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Valle de Lluta

About 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Arica on Ruta 5 (the Pan-American Highway) is Ruta CH-11. This major highway winds along the Río Lluta, across the river valley into the Precordillera (foothills), to Putre and Parque Nacional Lauca and the Chungará / Tambo Quemado border crossing into Bolivia. The road follows the old Arica – La Paz rail line, scheduled to reopen sometime after 2009. Valle de Lluta is one of the principal breadbaskets of northern Chile. Farmers here raise corn, alfalfa, haba (fava bean), onion and other crops.


Between Kilometers 13 and 15 are two large panels of geoglyphs along the south side of the highway. The first group of figures portrays a huge eagle águila, a dove and many llamas. The second set represents humans.


Near the hamlet of Linderos (Km 29) is Eco-Truly, an ecological retreat of the Hare Krishnas. The centerpiece is the high, egg-shaped temple where meditation and yoga classes are given. Eco-Truly has several smaller huts of similar design where guests may stay ($12 per person, including breakfast). Camping is also allowed ($4 per person). Eco-Truly also has a vegetarian restaurant ($3-5 per meal), organic farm, anti-stress therapies and gives ecotours of the grounds (Tel.: 08-353-2350 / 09-342-7123, E-mail: /, URL: /


At Kilometer 37 is Poconchile, a colonial village (population: 6090, altitude: 598 m / 1944 ft). Its Iglesia San Jerónimo is a national monument. Founded in 1605, the white-washed church was rebuilt in the 19th Century with twin wooden bell towers. Behind it is the village cemetery. Also of interest in Poconchile is its stone and wood railroad station. Villagers celebrate San Jerónimo on October 30 and San José on March 19.


A few kilometers past Poconchile are several miradores, or viewpoints of the Valley of Lluta and the Andean foothills. The turn-off for Los Molinos (altitude: 850 m / 2763 ft) is at Kilometer 52. That hamlet has an 18th Century adobe church with wood campaniles. The surrounding countryside provides hiking and bird watching opportunities.


Ruta CH-11, then, begins to climb into the Precordillera, or the Andean foothills.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

13 Dec 2011

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