
Food shops: Putre and Arica
Police station: the park has two police reserves, Chuyuco control and Chungara border control. There is a police station near the park, in Putre.

There is a series of paths in the park, which allow appreciating the landscape, vegetation and fauna of the foothills and the altiplano in all its majesty. One of them is the Cotacotani Excursion Trail, 8 km away. There are four stops along the way, from which the Parinacota town, the queñoa forests, the llaretas, swamps, camelid species and geomorphologic phenomena like the Payachatas volcanoes and the lava field of Cotacotani can be observed.

Another trail called Chungará is 1000 meters long and borders the Chungará Lake. There are three stops along the way, which offer views of the Payachatas, the Quisiquisine, the Quimsachatas and volcanoes, as well as a great variety of birds such as the giant tagua, the puna duck and the white-tufted grebe.



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Amazon River Trip

You can use public buses as far as the road goes, enabling you to see a good part of the “cultural zone” by going as far as Shintuya. The tricky part is finding a boat from Shintuya to Boca Manu and onward to Puerto Maldonado – I have no idea how frequent those are. They certainly dont go every day. If none goes, or the price of chartering one is to expensive, you may have to backtrack to Cusco.

Here is some info about independent travel in the Manu “Cultural Zone”, from our recent trip:

Road transport

Cuzco – Pilcopata (8 hours): 3 buses per week, bus company “Unancha” or “Gallito de las Rocas”. Price 20 Soles.
Those buses take the road via Tipon – Huancarani – Paucartambo.
It would seem attractive to take one of the more frequent buses to Paucartambo, and catch the onward bus to the Manu there, but the problem is that they only stop briefly in Paucartambo and often arrive full. So if want an assured seat, it is best to board the bus in Cusco and buy the ticket 1-2 days before.

Pilcopata – Atalaya – Salvacion – Shintuya (2-3 hours): daily buses, price 5-6 Soles, at least two companies, one of them is “Jose Olaya” which meets any bus arriving from Cusco to Pilcopata. Also most vehicles on this road will stop for passengers.

Boat transport

The place where you can find onward boats to Boca Manu is in Atalaya or Shintuya. I haven’t heard of any boat actually going, in the three days I spent in that area recently – so the departures may be quite rare… sorry cant tell you more precisely.

Short trips and attractions

In Shintuya, you can find boats going shorter distances to quite attractive destinations:

  • a place called “Aguas Calientes” which are hot springs at the shore of the main river, 45 min downriver from Shintuya and in an excellent jungle setting.
  • a native Machiguenga village called Pantiacolla (not to be confused withe the similarly named tourist lodge which has a different location further downriver).

Both of those would make good daytrips starting in Shintuya. The locals use those boats, so you may pay as little as 10 Soles for a seat if the boat is already scheduled to go with other passengers.

In walking distance from Salvacion, there is a municipal nature reserve called “Cocha Machuhuasi”. It is a small lake surrounded by forest, with some bird life, and you can see monkeys if you are lucky. Entry is free, and the guard charges a negotiable fee for paddling you around the lake on a raft and giving explanations. A further 10 min walk brings you to the main river, with the pretty view of the jungle-covered mountains across. We were surprised to see some expensive tours stopping there and visiting the lake.

Between Salvacion and Shintuya, the road follows the limit of the “Amarakaeri Communal Reserve” which is also the destination of some tour operators from Cusco. By asking around in Shintuya, you will most likely find some local who can take you on walks in the reserve.


Pilcopata has a good choice of several hostales and restaurants, rooms starting at 15 Soles.

Atalaya: There also are some restaurants in Atalaya, dont know about accomodation.

Salvacion has two hostales which are not obvious because they are not directly on the main road, but anyone will be able to give you directions. The most expensive rooms go for 35 Soles, the cheaper ones for 10 Soles.

Shintuya has a community-owned hostel which is signposted from the main road. Dont know the prices, but saw some backpackers coming from there so it cant be too bad.


All the places listed (Pilcopata, Atalaya, Salvacion, Shintuya) have food for sale. Along the river, the things you will likely find are bananas, and maybe some fish for sale.

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Puno, Lago Titikaka, Peru

mercado central, Puno

the floating islands – “Uros”

42 floating islands with a population of approximately 2,500

some islands are connected by a series of bridges, weaving together a floating community

harvesting “totora,” the reed which is used to cover the floating islands

many livestock are bred on and around the floating islands in the wetlands

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Arequipa, Peru

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San Pedro de Atacama Video Collage

San Pedro de Atacama Collage from Michael Robison on Vimeo.

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view from the balcony of our current accommodation

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