Guallatiri is a stratovolcano at an elevation of 5.240m (17,191ft) above the sea level, located in the Putre commune, Parinacota province of Arica y Parinacota, in the northernmost region of Chile. The drive requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance. It’s one of the highest mountain roads of the country.
The road to the summit, also known as Wallatiri, Huallatire, Guallatire and Punata, is gravel, rocky, tippy and bumpy at times. One mistake can have serious consequences. It’s very narrow with unstable, loose ground hold together by ice. Do not take this drive if you have respiratory problems or any type of heart condition. Babies under 4 months of age should not make the ascent, either. Notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. Most people feel altitude sickness at around 2,500-2,800 meters. Extremely low oxygen for engine combustion. A major hazard of altitude is the sickness that can indiscriminately affect anyone regardless of age or fitness. The summit has about 40% less oxygen than at sea level, thus breathing is more difficult. Your pulse rate will increase and movement will be more laborious at the summit. The high elevation with its risk of altitude sickness, weather concerns, steep road grade, and overall inaccessibility make the travel dangerous and difficult.
The volcano sits inside the Chilean Lauca National Park, near the Bolivian border. 4x4 vehicle with high clearance required. A traveler on this road must be experienced and completely devoted to safe, slow and obstacle-conscious driving to deter danger. This is definitely not a Sunday drive. The steep drive will take some skill, some patience, and some tolerance for vertigo. Stay alert for potential turnouts as you may meet traffic in inconvenient locations. The volcano has erupted at least 4 times since 1825, most recently in 1985.
Pic: Carlos Javier Silva Currieco