Salinas Grandes

Ruta 52 as it comes down to Salinas Grandes (taken around 12:30 PM)


Visited the fourth largest salt flat in the world. The salt flat is actively mined with thousands of strip pits that is perfect for a nice photographic illusion. There is also a nice sized natural pool that provides acts as a nice mirror on a still day.

Time of Visit:  January 2024 

Duration of Visit: Day trip from Pumamarca


Salinas Grandes is the fourth largest salt flats in the world.  It is located in Jujuy Province of Northern Argentina.  It is about an hour drive from the colorful town of Purmamarca.  The salt flat is actively mined for table salt.  Fifteen thousand strip pits are used to harvest the salt.  The pits have bluish turquoise water.  It also has a couple pools fed by a natural spring.  The pools provide a mirror reflection when its surface is still.

Salinas Grandes is not open to the public as it is actively mined.  We had to pay an entry fee. Our guide accompanied us to visit the strip pits and the spring.  The tour lasts around 40 minutes.

How to Get to Salinas Grandes

We had a rental car so we just drove ourselves from Purmamarca to Salinas Grandes on Ruta 52.  It takes about an hour to make the drive.  There is about 64 kilometers of scenic road.  Ruta 52 initially follows the river that carved a wide canyon before it turns to a series of hairpin turns as it goes through the mountains.  Colorful eroded sandstones can be seen along the canyon.

Eroded landscape along the dry river before Ruta 52 heads over the mountain (taken around 1 PM)

We saw tour buses and regular buses along Ruta 52. 

Along the way, you will pass at the highest point at 4,170 meters.  The place becomes busy during the middle of the day so you may have to wait in line to get your turn. 

Highest point on Ruta 52 (taken 12:20 PM)
Ruta 52 as it goes up the mountain towards the highest point (taken 12:30 PM)

How To Visit Salinas Grandes

You have to pay an entry fee and be accompanied by a guide to enter Salinas Grandes.  There are two entry places and guide services along Ruta 52.  The entry places are about five kilometers apart.  We just pulled into the first structure on the left as Ruta 52 descended on the salt flat.  Just go into the only enclosed structure and pay the entry fee.

The first entry point to the salt flat (taken around 9:15 AM)
Salt flat information in Spanish inside the entry point structure

We paid 8K ARS.  The people did not speak English so we could not verify if the 8K is for a tour or if that is what it amounted to because there were two of us.  

A guide is assigned to a visiting party.  We were off as soon as we paid.  Our guide, Florencio, drove a truck while others rode motorbikes.  We followed Florencio as he drove on the designated road on the salt flat.   

What Will You See During the Tour

Strip Pits

Our first stop was the strip pits.  Though there are 15,000 strip pits, there is a designated area where the guides make the first stop. We had our own line of strip pits because there are so many.

Florencio gave us a 10 minute talk (in Spanish) about Salinas Grandes like some of its statistics, geography and how the salt is harvested.  We got bits and pieces of it as we only knew some Spanish.  Do not expect Google Translate to work here as there was no cell service.

Florencio became our director and photographer after the information session.  He took several pictures of us.  The perspective picture was the most interesting as it looked like my wife had shrunk to Liliputan size and appeared to stand on the top of my hand.  We wished we had soda cans so we could replicate the optical illusion that we were standing on it as well.

Optical illusion at the strip pits (taken around 10 AM)

Natural Spring

The second and final stop is the natural spring with a pool.  There were a couple of those.  The stillness of the pool acts as a mirror image on a calm day.  This area can be crowded and visitors may have to wait for their turns to take photos.

Reflection pool (taken around 10 AM)

Best Time to Visit

Florencio said that morning is the best time to visit Salinas Grandes.  It becomes windy in the afternoon so there would be no reflection on the pool.  We arrived in Salinas Grandes around 9 AM and the sky was all blue and hardly a breeze.  It would have been better if there were clouds in the sky when taking a reflection photo at the pools.  

If you want to have some white clouds with your reflection pool photo, we noticed that clouds begin forming late in the morning, sometime around 11 AM.  However, the place tends to become busy at that time with more visitors.  More visitors mean a longer wait time at the reflection pool to take photos.  

When we arrived just past 9 AM, there were only a handful of cars at the entry point parking area.  But by the time we got done around 10:30 AM, there were close to 50 cars parked.

Standing Water on the Salt Flat

We asked Florencio if Salinas Grandes ever has standing water just like Salar di Uyuni in Bolivia.  Best we could translate his answer was yes.  However, our guide said that only happens if there is sufficient rain.  

Rainfall events happen randomly and it was dry on our visit even though it was the rainy season.  It is all up to chance to see Salinas Grandes having standing water to have that optical illusion that you are standing on a giant mirror just like Salar di Uyuni.  Florencio said that the months of January and February offer the best chances of rain.


Salinas Grandes is the fourth largest salt flat in the world.  It is actively mined for salt and therefore has limited access.  You must pay a fee and be accompanied by a guide to enter the salt flats.

We followed our guide on our rental vehicle into the salt flats.  First stop were the strip pits where the salt is harvested.  Photographic illusions are normally taken at this location.  Our guide was our director and photographer.

The second and final stop is the spring that feeds a small pool of water.  The pool’s surface acts like a mirror and provides a nice reflection especially when there are clouds that contrast nicely with the blue sky.

The best time to visit the Salt Flats is in the morning before the winds pick up in the afternoon.  Once the wind picks up, the pool surface would be wavy and no longer provide the nice reflection.

Being able to visit Salinas Grandes with standing water like Salar di Uyuni is all up to chance.  This only happens when there is a significant rainfall event.  However, rainfall events are unpredictable even during the rainy summer season.  

Visiting Salinas Grandes, whether it has standing water or not, is a unique experience.  It is one of those that would stay in our memories for a long time.