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Atacama Salt Flat

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The Atacama Salt Flat: An Immense, Flamingo-filled Lagoon

Located just a short distance from San Pedro de Atacama, this 3,000-km2 salt lagoon will take your breath away. It is home to thick salt clusters that crack at sundown as the temperatures drop sharply as well as many native bird species and a large lithium reserve. It is also one of the greatest marvels of this desert, which is no stranger to attractions.

Many travelers come to this part of Los Flamencos National Reserve in search of the flamingoes and other birds that nest and feed in "ojos de agua" ("eyes of water") like the Chaxa Lagoon. The three species you can see up close are the Andean, Chilean and James's flamingoes, and guides are on hand to help you identify each of them.

North of the salt flat, you'll find the village of Tulor, an archeological site formed by a circle of interconnected constructions that date back to between 800 B.C. and 500 A.D. The site was buried for years, but excavations have uncovered some areas.

You are bound to be surprised no matter which part of this area you decide to explore. The Atacama Salt Flat is a great place to start.


Featured Destinations

A  Valle de la Muerte and Valle de la
        Luna
B  Los Flamencos National Reserve

C  Toconao D  Chiu Chiu
E  Atacama Salt Flat F  El Tatio
G  Ollagüe

 

Getting There

en avion
By Air
It's a two-hour flight from Santiago to Calama. (There are no direct flights to San Pedro de Atacama.) You can take a taxi or transfer or rent a jeep or truck at the airport.
bus
By Bus
Buses travel from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama every two hours. Service is available from several terminals, including the one on Calle Granaderos and the Calle Balmaceda Terminal just across from the railroad station.
en auto
By Car
From Santiago to Calama, take Route 5 north until the fork in the road at Carmen Alto. Then take Route 25 northeast (1,574 km).
From Calama, take Route 23 south to the eastern border of the Atacama Salt Flat near the Chaxa Lagoon. Another option is to take Route B241, which leads to Valle de la Luna and passes through the western shore of the salt flat.

 

Tips

01

The Chaxa Lagoon   When to Go Skin Care 
Once you pay the admission fee, which benefits local communities, you can explore bird lookouts. Guides are on hand to teach you about the different species found on the lagoon. Bring a pair of binoculars and your camera. The best time to visit is at sunset when you can see the flamingoes in flight and get the best pictures. Each evening, the sky fills with red and violet hues and the birds cross the lagoon on the way to their nests. The air here is very dry, so bring moisturizing lotion and lip balm (preferably those with strong UV protection).

02

Family Friendly   Roads Toconao
The salt flat and Chaxa Lagoon have trails designed for tourist visits. If you're traveling with children, be sure to stay on them, as the salt rocks are sharp and sometimes unstable. The roads around the Reserve are paved and in excellent condition, but some gravel roads will make a 4x4 vehicle your best option. You can also rent a bike in San Pedro de Atacama. This town, which is renowned for its stone crafts and beautiful bell tower, is located on the road to the Chaxa Lagoon.

03

Jere Ravine
You'll find this ravine, which is home to a special microclimate complete with fruit trees and a small river, east of Toconao.

 


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