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Floating in the Saltwater

Mónica Pons Jorge González

The extensive salt deposit of Atacama lures visitors with its contrasting hues: the white salt, the emerald-green ponds and a sky always clear and blue.

Lake Cejar, Salar de Atacama

The famous salt deposit is accessed a few kilometers away from San Pedro de Atacama. Its soil seems to be made up by diamond-shaped tiles and the horizon is endless. Inside this territory, several lakes become alive and boast incredible properties.

We drove our car towards Lake Cejar, still referred to with its former name by some tourist guides, namely: Cejas. The road is made of something called “vichufita”, made up by clay, salt, manganese and water. It was quite compact. It took us half an hour to reach our destination.

In fact, the lake was visible a long while before we got there. It first appeared as a large turquoise spot in the middle of nowhere. As we came closer, we discovered it was surrounded by scrub land tinged in strong green and yellow tones. That was the first impact we had, as that palette created a very special effect in the area.

Lake Cejar, Salar de Atacama

Once we were ready to get immersed in its waters, we were informed that bathing is only authorized in Lake Piedra. It was not long before we tried its waters. In spite of being located at over 2,000 meters of height, we were surprised by its pleasant almost warm waters. The contact with the salt was felt especially on our face and particularly in our eyes. And it was not until we came out of the water that we noticed our whole body was covered by a white powder that remained until we cleaned ourselves with fresh water.

We took our time to test the properties of saline water and we observed that bodies could float without any difficulty. We did not sink!

The salt deposit is made up by the accumulation of precipitated salts and the liquid gathers only where there are groundwater springs, rain and hot springs. The basin contains three water bodies: Cejar, Piedra and Tebenquiche. The well-known Andes fire belt appears in the background. Flamingo colonies are usually seen in this zone. This is one of the few bird species that can survive on this harsh soil. All in all, this admirable view is second to none.

Lake Cejar, Salar de Atacama

Sunset caught us by one of the ponds, which dazzled us with wonderful pastel hues and the typical shades of dusk.

According to the information provided by the guides, the high level of salinity causes these ponds to offer a higher possibility to float than at the Dead Sea. Without further discussion, the most important thing for us was the chance to feel we were buoying as if we were a piece of cork. Beyond all scientific matters, fun is guaranteed.

Lake Cejar, Salar de Atacama
Welcome Chile - Outings in San Pedro de Atacama
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Useful Data

Bear in mind

The system includes three saltwater ponds and lies 20 kilometers away from San Pedro de Atacama.
It may be visited either on a private vehicle or by hiring a tour.
An access fee is charged and visitors are encouraged to check bath timetables.
Carry drinking water, sun lotion and proper footwear to enter the pond, as the salt crystals may cause cuts.

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