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Trekking - Parinacota volcano

Parinacota (6350 m / 20,833 ft.)

The king of the North

The Parinacota volcano is probably one of tourists' favourite mountains in the north of Chile. It is not only its height that makes it so interesting, but its stark beauty that takes your breath away.

In contrast to the dirt road ascents of most volcanoes in the north of Chile, the Parinacota offers for a change a glacier-covered summit and therefore an ascent with crampons and ice-axe. Although the inclination of the slope reaches 40°, under normal weather conditions, you do not require special gear such as ice screws or the like. The crater itself is about 700 m wide and 240 m deep. The fumes from the crater remind you that the volcano is still active; however its last eruption dates back to 500 or 600 years. The ascent is rewarded by a fantastic view of the Altiplano as far as the Bolivian Cordillera Real.

Starting Point



How to get there

From Putre a 69 km asphalted road leads up to ranger post of Lauca National Park, next to the Chungará Lake. Best is to consult the park ranger about the way to the foot of Parinacota. Drive back 1.5 kms up to a small pumping station by the lake. Then follow the road to the right, which splits confusingly into two several times, and drive 9 kms always leading to the volcano. At the high season you can simply follow the road with most tire-marks. You can easily recognize the starting point of the ascent by the well-trod path.


From the foothills at 4,600 meters altitude it’s a very long climb up to the summit. So a suggestion is to go on for 2-3 hours and then look for a good campsite. However, search carefully because only a few places below the snow line are plain enough to camp. Depending on the altitude of the snow line, all your drinking water may have to be taken (5 lts. daily per person). In the high season, it is not hard to find the path, because it is heavily tracked and marked out with hummocks of stone. It first leads you far east to a long ridge. At its upper end, at 5,100 meters altititude, is the last place to camp.

Next day, you put on crampons, take the ice-axe and climb up the logical route. Allow 12 hours for the total round trip up to the summit and back to the starting point.


How to get there 

In Putre there are several tour operators which offer transport to Capuena and further up to the base camp of this northern route. Alternatively, if you don't have your own transport, you could request the support of the armed forces of the mountain regiment Huamachuco, however, be advised that you have to apply for this support well in advance. Leaving Putre behind take the international mountain pass till you reach Parinacota, from here on travel further up for another hour till you reach the village of Cauquena at 4401 metres. You might consider staying here for a couple of days to get accustomed to the altitude. 500 metres before you enter the village an offroad piste diverges towards the volcano, this offroad piste runs alongside marsh areas (Bafedales). After a rather sandy stretch you will reach a crossing, turn to your left. The base camp is located right behind the bank in front of you at an altitude of 4823 metres.


Ascent from the base camp - camp "Huisquitistay" (591 m 3 to 4 hours with heavy luggage)
Follow the sandy path on the rocky slope up to large plane. From here you can see at your left hand side a boulder slope and at your right hand side a small gorge. Enter the gorge an ascend to 5272 metres and walk on its ridge, continue on this ridge till you reach the small plane, know as "Huisquitistay" at an altitude of 5414 metres. On this plane set up your camp. It is advisable to explore the ascent on your day of acclimatisation. If you know that there will be no more snow on the mountains carry along your drinking water. In case there is some melt water, take it from as close to the snowfield as possible. Due to the volcanic origin of the rocks stomach pains are allegedly not uncommon.

Campo Alto Huisquitistay - Cumbre - Campo Alto, (941 m 6 to 9 hours and 3 to 4 hours )
The day when you ascend the summit is mainly dependent on the snow conditions. The jagged penitnts can easily tower up to 1 meter, it takes a lot of time to cross it and is also very tiring. It is advisible to start your ascent in the early hours of the day. Firstly you have to climb the secondary summit, from here you can already spot "our" destination. Don't climb too far at the right side, as here more crevices are to be found. Ice picks and climbing irons are an absolute prerequisite for the ascent.


S 18º03.247'

W069º12.009' 4401 m
road X to the basecamp

S 18º03.835'

W069º12.415' 4416 m
basecamp Parinacota S 18º08.294' W069°10.155` 4823 m
2nd camp Huisquitistay

S 18º08.780'

W069º09.061' 5414 m

S 18º09.648'

W069º08.656' 6355 m


Descabezado Grande
the king from the distance

Chungará Lake is a mirror for Parinacota

3 hours up to this viewpoint


El Caminante

with military help

Prinacota and Pormerape


2nd Camp

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