Highway CH-11 climbs into the Andes to Aymara pueblos on the altiplano plains tucked into the rugged landscape. The largest of these villages is Putre, surrounded by polychrome mountains which, for the indigenous, are mallkus, or sacred hills. VolcĂˇn TarapacĂˇ casts its shadow over the pre-Inca terraces, now used for cultivating alfalfa and oregano. Although Putre existed long before the Spaniards came, officially this town was founded in 1580. It was an important missionary post and rest stop for mule trains hauling silver from PotosĂ to Arica.
Putre means the â€śwhisper of the watersâ€ť in Aymara. The landscape is laced with streams coming down off the Andean heights, pooling across the high plains. A thin brook weaves through the center of the village. Putre's cobblestone streets are lined with buildings of typical colonial-altiplano architecture. Many of the squat stone-adobe homes were rebuilt in the 18th - 19th Centuries, using the carved stone portals of the original buildings. Throughout town are colorful murals depicting local history and legends. In the center of town is a multi-level plaza. On one side is the adobe church, dating from 1670. Its single, broad nave is lined with old, hand-carved statues of the saints.
The town preserves much of its indigenous heritage. Many families yet speak Aymara at home; schools are taught in both Aymara and castellano (Spanish). Alpaca sweaters, shawls, ponchos and other woolens are produced by several talleres (workshops). Restaurants dish up recipes made from quinoa, llaita, alpaca and other fruits of this land. In October is the Feria Regional Andina (Feran), an agricultural-artisan fair. PutreĂ±os also celebrate a number of religious festivals.
Putre is a convenient place to acclimatize to the altitude before visiting Parque Nacional Lauca, Reserva Nacional Olas VicuĂ±as and Monumento Natural Salar de Surire. Tours to these preserves are much cheaper than from Arica or other cities. Near town are pinturas rupetres (pictographs) and hot springs. The village has hostels and restaurants, as well as most services.
(Altitude: 3500 meters / 11375 feet, Population: 2800, Phone Code: 058)
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