Home > Argentina > Salinas Grandes. Snow White and the 7 coloured rocks.

Salinas Grandes. Snow White and the 7 coloured rocks.

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

As far as spectacles, the Salinas Grandes comes pretty close to Iguazu, but is almost completely free of tourists. This may have something to do with the fact that it is over 4000m (at 13,000 feet), or that it is pretty remote, either way, having the place nearly to yourself is very cool.




look carefully, there are 7 colours

The drive up led us through a place called Punamarca, famous for the colouring of the rocks and in itself a short geology lesson for the kids. There are seven major colours of rocks, each from a different time era. For example red rock being 3-4million years, yellow newer, purple around 80 million and white older still around 400million years old. Great fun was had collecting one of each colour to take back home as a sort of geological timeline.

view from 4000m with the road snaking down towards the salt flats in the distance


The best however was yet to come as we drove higher and higher into the mountains, as we passed the 4,200 metre mark, the road eventually flattened out and round a corner we were rewarded with a spectacular view over the valley in almost complete isolation with the salt flats stretching away in the distance. After about 20 minutes more of driving through the hairpins we were in the pan flat landscape of the salt flats, turning off the main road, we drove gingerly onto the salt, initially following the “paths” of previous cars, eventually being more adventurous and driving off across the flats to explore.

the flats with the very occasional passing car

the road across the flats

It is hard to describe the place, because it is so empty, the air is thin and cold, but the sun is fiercely hot, reflecting and blinding off the salt. The sensation is almost like round the campfire on a cold night where you face is burning, but your back is freezing. The salt is still extracted commercially and we spotted some diggers a mile or two away, so we did a little circuit around the flats before stumbling on the salt pools with their crystal clear water and floating salt crystals like snow flakes. Strangely the water is really cold, but as expected super salty. We also mucked around with the oddly distorted perspective of the flats to take some pictures of us all messing around before heading back up to the high altitude pass for a photo opportunity.

crystal clear salt pans are a lovely colour

salt crystals like snowflakes

elena hitching a ride on the local train

Kai finally has Jo where he wants her.

As is obvious, we were at a pretty high altitude, and we were fairly concerned about how the kids may react to the altitude; whilst we had tried to spend a couple of days at 2,500m, we were aware that we were taking a bit of a risk, so to try and minimise the potential problems, we bought some coca leaves, and made a tea infusion with sugar and bicarb (an alkali to release the active ingredients), as well as putting the leaves in our cheeks and swallowing the bitter saliva. The main active ingredient in the coca leaves is cocaine, probably not recommended for young children, but we did wonder why they were so alert and cheerful!

With the altitude, all seemed to be going well, a few dizzy spells at the salt flats soon passed with the threat of drinking more coca (it is really disgusting – even worse than mate), but as we climbed to 13,000 feet, and got out for a picture by the altitude sign, Elena had a funny turn and went all faint, floppy  and green then  started moaning really strangely. We managed one quick photo, before throwing the kids back in the car and getting down to below 10,000 feet as quick as possible. Fortunately, she recovered pretty quick and was soon back to her normal mis-behaviour, but it was a bit of a reminder that we are in fairly extreme territory for sea-level dwellers.

note floppy Elena being carried and a bit green

Categories: Argentina Tags: , , , ,
  1. JL
    October 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Alane, zatim jsem jen tise prihlizel a obdivoval, kde vsude jsi rodinku protahl. Hluboky obdiv vsichni Lehmanni

    • October 31, 2011 at 12:40 am

      Díky. Je to tady úžasné. Někdy je to těžké a někdy to není snadné, ale je to vždycky legrace. Argentina je úžasná, ale urcite to reknem vsude! Polibek všem, Alan.

  2. katko
    October 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Oh my God! – poor Elena. Still you did manage to get some fab photos. Looks like you have seen many of the highlights that you would get to see in Atacama desert so wouldn’t feel bad about not going to Atacama. Plus Atacama is full of tourists so looks like you made a wise decision. I am currently drinking a glass of wine and thinking of you all especially since you are in Mendoza. Enjoy the vineyards!

    • October 31, 2011 at 12:46 am

      We enjoyed the vineyards alright, just chose to do the bike/wine tour the day before the bus ride from Mendoza to Santiago – big mistake! x

  3. Zuzana Vilímová
    October 27, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Zdravíme z Prahy a obdivujeme !! Zuzana

    • October 31, 2011 at 12:44 am

      Diky – je to tady perfeknti. Nebudu chtit domu!


  4. Niels
    October 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Hi there, we had a great time during the bicycle tour in maipu with you guys. Have a good trip and have fun in New Zealand.

    The Dutchies
    Niels en Minke

    • October 31, 2011 at 12:43 am

      Hi to you both, we had a great time too – although I must admit that for the 8 hour bus ride over the Andes I was not feeling my best! Have a safe journey home and hope you have fantastic memories of your holiday. If you ever want that game of golf, just drop me a line!
      All the best,

      Alan & Jo.

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