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Splendidly backed by the double summits of the 5,775m (19,000-ft.) Taapacá Volcano, this tranquil village of 1,200 people is the only real place to spend the first night upon arrival from the coast. Unfortunately, that first night likely won't be the most pleasant experience considering the jump in altitude: Putre is a vertiginous 3,500m (11,400 ft.) above sea level. Hikes in the vicinity of Putre are a good option to acclimatize, with ancient cave paintings at Incani and Wilaqawrani (unfortunately, partially vandalized). Later, you can head to the rustic Jurasi hot springs to relax; they charge $1 (70p), and tour agencies can offer transportation.

A picturesque mountain village, Putre was founded in 1580 and was once a center of Spanish settlement due to its healthier climate than that of then malaria-stricken Arica. Today the town has a charming central square and fine 17th- to 19th-century stone portals flanking many house doors. Some streets have central water runoffs reminiscent of pre-colonial Inca villages. The meek San Ildefonso church was restored in the late 19th century after suffering damage in an 1868 earthquake. The locals will tell you that the original church was a much more ostentatious affair, embellished with gold and silver.

Census data show the Putre area lost a whopping third of its inhabitants between 1992 and 2002, many heading down to Arica, while the population of the villages farther to the north around Visviri has remained stable. Municipal and government offices are on the square, while most services are on Baquedano.