Across my trip to Argentina, I visited the sprawl of Buenos Aires, the mighty Iguazu falls, and the valleys around Cafayate. But it was the Salinas Grandes salt flats that captured my heart. Reaching this incredible natural formation quite honestly felt like we were visiting the moon. The journey there was a real feat, and reaching our end goal had us clapping and laughing in the car. If you’re in any doubt… Please let this be the push to go! I am still lost in wonderment reflecting back on our trip…
Failure To Launch
We began our day with some bad news: our planned excursion out to the Salinas Grandes had been cancelled. We had waited in our hotel in Salta, with no pick up arriving. With limited time, my friend M quickly threw together Plan B: to rent a car, and travel to the salt flats ourselves. We hurried to Hertz Salta, hired our car, picked up some water and snacks… And so our four hour journey to the flats began!
It’s quite hard to describe the feeling of driving hours through jungle, motorway, and up into the Andes mountains, but this was the bravest and most incredible road trip I’ve ever been on. M did an amazing job driving, and as we slowly descended from the mountains, we were in awe of the vast flat land that lay ahead of us.
Salinas Grandes are the third-largest salt flats in the world, and they stretch across the entire horizon, with mountains as their backdrop. Despite the bright sunlight, the weather was cold, and the wind, still. As our road slowly flattened out, we whizzed past a herd of Vicuna, a camelid species similar to llama. We were living the dream!
If you’re planning to drive (rather than book a guided tour bus), we recommend driving on the 9 from Salta, north through Jujuy, and taking the 52 at Purmamarca. We rode in a medium-sized Fiat, but a four-wheel drive would suit the roads better.
At the entrance to the Salinas Grandes, you’ll be welcomed by a small array of huts, as well as parking. Stop here for your photos, to walk on the salt flats, and to buy handcrafted salt art. The people here are kind, softly-spoken, and respectful of the environment. It was an incredible experience.
After an hour or so at the salt flats, we began our return journey, racing the low-hanging cloud and quickly descending sun. The tall cacti and a rogue coyote waved us goodbye, and we rode into the darkness, navigating an alternate route that stuck to main highways as a safer way home.
If you’re driving, a word of warning: don’t rely on Google Maps. Despite following routes provided to us by Hertz Salta team, and a very kind attendant at a petrol station on our route, Google Maps would argue with our planned routes to the point where it would encourage 2+ hour diversions on treacherous roads in the dark. Instead, we recommend taking the 52 back to Purmamarca, heading south on the 9 to Jujuy, and then taking the 66 south, the 34 further south, and then the 9 west to get into Salta. It’s a longer route – around 5.5 hours – but it was safer than the zig-zag jungle roads at night.
There’s no real way to describe how incredible the Salinas Grandes are. Visiting the moon is the closest I can describe. The journey, the destination… It was all so surreal.
Make The Most Of Argentina
If you’re visiting Argentina, I’d really recommend visiting the Salinas Grandes, as well as Salta, Iguazu, and Buenos Aires. I hope one day to return to visit Patagonia too, but as a start, these were incredible destinations that will forever have me in awe of Argentina!