Chile 2012: Atacama Desert, Day 3

by | Apr 5, 2012 | International Travel, Travel

Altiplanic Lagoons
For our third day we chose an all-day excursion to the Miscanti and Meñiques Lagoons. These two lakes are at an altitude of ~13,500 feet up in the Andes close to the border with Argentina. Due to their altitude and location it is a long 2+ hour drive across much of the salt flats to reach them.

salt flats from above
gaining altitude

As we wound our way up the mountains the plant life began increasing with lots of low lying grasses and shrubs.

on the road again...


Finally we arrived at the national park and were treated to a spectacular view of the Miscanti Lagoon.

Miscanti Lagoon panorama
click on the photo to see the full size panorama

At this altitude the air was certainly cooler and the sun was even stronger, so we both opted for long sleeves. After a quick round of photos we got back in the van for a short drive over a ridge lead us to views of the Meñiques Lagoon.

Me�iques Lagoon panorama

A herd of guanacos was slowly making it’s way across the lagoon shore- not sure if they were looking for salt, or were simply full of the unseasonably lush grasses?

A herd of guanacos


The photo above demonstrates my chief issue with this particular tour- the one hiking path is not close to the lakes and just wanders along the hillside. It would have been much more interesting to have hiked along the lake edge, or along some of the areas with interesting plants. In reality this tour was more of a “hop out of the car and take a photo” experience and we were disappointed that we drove all that way and couldn’t hike the amazing surroundings.

On our way back from the lagoons we stopped in Socaire for lunch. The town is surrounded by terraced fields with all sorts of vegetables, and on the edge of the town is a pretty little chapel.

small church in Socaire

After a long lunch we had a quiet 1.5 hour drive back to the resort. Along the way we saw a number of clouds building on the horizon and by the time we arrived storms were visible on the horizon. Capturing lightning during the day was a bit more difficult because you are limited to 1 second exposures (not the 20-30 seconds at night) but I did get lucky a few times.

desert lightning

While we were enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail in the lounge I looked up and noticed that a slice of sunset managed to hit the nearby mountains. I’m glad I got outside when I did as this spectacular view lasted less than 5 minutes!

sunset from lobby

We’re glad we got a chance to see the lakes under good weather conditions, but we were disappointed in the nature of this excursion from Tierra Atacama. If we were to do it again we would make sure that we could make it a more active activity and include hiking to additional vantage points.

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