Los Flamencos National Reserve
The reserve is located 127 km northeast of Calama and 27 km south of San Pedro de Atacama. It was created in 1990 under the protection of the Government. The total area is 73,986 hectares, divided into various sectors, each with its own distinctive characteristics.
Sector Salares de Tara y Aguas Calientes
This sector lies 100 km from San Pedro de Atacama, following the side road to Salares de Tara; here you will find cliffs, which have been dubbed with a variety of names, as well as pools, streams, springs and salt crust. The characteristic flora is constituted by bofedales, paja amarilla, coirón, tola de agua and tola amai. The fauna includes three varieties of flamingoes, vicuñas, culpeo fox, puna guinea pig, chululos, Andean avocet, Andean seagulls, puna plovers, jeron duck and guallata.
Sector Salar de Pujsa
This is the most inaccessible sector of the reserve, located 83 km from San Pedro de Atacama. There are several water sources, with pools in the salt flat and streams in the Quepiaco gorge. Flora is scarce, only the coirón amargo and paja amarilla are present. The fauna on the other hand is abundant: bird species include the juarjual and jeron duck, guallatas, ñandúes, puna partridges, pollito de mar tricolor, Andean avocets, playero de Baird, Andean seagulls, cometocinos, puna plovers, mineros de la puna and the three varieties of flamingoes, while among the mammals are the culpeo fox, puna guinea pig, and chululos.
Sector Lagunas Miscanti-Miñiques
On the road from San Pedro to Toconao you will come to the Miscanti-Miñiques lakes, located among the hills of the same name. They are at altitudes of 4,100 and 4,350 meters respectively. Apart from flamingoes, the fauna includes tagua cornuda, juarjual ducks, puna plovers, playeros de Baird and guallatas. The flora includes species such as the llareta and paja amarilla.
This sector, which includes the Puilar, Chaxa and Barros Negros pools and the Burro Muerto river, is easily accessible. These places are all surrounded by the same thick salt crust, and their fauna includes the Chilean flamingo, James’ flamingo, or parina chica, and Andean flamingo or parina grande. Other species are the Andean seagull, guallata, puna plover, Andean avocet, playero de Baird, black-backed swallow, colegial, pequén, and pollito de mar tricolor. The flora is characterized by the presence of ephedra breana, salt grasses, and cachiyuyo in the areas that surround the pools.
Sector Aguas de Quelana
This sector is located some 10 km south of the intersection that leads to Chaxa. It consists of a series of shallow pools interconnected by natural channels. The flora includes cachiyuyo, salt grasses and ephedra breana. Three species of flamingo can be found, also aguiluchos, puna plovers, swallows, pollitos de mar tricolor, Andean seagulls, guallatas, playero de Baird, Andean avocets and pequenes.
Sector Valle de la Luna
This zone includes the famous “Valley of the Moon”, the village of Túlor and some archeological sites representative of the Atacama salt flat. The fauna includes culpeo fox, gray fox, and chululos. Among the birds there are turtledoves, aguiluchos, black thrushes, chincoles, chercanes and storks. The flora consists of carob tree, salt grasses, ephedra breana, cachiyuyo, and wild fuchsia.
This is the nearest sector to San Pedro de Atacama and its main feature is its tamarugo forest, the only one in the region.