The far north of Chile is just as forbidding as the region around Antofagasta and Calama. North of the brash city of Iquique, transport arteries head inland into the desert pampa. There is a strong sense of antiquity here in the few oases and settlements that are sprinkled across the Atacama; the profusion of geoglyphs are testament to the fact that, wherever there is water, people have been living for millennia. These geoglyphs of peoples now vanished and the countless ghost towns of former nitrate
stand witness to both the harshness and fragility of life in the region.
Further inland still, towards the altiplano, are some beautiful spots. Mamiña and Pica are two thermal springs resorts near Iquique, each of them remarkable for their tranquillity. There are four remote national parks in the high Andes, the northernmost of which - the Parque Nacional Lauca - offers some of the most stunning scenery in Chile, with a necklace of high lakes, snow-capped volcanoes, lava fields and varied bird life. It is easily reached from Arica, Chile's northernmost city, along the international road to Bolivia. Near Parque Nacional Lauca are small Andean villages, such as Visviri and Parinacota, where most people speak Aymará, and Spanish remains a foreign language.
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