Opposite this route, lies a mountain range and the winding road gets out of sight in the distance. This is a certain sign that we must go up to the summit to see what fascinating things await on the other side. This journey implies going up the high plateau and it might be divided into three stages.
The first one consists in climbing to the top of these colorful mountains leaving the Licancabur Volcano aside. There starts the longest stretch across a beautiful plain that would represent the second stage. The final stretch is going down again up to the famous Jama Pass, which will lead us to the small coquettish village of Purmamarca, in Argentinian soil, to carry out all necessary Customs proceedings.
Across the Desert
The first part of the trip lets us look back as we leave the beautiful City of San Pedro de Atacama. All around is only the desert, which becomes huge and endless. This small city has been a real oasis. There had to be a reason for the first dwellers to settle down here over 10 thousand years ago.
The fusion between desert and oasis is constant. In the latter, visitors may appreciate the occupation of man, their crops and cattle, among which the llamas and goats stand out.
As the desert is left behind, coming across some of the inhabitants of this place makes us feel we are not alone. The vegetation is almost non-existent: some herbal species, cacti and yellow grass spots that then completely disappear. A detour on the left indicates a road leading to the Republic of Bolivia.
We left the desert and the geographical features around us offered real lagoons of clear waters showing signs of wildlife.
Before leaving the desert, a huge sand deposit to the left of the road was interrupted by several figures that invited us to stop. Later on, we learned that they were some strange rock formations that might be mountain peaks buried after great volcanic eruptions.
At this point, the second and longest stage began. This led us to such unbelievable sites like the Aguas Calientes Salt Deposit: a beautiful blue lagoon with yellow grass that ends at a long straight road leading to the border. Once there, it is necessary to pass through Customs in order to enter Argentina.
Higher Than Ever
The high plateau was now Argentinian territory. Its sceneries mingle mountains of all colors with lagoons sprinkled by pink spots watched from a distance. Those are pink flamingoes, the typical dwellers of this place.
The picturesque village of Susques and its lagoons and green grass show us that we have definitely abandoned the desert. A hundred sheep cross the road as their owner raises her hand to wave "good afternoon".
We reached one of the wildest and most beautiful parts in the tour: the Salinas Grandes. This is a huge salt deposit where it is possible to observe dozens of men working saltpeter in the most rudimentary way. This real paradise for photographers is a nice place to have a conversation with its residents and it stands at about 3,400 meters of height.
Afterwards, the road becomes more and more winding. A signpost reading “Abra de Potrerillos” indicates that we are at 4,170 meters of height: the highest point in the mountain range on the Argentinian side.
What comes next is a paradise built by engineers. The Lipan Slope is an abrupt descent that unveils the amazing layout man made to create this road that leads to the City of Purmamarca.
ExtrasPrint this outing
Useful DataBear in mind
It is recommended that you load fuel at San Pedro de Atacama (fill the tank), as most times the intermediate spots where fuel is sold do not receive frequent supply.