Gaze up at the intriguing 18th-century church and its separate bell tower in this rural commune near high-elevation salt plains.

The hamlet of Toconao has many colonial structures made from volcanic rock. This material is also used in artisanal handicrafts sold in the charming commune.

Admire the commune's mid-1700s church and bell tower. Step inside to enjoy the peace generated by its plants and white walls. Various religious models are displayed at the back. Capture photos of the white three-tiered San Lucas Bell Tower constructed as a separate building 6 years after the church. Walk through the makeshift wooden door and climb to the top. 

Buy alpaca wool products from street sellers around the main plaza. Purchase a small model of the bell tower, made from the same volcanic rock as the tower itself.

The village is known for its tasty fruit, including succulent pears, figs and apricots from the nearby Jere Valley, just east of Toconao. Travel to this stunning ravine and walk along the river. Enjoy a picnic against a picturesque backdrop of red cliffs and the sound of rushing water. You can swim in the calmer parts of the river.

Visit the nearby town of Socaire, which has an even higher altitude and is known for its high-quality alpaca wool fabrics. 

Be prepared for shortness of breath caused by the high altitude. The weather is very dry year-round, which accounts for the arid look and intriguing rock formations. High winds cross this narrow stretch between the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountains.

Toconao is located 24 miles (38 kilometers) south of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile’s northern region of Antofagasta. Nearby landmarks include the Lascar Volcano, the National Flamingo Reserve and the northeast region of the Atacama Salt Desert. Reach the village via a flight to the small Calama Airport followed by a 2-hour bus journey southeast.

Stunning natural terrain surrounds the village of Toconao. It is worth visiting on its own to see its rustic appearance and local treasures.

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