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Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos - National Park - Chile

Southeast of San Pedro de Atacama, the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos extends over 73,986 hectares (180.4 acres) divided into seven separate sectors. With a broad palette of attractions - lagoons, mountains, rock formations, archaeological sites, and flora and fauna – most everyone will find something to enjoy in the park. Horseback riding, bird watching and photography are popular activities any time of the year. There are also several hiking trails that vary in length from the Path of the Moon (900m) to the Path Salar Tara (8km).

The desert temperatures can change dramatically depending on the time of day, so be prepared with warm clothes as well as shorts and sunscreen.

Admission to the park is approximately $4 ($1 for children).

Valle de la Luna

One look from atop an enormous sand dune, and it's no mystery how the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) got its name. Watching the sun set behind a lunar landscape of worn hills that hover over a shimmering valley floor that was once the bottom of a lake is one of the most unforgettable sights in Chile.

Any solitude will evaporate as the sun begins to set. The area is awash in tour groups eager to view the spectacular colors the sun gives off as it goes to rest over the horizon. Tours usually cost between $6-10. Be sure to bring enough sunscreen and water, and remember that camping is not permitted.


Salar de Tara and Salar de Pujsa

Salar de Tara features both permanent and seasonal lakes - the main one being Laguna Tara. The area provides a habitat for various endangered and vulnerable species such as the Andean goose, Andean gull and horned coot. It is also possible to see the culpeo fox in the area. Farther south is the salt flat Salar de Pujsa.


Laguna Chaxa

Located approximately 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from San Pedro de Atacama, Laguna Chaxa is the easiest to reach flamingo breeding site. Avid flamingo fans can observe three different species - Chilean, Andean and James - at this salt lake. The best time to view the birds is at sunrise, which coincides with feeding time. $4.


Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques

The excursion ($4) is a bit long from San Pedro de Atacama, well worht it once you arrive at the lakes, backdropped by barren volcanoes. Laguna Miscanti, the smaller of the two lakes, is a breeding ground for the Andean flamingo.


Getting to and away

Many people rent 4WD vehicles and make the drive from San Pedro de Atacama to the reserve. The same can be done from Calama. Otherwise, the most popular way is to enlist with a tour operator and roll down on their bus - breakfast is usually included but be prepared to wake up very early to depart.

National Park

Here are other activities in and around Norte Grande that may be of interest: Reserva Nacional Pampa del Tamarugal and Parque Nacional Volcán Isluga.

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