Red rocks and an ice-green lagoon contrast with the grey/brown mountains and sparkling white salt flats of the Salar de Talar. The 46-square-kilometer salt flat in the Antofagasta region of Atacama sits at an altitude above 4,000 meters.
Atacama – Been There

Talar's salt flats will make you pinch yourself

Photo by Lucas Vallecillos

Atacama – Been There Talar's salt flats will make you pinch yourself

On the way from San Pedro to the highland region of Talar in Atacama, Chile, I stop several times to take pictures of this beautiful landscape of tussocked grass.

Lucas Vallecillos
Lucas Vallecillos Travel Photographer

I see several grazing vicuñas, a relative of the llama, and then I spot a llama itself when it suddenly darts across the lonely road.

I am here primarily to see the Salar de Aguas Calientes, the famed salt flats of Atacama, whose beauty is such that I almost rub my eyes to make sure I am not in a dream. Although the sun is shining, the height and the wind-chill bring the temperature down to about two degrees below zero, while I struggle to draw breath in the thin air. “Move slowly and really fill your lungs with air,” says Juan Bastita, my guide, when he sees me wheezing.

Walking down to the Laguna Talar, I come to an area called the Red Rocks. Large, flat red stones of irregular shape cover the ground, fitted perfectly with one another as if a divine hand had paved the ground. Their deep red contrasts with the bright blue sky and turquoise water of the lagoon, an attractive color clash of warm and cold tones that give the place an almost supernatural beauty.

When I return to the jeep, I find that our driver and Juan have prepared a picnic and laid out a bottle of the excellent Chilean Carmenere wine. It is a surprise that I am not expecting, typical of the warmth of Chilean hospitality. “We’ll start with a pisco sour, to whet your appetite,” says Juan. “We had planned to return to San Pedro and look for a restaurant but I thought this might be a better setting.”

As we eat in front of the majestic landscape, I have to agree. Not only is it a better setting than I might find in the humble town of San Pedro, but better than almost anywhere else on Earth.

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The Valley of the Moon may look as if it has been dusted with snow but the white is actually solid rock salt. The valley is part of the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains), formed 22 million years ago and crowned on all sides by volcanic peaks. Photo by Lucas Vallecillos

Lucas Vallecillos

Lucas Vallecillos

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Aperture
ƒ/13/1
Exposure
1/250
ISO
100
Focal
120/1 mm

The Valley of the Moon may look as if it has been dusted with snow but the white is actually solid rock salt. The valley is part of the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains), formed 22 million years ago and crowned on all sides by volcanic peaks.