Chaxa Lagoon (Laguna Chaxa)
As it is so accessible, Chaxa Lagoon often serves as an introduction to the Chilean salt flat. The salt-encrusted ground is fascinating but the wild flamingos are the main draw. A variety of other birds can be seen here as well, including the Andean avocet, the puna plover, and a type of sandpiper, a small bird with a long beak that feeds on small organisms in the mineral-rich water.
Multiple tour operators run excursions here from San Pedro de Atacama; ideal for those without vehicles or unwilling to tackle the drive. These tours typically include stops at such other nearby attractions as the village of Toconao and the valley of Quebrada de Jerez. This is an excellent way to check off several spots in one day
Things to know before you go
- There is a small admission fee to access the lagoon.
- The temperature can drop drastically after sunset so dress in layers.
- It’s a good idea to bring a zoom lens as the birds tend to keep their distance.
- Stay hydrated as the altitude and aridity can take its toll.
- There is a small information center where you can learn about the flamingos. Displays are in Spanish and English.
How to get there
Chaxa Lagoon is just under a 2-hour drive from San Pedro de Atacama. While part of the road is gravel, most vehicles can handle the drive. If you’d rather skip the driving, take a tour from San Pedro de Atacama instead.
When to get there
You can visit Chaxa Lagoon year-round. Summer, from December through February, promises pleasant day temperatures and warmer nights, but it is also the busiest time of year: fall and spring shoulder seasons are a quieter alternative. Sunrise and sunset are the best times for watching the birds.
Halfway between Chaxa Lagoon and San Pedro de Atacama, the small village of Toconao is worth a stop. Its name means “place of stones” in the indigenous Kunza (Atacameño) language and its buildings are made of a volcanic rock called liparita (pumice). The best-known piece of architecture is the 18th-century San Lucas Bell Tower and its also a great spot to shop for alpaca textiles and fruit.
- Cejar Lagoon (Laguna Cejar)
- Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos)
- Ojos del Salar
- Altiplanic Lagoons
- Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama)
- Puritama Hot Springs (Termas Baños de Puritama)
- Atacama Desert
- Tebenquiche Lagoon
- Institute of Archaeological Research and R. P. G. Le Page Museum (Instituto de Investigacio
- Church of San Pedro de Atacama
- El Tatio Geysers
- Rainbow Valley (Valle del Arcoiris)
- Tulor Village
- Pukara de Quitor