The Atacama Desert in Chile is a great destination for a variety of natural wonders. I have written before about the Atacama desert and in this last post I will write about the Chile salt flats and which two you should visit when you are in the Atacama desert. A 5 star lunch organized by Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa at 4300 meter altitude is more than luxury and made me dream away! Read on and learn about the beautiful Chile salt flats.
San Pedro de Atacama Salt Flat
From all the Chile salt flats the Salar de Atacama is the largest one. The location is just over 50 kilometers out of San Pedro de Atacama at an altitude of 2300 meters above sea level. It’s a great trip for one of the first days as it is not that high up the mountains. Be careful in the area and do not go directly up to 4500-5500 meters the first two days to avoid altitude sickness. Bring on every excursion also enough water to drink as the air is very dry.
On the way to the Salar de Atacama make a stop at a small village called Toconao. You find here a nice church where you can see the use of the cactus wood in the construction. Interesting to note is that the bell tower is separated on the other side of the street from the main church. With over 250 years of history a place worth a stop.
Continue from here to the Salar de Atacama which is fully surrounded by the Andes mountains. When I visited Láscar volcano, one of the volcano’s around the salt flat, had even smoke coming out of it (see one of the photos). The Salar de Atacama is quite rough compared to some other salt flat with lots of big salt crystals. There is a path through this rough area set out directly at the entrance for the visitors which will bring you to the lakes. During the walk you can see great formations of salt crystals. At the lakes sit down and just watch the flamingo’s do their thing for a while. The best time to go is in the morning and be back for lunch at your hotel leaving the rest of the day to relax or take another excursion.
Tara Salt Flat
Another notable Chile salt flat is the Salar de Tara. Its location is about 120 kilometers east of San Pedro de Atacama at a height of over 4300 meters. To get there you even pass heights over 4700 meters. The trip alone to get there will surprise you as it is with magnificent views everywhere!
Be careful in the area and do not go directly up to 4500-5500 meters the first two days to avoid altitude sickness
The Salar de Tara is part of an area of almost 2000 km2 which is for over half of its size in Chile. The water source of the Salar de Tara is de Rio Zalaperi river turning the salt flat into a kind of wetland. The area is the habitat of several endangered animals which, with some luck, you are able to spot. During some parts of the year the lake will be full of flamingos.
Around the Salar de Tara you will find a landscape shaped by volcanos and erosion. I explored the area a bit while the hotel prepared the lunch. Just over an hour is enough time to walk up and down the path as entering the protected area is forbidden. When you finish exploring: take a seat, a glass of great Chilean wine and enjoy your lunch while having a magnificent view over the Salar de Atacama! This is luxury at it’s best! After lunch it’s another two hour drive back with again those beautiful views everywhere. A day well spent and I recommend everyone to do this trip if you are in San Pedro de Atacama, it’s worth it!
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Gallery of the Chile salt flats
Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.
GPS Track of the Chile salt flats
During my trips I make GPS tracks (sometimes they do not show, click download to open in Google maps). Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips.