Visit the Atacama Salt Flat and its neighboring villages and attractions on this day trip from San Pedro de Atacama with a local guide. Start at Chaxa Lagoon in the Soncor section of the 1,200-square-mile (3,000-sq-km) salt flat; part of Los Flamencos National Reserve, Soncor is famous for its Andean flamingos and other native birds. Then explore the beautiful lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques; have an Atacama lunch in the village of Socaire; and visit the handicraft market in the village of Toconao.
Your day trip from San Pedro de Atacama begins with hotel pickup by minivan for the drive south of town to the Atacama Salt Flat (Salar de Atacama), the largest salt flat in Chile and one of the largest in the world. Your first stop is Chaxa Lagoon in a part of the salt flat known as the Soncor section, which lies in the greater Los Flamencos National Reserve (Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos). Known for its role as a breeding site for the rare Andean flamingo, Soncor is also home to an array of other birds like yellow-billed teals, sandpipers and crested ducks. Spend about 45 to 60 minutes here, exploring the area via a small path that provides great photo ops, and then hop back in the van and head to Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons, also part of the national reserve. Located at an elevation of 13,780 feet (4,200 meters) above sea level, the altiplano (high plain) lagoons sit at the base of Miñiques Volcano and were separated from each other by a lava flow from an eruption. You have about one hour here to walk around, take pictures and admire the incredible views of the blue lagoons surrounded by the volcanic landscape. Back in the van, continue your day trip to the village of Socaire, about 15 miles (25 km) north of the lagoons. Socaire is known for its typical Atacama cuisine, which you’ll enjoy for lunch at a local restaurant; the menu varies daily but includes an appetizer, main course, dessert and soft drink. After lunch, head to the village of Toconao, about an hour north, back toward San Pedro de Atacama. Stop for a bit to browse the handicraft market and admire the church and bell tower, the village’s one well-known attraction, before returning to San Pedro de Atacama, where your day trip ends with hotel drop-off.