The jagged crust of the Salar de Atacama looks for all the world like God went crazy with a stippling brush. But in the midst of these rough lifeless crystals is an oasis of activity: the pungent Laguna Chaxa, about 25km southwest of Toconao and 65km from San Pedro, the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos’s most easily accessible flamingo-breeding site.
Three of the five known species (James, Chilean and Andean) can be spotted at this salt lake, as well as plovers, coots and ducks: bring zoom lenses and snappy reflexes. Sunrise is feeding time for the birds, though the park doesn't open until 8am. It’s also gorgeous at sunset.