Just Wanderlust Blog » A discerning, food-loving, & culturally curious road warrior seeks the world's beautiful and bizarre destinations.

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Off The Beaten Path In Argentina: The Salinas Grandes Salt Flats

Remember when I raved about the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia?  Salar de Uyuni is still on my wishlist, but I was super stoked to find out that Argentina has its own massive salt flat – Salinas Grandes.  Who knew there were so many large salt flats in the world?  Of course, since I was already in Argentina, I had to see the Salinas Grandes myself so I made sure it was on the itinerary when I went to Salta.

Salinas Grandes, a massive salt desert covering around 3,200 square miles, is located in Salta and Jujuy provinces in northwest Argentina.  The area used to be a lake but once it dried up, all the salt somehow concentrated in this area.  Today, it’s essentially an area for mining salt, but as a visitor, aside from the random mounds of salt scattered here and there, you don’t really see any active mining going on (which is actually better since it allows you to take in the expanse of the salt flat – they don’t call it “grandes” for nothing!).

To get to Salinas Grandes, I had to take the road from Purmamarca (a little town sitting at the foot of yet another uh-mazing geographic wonder, by the way) up to an elevation as high as 13,000 feet, passed the most humbling and breathtaking mountains I’ve ever seen, with photo ops at every switchback…

…and then ultimately arriving at an elevation of around 11,000 feet where there’s a long stretch of road leading to a blinding white field.  If you didn’t know you were headed straight towards the salt flats, you’d swear it was snow!

As you get closer, you really start noticing that there’s something special about this place (especially if the few random artisans perched by the side of the road haven’t given it away already).  On either side of you are the salt flats – the road literally cuts right through the flats!

There’s no admission fee to enter the flats.  When we (I was on a private tour) parked the car, I walked right over to the left salt basin since that’s the side bordered by the mountains, and just tried to take in the scale of Salinas Grandes — somewhat of an impossible feat since it’s just so flat and open; aside from the mountains that contain the basin there’s nothing I could use to help me assess the scale and those mountain ranges looked tiny!

I loved that there were so few tourists here so it really felt like I had it all to myself!  I also loved that I visited this site with a private tour so that I could take my sweet time here, too.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

And if you’re wondering, yes, I did taste some of the salt!  The salt is a lot more concentrated than your typical table salt.  If I were in a high end restaurant, this would definitely be one of their couture salts so… why not pack some from the source?  Don’t mind if I do!

I’m looking forward to cooking with this salt when I get back home.  I’m sure Mr. T will love it since he missed out on this trip!

Here are some tips if you’re interested in going:

  • Getting there: You’ll need to rent a car or take a tour to get to Salinas Grandes.  I recommend doing a private tour  so that you can stop to take pictures a long the way.  There are just so many scenic spots enroute that it will be a shame if you’re tapped for time or on a tour bus!  Speaking of buses, there are busses that go to Salinas Grandes, however, they are few and far between so you’d have to do some research on that if you’re determined to take public transport here… and then be ready to sit there for a long time until the next bus passes through.
  • Bring sunglasses!  The salt is white and blindingly so.
  • If you’ve been to Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, I’ve heard that Salinas Grandes somewhat pales in comparison.  That said, for people like me who haven’t been to the famed Bolivian salt flat, this Argentinian one was plenty spectacular and definitely worth the trek – besides it’s visually stunning to see it surrounded by the mountain range (the Bolivian one is just one massive flat as far as the eye can see).
  • If you want to pack some salt with you, bring a baggy!
  • If you want to take some optical illusion pics here (seems like that’s what a lot of visitors do), don’t forget to bring props!
  • If you’re prone to altitude sickness, be careful!  I spent the night at around 8,000 feet (and got slight symptoms of altitude sickness) before I went to Salinas Grandes.  En route at the peak of 13,000 feet, I was feeling really lightheaded, but luckily I felt fine when I arrived at Salinas Grandes.  My recommendation is to take it slow and make sure you’re in good health before going.
  • Lastly, there are public toilets here but they are the port-o-potty kind (eew!) so be prepared.
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RyukyuMike - August 6, 2012 - 7:49 pm

Looks and sounds like a blast. I wanna go !

Just Wanderlust - August 6, 2012 - 8:25 pm

Hi Mike – it was breathtaking (and somewhat thirst-inducing)! I’ve never seen so much salt in my life. Definitely worth the trek.

Webbloggirl - August 7, 2012 - 6:46 am

such a lovely place to visit…wish to be there someday!

EDGYMIX-TRAVEL FOR FASHION - August 7, 2012 - 10:04 am

ahhhhh….I miss Bolivia!!!! I need to go back during wet season!!! NIce info:) Let me know when you plan on going back again:P

Just Wanderlust - August 7, 2012 - 10:22 am

Hi Tammy – I saw your Bolivia pics and read your post on Bolivia. After that post and after what the Argentines told me about Bolivia, it’s definitely on my list now, too!

[...] Salinas Grandes in Salta (salt flats) are the largest in Argentina, covering an area of 8,920km. They began to form [...]

[…] is said to be rare or even extinct in the few locations where this species grows (the salt lake Salinas Grandes), Trev reported that he could find quite a few, only that the plants appear to be almost hidden and […]

[…] Salinas Grandes, Argentina Deep in the desert, you might think this massive dried-up lake is a field of snow– but upon closer inspection it becomes a 80-square-mile salt flat that glistens like a giant […]

[…] Salinas Grandes, Argentina Deep in the desert, you might think this massive dried-up lake is a field of snow– but upon closer inspection it becomes a 80-square-mile salt flat that glistens like a giant […]

[…] Salinas Grandes, Argentina Deep in the desert, you might think this massive dried-up lake is a field of snow– but upon closer inspection it becomes a 80-square-mile salt flat that glistens like a giant […]

[…] Salinas Grandes, Argentina Deep in the desert, you might think this massive dried-up lake is a field of snow– but upon closer inspection it becomes a 80-square-mile salt flat that glistens like a […]

new - June 17, 2014 - 7:20 am

Thanks for sharing I loveArgentina I am a Argentina fan

Rebecca - July 16, 2014 - 8:52 pm

Hi there!

I am fascinated with salt flats and desperately wanto see the real thing in person! I am planning a trip to Argentina & Peru in September. I noticed you posted a blog about Salinas Grandes in August. Do you think September would be a good month to see the salt flats? As well, can you recommend a private tour? I don’t think you mentioned the company you used. Any recommendations on the best way to get to the salt flats? Thanks! I really appreciate any feedback!

JustWanderlust - July 17, 2014 - 4:20 pm

Hi Rebecca – I went visited Salinas Grandes at the end of July that year. I did a private tour with Poncho Tours (they picked me up from Salta airport) and it was just me and the guide. The guide was great and totally let me see what I wanted to see and never pressured me about how much time we had at a stop. I’m not sure on the best time of year to see the flats so that’s probably a good question for the tour operator. As for getting to the flats, you could rent a car or go with a private guide. I am weary about driving in foreign countries and I was solo, so I went with a guide instead to be safe. I heard you can also take the bus, but the bus schedule was irregular and I didn’t want to risk having to spend too long at the flats waiting for the next bus (or just missing a bus altogether) so I didn’t consider public transportation at all. Good luck and hope you enjoy your trip to Argentina and Peru!

[…] to the salinas ourselves from Purmamarca so that we could spend a lot more time there (here is a link to a good guide).  But I’m trying not to feel to ‘flat’ about it – it would just be […]

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