Come visit! …the Atacama Desert awaits you year-round!

The Atacama Desert is the world’s driest: 1 milimeter of rain might fall once every 20 years. In some places, periods of up to 400 years without rain have been registered. Without virtually no rain, this means that the area is flyable all year!

We are a group of local paragliding instructors who would like to invite and welcome pilots of all levels on a paragliding tour of Iquique and the surrounding area. Here, the landscape is extreme and abrubt, as the Atacama Desert gives way to the Pacific Ocean.

Located within the Atacama Desert, Iquique (in the Aymara language, Iki Iki, “place of dreams”, “place of rest'’) is a port city, and capital of both the Iquique Province and the Tarapacá Region of Chile.  Iquique is known as the “Land of Champions,” a reference to the historical successes on both national and international stages of local sportsman and sports teams, especially in the areas of soccer/football, boxing, and underwater sportfishing.

Iquique has a population of approximately 280,000, as of the 2012 census.

SIquique and the surrounding area were the cradle of the Chinchorro Culture around 5,000 years ago. There is evidence that, around 4,000 B.C., at in nearby Caramucho beach , nomadic or semi-sedentary fishermen/gatherers utilized the resources the ocean afforded them. Later, the pre-Hispanic Camanchacos made contact with the Spanish. The Spanish called them “changos,” and they were known for their boats made of sea lion leather, which they used for fishing and shellfish collecting.

This area was also home to historic mining activity (saltpeter, i.e. sodium nitrate, which was used for fertilizer and munitions). Mining is still the main industry in the Tarapacá Region: now copper is the main commodity extracted. Iquique is also home to a large duty free zone called the “Zona Franca.” Moreover, there are many towns of significant cultural importance, among them the ghost towns of the nearby former saltpeter mines.

Flying sites

Iquique (Alto Hospicio) 

This is a morning site and a local flight. As might be expected, the peak wind intensity occurs around 14:00. This is an easy site to fly for beginner pilots owing to, among other factors, the abundance of landing options. LZ’s include, for example: the many beaches in Iquique (3 very large, long ones – Cavancha, Brava, and Huayquique, are landable almost in their entirety) or the mythical sand dune called “The Dragon” (“The Dragon” aka El Dragón, named for its form, is the largest urban sand dune in the world and in a symbol of Iquique. Take-off altitude is 490 meters (1,608 feet) above sea level, and this is both a

The Palo Buque (‘ship mast’)

thermal and ridge soaring site. More experiences pillots can do fishbowl-type tasks around and over the city of Iquique, or straightforward small XC-flight to 12 mi (~19 km) to the south or 6 mi (9.5 km) to the north of the take off.

 flying site gets its name from a sunken ship in a nearby bay that dates from the times of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. Directly inland from the beach of the same name, Palo Buque is a unique place, a dune where one was launch from an elevation of as little as 5 meters (~15 feet) above the landing zone at the base of the dune. At its highest, the dune reaches a height of ~1,000 meters (~3,300 feet) above sea level.

Palo Buque is Iquique’s usual training site and is ideal for all levels of paragliding pilots, from beginners learning to control their wings on the ground to acrobatic paragliding masters who frequent the site

(generally October through February) to perfect their maneuvres. This site was made world famous in the paragliding community thanks to the legendary S.A.T. acro team and the first professionally filmed paragliding documentary filmed here.

Alto de Palo Buque (‘Upper’ Palo Buque).

SAccesible only by 4x4 vehicle, Alto Palo Buque works great when the wind is very light down in Palo Buque below. The sites, at the top of the mesa above the dine is situated at approximately ~1,000 meters (~3,300 feet) above sea level. Just below the takeoff is the famous “Mystic(al) Dunes” (see Marvin Ogger’s incredible video “Flying the Mystics”!                     https://vimeo.com/34029580).

Patillos

The launch for the Patillos site – at just ~130 m/430 ft above sea level! – is situated along the road that climbs from the port of the same name to the world’s largest opreating open pit salt mine. It is located in a depression in the coastal mountain range.

            Years ago, Patillos was the site of the first-ever South American paragliding competition. During your flight from Patillos, the vista will include large mountains; the flight itself is both thermal and ridge soaring. From Patillos launch to the city of Iquique is 55 km (34 miles).

 

In and around Iquique, the total absence of precipitation allows you to fly year-round, whether you’re a cross-country pilot or just starting out.

San Marcos

 It is a relatively new site discovered in 2010, is used by local pilots in the Open Iquique. It is a relatively technical xc flight, depending on the time of year its thermal and dynamic condition is a flight hillside 60 miles.

 

IConditions for flying will obvious depend the season that is most to your liking for flying. With that in mind, we’ll show different flying sites, some of which works all year while others are seasonal.