Discover Salinas Grandes, the salt desert in Argentina

Discover Salinas Grandes, the salt desert in Argentina

South America

Salinas Grandes, located in the province of Salta, Argentina, is a much more modest salt desert than its Bolivian counterpart, the Salar de Uyuni. This, however, does not mean that this is not a good option for getting in touch with the extraterrestrial landscape of a white, salty plain in South America.

Salinas Grandes is the second largest salt flat in the world and an unmissable stop if you are going to explore the northwestern Andean region, with the advantage of not yet being as explored as Uyuni.

Where are Salinas Grandes: Map

The half-meter-thick salt crust that forms Salinas Grandes is the remains of a lake that dried up thousands of years ago. Today, the 12,000 hectare area is crossed by the beautiful route 52, which connects Argentina to the Atacama Desert. On the way you will have the chance to see llamas, vicuñas, condors and suris, typical animals of the Andes.

The site is located 136 kilometers from Salta, 90 kilometers from Jujuy and 54 kilometers from Purmamarca. Salinas Grandes is located at an altitude of 4,170, which is considered a very high elevation.

Vicunas in Salinas Grandes - Argentina Salinas Grandes, Salta - Argentina

Climate and best time to visit Salinas Grandes

Because of its high altitude and desert climate, Salinas Grandes experiences a large variation in temperature during the day. In summer, the maximum can exceed 40OC, but the heat dissipates throughout the day and it tends to be cold all year round, especially when there is a lot of wind.

The best time to visit Salinas is in winter, between June and September, as these are the months with the least rain and wind. At this time, however, it gets colder, so be sure to wear a coat.

However, it is not impossible to visit them at other times of the year. In the rainy season, which runs from January to March, you will have a very different experience to the dry season. At this time, the Salinas take on a mirrored effect thanks to the water that accumulates on the surface.

Read too:
• Travel tips for Salta and Jujuy, Argentina
• What to do in Salta, Argentina
• Where to stay in Salta: best hotels and regions

What is the visit to Salinas Grandes like?

This is, without a doubt, an interesting and different tour, especially if you have never been to a salt flat before. It's a strange feeling to be surrounded by white, sky and plain. It messes with our notion of space and our sense of direction. A point that seems far away is actually just a few meters away. For you to see the lack that makes a reference. And that's what makes the place more incredible. That and the contrast between colors.

Salinas Grandes - Salta - Argentina Perspective photo - Salinas Grandes

The best thing is to start the tour early in the morning. This is because the road Cuesta Del Lipan, which leads there, goes up in a zigzag pattern and provides incredible views, full of attractions in its own right, as well as beautiful glimpses of the local fauna. Therefore, it is worth taking your time and making stops along the way for photos.

If you are going on a tour, the route is likely to include other stops in the region. The most common of these is the La Polvorila bridge, where the Train to the Clouds passes, the old mining town of San Antonio de los Cobres and the friendly town of Purmamarca. Anyone going it alone can use the itinerary to get inspired too.

Arriving at the Salar, you are free to move around the area. Take it easy because, if your body is not accustomed to the altitude, you may feel unwell. In general, tour guides provide coca leaves to chew, but you can buy them at any grocery store in the region, as well as teas and candies made from the leaves.

Just like in Uyuni, in Salinas Grandes you can take those perspective photos that are a big hit on Instagram. Time to unleash your creativity and return home with some cool clicks.

In the middle of the Salinas, you will find small indentations made in the crust, filled with water. These wells are made by workers there to extract salt. The pools attract attention due to their turquoise color.

Recommendations for visiting Salinas Grandes

  • Don't forget your sunglasses, the white desert reflects a lot of light and can cause discomfort
  • For the same reason, use plenty of sunscreen.
  • Bring a coat to protect you from the wind, even if the weather is hot when you leave your hotel
  • Drink lots of water. The region is extremely dry.
  • If necessary, buy some coca leaves to prevent bad attitude. Remember that Salinas Grandes is 4,170 meters above sea level.
  • There are no restaurants in the area. With a tourist structure, the most you will find are some chemical toilets for a few pesos and traders selling typical handicrafts made from salt.
  • Carry a snack in your backpack. But if you feel hungry, the best way is to buy a snack from a street vendor in the middle of the road.

Crafts in Salinas Grandes - Argentina

How to get to Salinas Grandes

How to get from Buenos Aires to Salinas Grandes

Salinas Grandes is 1418 kilometers from Buenos Aires, which is a hell of a lot to do in one go. The nearest airport is Jujuy, but there are no direct flights from Brazil to there. Therefore, the best thing is to leave Buenos Aires.

Salta Martín Miguel de Güemes International Airport is also nearby and is a good option, since Salta is the largest city in the region and the one with the greatest tourist infrastructure to book tours to Salinas Grandes. Furthermore, it receives direct flights departing from São Paulo, eliminating the need to first pass through Buenos Aires.

For those who prefer to go by land, there are buses leaving Buenos Aires for Salta regularly. The trip lasts around 20 hours and the section is operated by the companies El Rápido Internacional, Balut, Almirante Brown, Chevallier, Flecha Bus. Read more about How to travel by bus in Argentina.

Leaving Salta

Photo jump - Salinas Grandes

Leaving Salta, the option is to hire an agency tour that also passes through San Antonio de Los Cobres and Purmamarca. The day is long and tiring unless you do like us and ask to be dropped off in Purmamarca, saving around four hours on the return journey. If you are in Jujuy, it is also possible to hire companies that provide the tour. Here there are some tours that you can book in advance.

Another possibility is to visit the Salinas from Purmamarca. In this case, you can rent a car or hire a remise (taxi) to take you there. For this, we recommend the search engine RentCarswhich searches among the main rental companies and helps you find the best prices and rental conditions.

It is also possible to take the bus, but be careful: to do this, you have to get off halfway between Purmamarca or Jujuy and Susques. And you won't always be able to get transportation to get back. Before choosing this method, check the bus schedules that day.

Where to stay

Two bases are the most recommended for visiting Salinas Grandes: Salta and Purmamarca.

It stands out as being the largest city in the region, with the best tourist infrastructure and from where you can discover other attractions in northwest Argentina, such as Los Cardones National Park. Some recommended accommodations in Salta are:

Purmamarca, on the other hand, is the closest base to the Salinas. The city is very small, with little structure, but it has an impressive view of the Cerro de los Siete Colores, a relaxed atmosphere and is a good place to start exploring the Quebrada del Humahuaca. Some of the recommended accommodations in Purmamarca are:

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