Visiting nearby Monumento Natural Salar de Surire is a surefire way to see huge herds of roaming vicuña, pockets of cuddly viscacha, as well the occasional ungainly ñandú (the ostrich-like rhea). But the star attraction of this isolated 113-sq-km salt flat is the flamingo: three species, including the rare James flamingo, come to nest in the sprawling salt lake.
The best time to see them is from December to April. Situated 126km from Putre, the reserve was formed in 1983, when the government chopped up Parque Nacional Lauca. In 1989 the outgoing dictatorship gave 45.6 sq km to mining company Quiborax.