Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Salt Flats

Welcome to your “Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Salt Flats!”  Before visiting, I had NO idea there were actually salt flats in Argentina.  I’d assumed (incorrectly) that Bolivia’s massive Salar de Uyuni was the only salt flat in South America.  But when I got to the charming city of Salta, in northern Argentina, I heard through the grapevine about the existence of these magical salt flats, called “Salinas Grandes” ~ which are located by the Salta & Jujuy Provinces.  But there are a few things I wish I’d known prior to visiting this beautiful place, & I’ll fill you in on those details here. 

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

Come & join me on this tour of Argentina’s Salt Flats, also known as “Salinas Grandes!”

Map of the Salt Flats

On the map below, I’ve outlined the circular, 12-hour route our “Salt Flats” tour took: which started in Salta.  We headed west on Route 51, making a few stops before landing in San Antonio de los Cobres for lunch (good for lunch, but not my choice for an overnight stay).  Then, about 90 minutes later, we arrived at the Salt Flats ~ finishing up in Purmamarca, at the “Hill of Seven Colors.” 

If you don’t feel like making all these stops, or being in a van for 12 hours: then I strongly suggest renting a car in Salta.  The roads in this area are nice & uncongested, & make for easy driving.

Salta

Jujuy

Purmamarca (Hill of 7 Colors)

Salt Flat (Salinas Grandes)

Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia Salt Flats)

San Antonio de los Cobres

Salinas Grandes Quick Facts

  • Salinas Grandes Entry Fee = Zero (no entry fee).
  • How Late Are They Open?  Argentina’s Salt Flats (Salinas Grandes) sits in the middle of a major highway, so I see no reason why you can’t visit them any time you want.
  • How to Get There = The Salt Flats are quite remote, & the two ways to get there are: 1) Rent a car, or 2) Book a tour in Salta (I booked mine via Trip Advisor for $75).  My tour took 13-hours (7AM-8PM), & covered many sites besides the Salt Flats, including Purmamarca.  Downside: we only had 20 minutes at the Salt Flats.  If you want more time, rent a car.
  • How Big is Salinas Grandes? Approximately 212 square kilometers.  (It seems VERY big when you’re there.)  Compared to Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia though ~ Salinas Grandes is TINY.  Uyuni is 10,500+ square kilometers.
  • What is the Elevation at Salinas Grandes?  11,000 feet (3,300 meters) above sea level.
  • Food & Restrooms at Salt Flats?  No food, but there are several Port-a-Potties.
  • Where to Stay if You Want to Visit at Sunrise or Sunset = If it was me, I’d stay in Purmamarca, where the “Hill of Seven Colors” is located.  I’d do this for two reasons: 1) It’s a cute town, & by staying there, you’ll be able to see the painted hills at sunrise or sunset, & 2) It’s only a 90-minute drive to Salinas Grandes vs. from Salta, which is more like 4+ hours. 
  • Biggest Difference Between Uyuni & Salinas Grandes = Uyuni is MUCH larger (it’s the largest Salt Flat in the world), & tours typically spend MUCH more time here ~ as much as 2-3 days.  You can also stay in salt hotels at Uyuni, which you can’t at Salinas Grandes.  But a major plus for Salinas Grandes is their beautiful, turquoise pools.  Also, getting to Bolivia can be much more difficult, as it requires Visas (for U.S. & other citizens), & the journey is long. 

But friends of mine who’ve been to both RAVED about Uyuni ~ so I think that’s the pinnacle! 

(But I was very happy with Salinas Grandes.)

Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Salt Flats

There aren’t many online guides for Argentina’s Salt Flats ~ but my disappointment with the ones I did find, was they hardly showed any photos.  And the ones that did, only showed photos of the Salt Flats themselves, without highlighting the surrounding area, which I thought was GORGEOUS.  I found “painted hills” all over the place ~ not just in Purmamarca.

In my opinion: this whole journey is beautiful ~ not just the Salt Flats. 

So Let’s Visit the Salt Flats…

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

One of the first stops we made was along a dirt road, to check out this suspension bridge.

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

Not far from the bridge, we stopped near an insane collection of cactus. In the early morning light, I found the hills here to be painted all kinds of beautiful colors…

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

I also found a dog just chilling along the highway, next to a huge cactus.

Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Salt Flats

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

We made several stops on our journey to Salinas Grandes, including many roadside stands selling Argentinian (& Bolivian) goods.

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

We also got lucky, spotting many groups of vicunas alongside the road. They look like alpacas ~ but are a different breed, that thrive in very high altitudes (10,000+ feet).

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

The Andes Mountains create compelling backdrops for photos in this region.

Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Salt Flats

After lunch in San Antonio de los Cobres, followed by a near two-hour journey: we finally made it to the Salt Flats I’d been dying to see!!  My main issue with our (long) tour though, was this: we only had twenty minutes here!  This is NOT enough time ~ especially if you want to play with perspective, bring props, & have fun taking photos.  I got a few snaps by myself, then ran over to some friends from the tour, to help each other get funny shots.  I’d also wished that our tour guide had brought props: like a Coke can, sombrero, small figurines ~ anything that helps you create great “perspective” shots.  

GWTW Tip: If you want ALL the time you want at the Flats: RENT A CAR!!!  You will especially need to rent a car if you want to visit the Salt Flats at sunrise or sunset ~ something I sincerely wished I’d been able to do.

Guide to Visiting Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

Many groups were there when we arrived, but it’s still not hard to get a shot alone ~ just turn around, & you’ll find vast, open space.

Travel Guide for Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

“Alone” at Argentina’s Salt Flats.

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

Playing with friends (& perspective) at the Salt Flats is a MUST!! To date, this is one of my most “liked” Instagram photos EVER.

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

Get in that salty water & exfoliate your feet!  The biggest difference between Uyuni & Argentina’s Salt Flats is that Uyuni doesn’t have these turquoise pools. Use them to your photo advantage! (I can only imagine how amazing they look at sunset…)

Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Salt Flats

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

For comparison purposes, here’s a shot of Bolivia’s MASSIVE Salar de Uyuni. Salt as far as the eye can see…

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

When we arrived in Purmamarca, I was immediately captivated by their colorful town square, surrounded by gorgeous handicrafts. I wish I’d stayed at least one night here!

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats, Girl Who Travels the World

“The Hill of Seven Colors,” in Purmamarca, Argentina. By the time we arrived (about 4PM),our guide said the lighting made it look “washed out.” Colors are most vibrant, they say, in early morning.

Video of Argentina’s Salt Flats

Sometimes, the best way to get a feel for a place is to watch a video of it.  My personal feeling is that the entire journey to the Salt Flats is beautiful & rugged, making this entire region a destination in itself: & not just the Flats themselves.

Ultimate Guide to Argentina’s Salt Flats

For more articles on Argentina: read about great hikes in Patagonia, or solo female travel at beautiful Iguazu Falls.

Read Next: How Much Does a Trip to Patagonia Cost?

Pin It

Ultimate Guide to Argentina's Salt Flats by Salta, Girl Who Travels the World

Discover more from Girl Who Travels the World

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading