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article imagePhoto Essay: Surreal landscapes of highland lagoons near the sky Special

By Igor I. Solar     Aug 13, 2013 in Travel
Calama - About a million years ago a volcanic eruption stopped the flow of mountain creeks. The water collected on a plateau high above the Atacama Desert forming two lagoons of breathtaking beauty now occupied by waterfowl species typical of the Andes.
The altiplanic lagoons known as 'Miscanti' and 'Miñiques' are located 110 kilometers from the town of San Pedro de Atacama at 4.220 meters above sea level (13,845 feet). Both lagoons are fed by water sources coming from the surrounding Andean mountains. The trip from San Pedro de Atacama edges the great Atacama Salt Flats and passes through the towns of Toconao and Socaire.
The area is one of the highest and most remote sections of the National Reserve “[i]Los Flamencos[/i]” (The Flamingos). The landscape and climate are characteristic of high altitude regions, with warm daytime temperatures and where night temperatures in winter can reach -30 degrees C. At this altitude, just a few plants populate the ground, such as the Yareta (Azorella compacta) and Paja Brava (Panicum prionitis). The sky is clear, the air is crisp, and the summits of the highest mountains of the Andes are very close.
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. A gravel road from the town of Socaire leads to the mount...
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. A gravel road from the town of Socaire leads to the mountains and the lagoons. At this altitude, just a few plants populate the ground, such as the Yareta and Paja-Brava.
Sunset at the Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. Snow  not common during the winter months  ...
Sunset at the Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. Snow, not common during the winter months in the high mountains at this latitude, covers the ground in the proximity of the lagoons.
Perhaps the best time to appreciate the beauty of this location is early in the morning and in the late afternoon, just before sunset. The ochre hills display a glaring contrast to the blue water of the lagoons lined by white margins. After climbing breathtakingly beautiful gravel roads, Miscanti is the first lagoon revealed to the traveler. About one hundred meters beyond, is the second lagoon called Miñiques. Miscanti has an area of 15 square kilometers while Miñiques is much smaller, with an area of 1.5 square kilometers. Both are at the foot of the Miscanti volcano which reaches an altitude of 5,640 meters above sea level (18,504 feet).
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. The ochre hills display a glaring contrast to the blue wa...
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. The ochre hills display a glaring contrast to the blue water of the lagoons lined by white margins.
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. The best time to appreciate the beauty of this location i...
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. The best time to appreciate the beauty of this location is early in the morning and in the late afternoon, just before sunset.
Late afternoon at the Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. Several species of waterfowl use th...
Late afternoon at the Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. Several species of waterfowl use the grass in the margins of the lagoons to nest in the spring.
The lagoons attract a large number of aquatic birds including the Andean flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus), the Andean Crested Duck (Anas specularoides alticola), and the Horned Coot (Fulica cornuta). The Miñiques lagoon is the main breeding place of the Horned Coot in the western slope of the Andes.
Late afternoon at the Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. After climbing breathtakingly beaut...
Late afternoon at the Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. After climbing breathtakingly beautiful gravel roads, Miscanti is the first lagoon revealed to the traveler.
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. The sky is clear  the air is crisp  and the summits of th...
Altiplanic lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques. The sky is clear, the air is crisp, and the summits of the highest mountains of the Andes are very close.
This section of the National Reserve Flamingos, where the beautiful Andean lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques are located, is managed by the indigenous Atacameño community of Socaire who proudly receive domestic and foreign visitors and display their culture and the wild beauty of their mountains.
More about Highland lagoons, Miscanti and Miniques, Atacama desert, andes mountains, Chile
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