Not easy to get there, but the trip to Las Salinas Grandes was well worth the trouble. I’d say it took us between 6-7 hours to get to the salt flats counting various stops along the way, and another 8 or 9 hours to complete the loop where we started at 7 AM that morning.
Salinas Grandes are great huge salt flats in the province of Salta way up in northern Argentina close to the Bolivian border. To get there we first flew 2 hours from Buenos Aires to the city of Salta, then joined a small van tour for the rest of the way. We drove some really bad road (including nearly 80 kilometers of washer-board, rutted gravel), but saw some unbelievably beautiful country.
There are mountains on all sides of you and being the rainy season, the rivers are flowing so constantly flood or wash out the road. There seems to be permanent road crews along the way whose job is to keep the longest North to south route in Argentina open.
The forecast for the 3 days we were in Salta Province called for rain and thunder showers, which would have also washed out our tour, but as is so often the case, they got it wrong and we had great weather with only a minor quick shower at the highest point (4,170 meters) of the journey.
The flats are created as mineral-laden water from the surrounding mountains fill the rivers feeding the lake.
With nowhere for the water to go and due to specific geological and climatic conditions the evaporation rate creates over time thick layers of various minerals, chiefly sodium chloride – SALT! Salinas Grandes stretches 32 kms N-S, and is approx. 9 kms E-W covering some 3,200 sq miles as compared the the Great Salt Lake in Utah (the largest salt lake in the Western hemisphere) which covers about 1,700 sq miles.
The trip was somewhat arduous, but well worth the trouble!
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