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article imageVolcanoes, lagoons, monks and cathedrals in the high Andes Special

By Igor I. Solar     Sep 9, 2013 in Travel
Antofagasta - Among the most interesting expeditions to the Andes Mountain range is the trip to the “Salar de Tara” (Tara Salt-flats). The amazing scenery includes towering volcanoes, beautiful lagoons, incredible rock formations, and varied wildlife.
Quipiaco Lagoon
To get to ”Salar de Tara” one must travel from San Pedro de Atacama, in the region of Antofagasta in Chile, through the international route to Jama Pass which connects northern Chile with the city of Jujuy in Argentina.
The route passes near Lincancabur Volcano (5,916 meters) and runs along the border between Chile and Bolivia before passing through the “Aguada de Quipiaco” (Quipiaco Lagoon). Quipiaco is a stunning highland lagoon, normally frozen in winter, surrounded by gentle hills offering breathtakingly beautiful landscapes.
About 50 kilometers away from the border, in the middle of the Andes highlands, the route to Tara leaves the main road to enter unmarked paths through the desert sands that are navigable only by experienced guides using 4x4, GPS-equipped vehicles.
Quipiaco is a highland lagoon  usually frozen in winter  surrounded by gentle hills offering breatht...
Quipiaco is a highland lagoon, usually frozen in winter, surrounded by gentle hills offering breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. Many aquatic birds stop at this lagoon in their migration.
The route to Salar de Tara runs along the border between Chile and Bolivia before passing through th...
The route to Salar de Tara runs along the border between Chile and Bolivia before passing through the “Aguada de Quipiaco” (Quipiaco Lagoon), a beautiful lagoon fed by the Quipiaco Stream, which may be crossed on foot during the winter.
Pakana Monks
At about 4400 meters above sea level there are several vertical rock formations known as “Los Monjes de la Pakana” (Pakana monks), also called “Moais of Tara” because of their vague resemblance to the stone statues existing on Easter Island. The “Monks” are gigantic stone pillars standing on the plateau which have been shaped by wind erosion over millions of years.
Panoramic view of the Andean plateau where the rock formations known as the  Monks of La Pakana  are...
Panoramic view of the Andean plateau where the rock formations known as the "Monks of La Pakana" are located.
One of the most spectacular  Monks  on the Pakana Plateau. The persons in the shade give an idea of ...
One of the most spectacular "Monks" on the Pakana Plateau. The persons in the shade give an idea of the huge size of the rocks. There are many of these wind-eroded rocks at this site.
The Cathedrals and Tara Salt-flats
The way to Tara provides an amazing spectacle of rock formations and earthen colours. Along the trail one can see the 5,653 metre high Zapaleri Mountain, an extinct volcano whose summit in the middle of the Andes is the tripoint of the borders of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
The path through the desert sands continues for about 40 kilometres from the sector of the Pakana monks to the “Cathedrals of Tara”, another group of huge rock formations in the mountains also sculpted over millions of years by strong mountain winds.
View from a high lookout over the vastness of the Tara Salt-flats located about 4 000 meters above s...
View from a high lookout over the vastness of the Tara Salt-flats located about 4,000 meters above sea level. In this amazing place, the small Zapaleri River flows gently through the meadows allowing water accumulation that favors the abundance of many species of aquatic birds. Part of the Tara Cathedrals can be seen in the left of the picture.
A closer view of the Tara Salt-flats located about 4 000 meters above sea level. Part of the Tara Ca...
A closer view of the Tara Salt-flats located about 4,000 meters above sea level. Part of the Tara Cathedrals can be seen in the centre-left of the picture.
About 40 kilometres beyond the Pakana monks are the “Cathedrals of Tara”  a group of huge rock f...
About 40 kilometres beyond the Pakana monks are the “Cathedrals of Tara”, a group of huge rock formations in the mountains sculpted over millions of years by strong mountain winds.
The way to Tara provides an amazing spectacle of rock formations and earthen colours. Behind the stu...
The way to Tara provides an amazing spectacle of rock formations and earthen colours. Behind the stunning rocks are the bogs created by the narrow Zapaleri River in its way to the Tara Salt-flats.
The way to Tara provides an amazing spectacle of rock formations and earthen colours. In the backgro...
The way to Tara provides an amazing spectacle of rock formations and earthen colours. In the background is the 5,653 metre high Zapaleri Mountain, an extinct volcano whose summit is the tripoint of the borders of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
Tara's cathedrals are in a high sector overlooking the vastness of the Tara Salt-flats located about 4,000 meters above sea level. In this amazing place, the narrow Zapaleri River flows gently through the meadows allowing water accumulation that favors the abundance of many species of aquatic birds, such as flamingos and horned coots, and the growth of vegetation feeding guanacos, vicuñas , llamas, and viscachas.
A section of the impressive “Cathedrals of Tara”  rock formations sculpted over millions of year...
A section of the impressive “Cathedrals of Tara”, rock formations sculpted over millions of years by strong mountain winds.
A section of the impressive “Cathedrals of Tara”  rock formations raising about 60-80 metres fro...
A section of the impressive “Cathedrals of Tara”, rock formations raising about 60-80 metres from the desert sands.
Wild guanacos abound in the  Salar de Tara . Other animals in the area are vicuñas  chinchillas and...
Wild guanacos abound in the "Salar de Tara". Other animals in the area are vicuñas, chinchillas and large quantity of flamingos.
Mountain sickness
This expedition to the center of the Andean highlands, in which you travel through places at altitudes of about 4,900 meters, is not recommended for people prone to altitude sickness. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) occurs normally at altitudes above 2,400 meters.
The main cause of this condition is hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the body). Atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude, which affects the bioavailability of oxygen. The lower the pressure, the pulmonary alveoli are unable to supply the same amount of oxygen to the blood. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, stomach illness, nausea and dizziness. For reasons not well understood, altitude sickness is more prevalent in people younger than fifty years and in persons who normally reside at altitude below 900 m.
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San Pedro de Atacama may be reached from the capital, Santiago de Chile, overland by car or bus (24-hour trip) or by plane to Calama City (2:15 hrs.), and driving from Calama to San Pedro (103 Km). The Tara Salt-flat is about 130 kilometres southeast of San Pedro de Atacama, within the National Reserve “Los Flamencos”, near the border with Argentina.
More about Tara Saltflats, andes mountains, San Pedro de atacama, Pakana monks, Tara Cathedrals
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