The third largest salt flats in the world, the Salinas Grandes Argentina is so big that it spans both Salta & Jujuy Provinces. And with an area of around 4,700 sq km, when you’re in it, it’s hard to see beyond it.
In some directions the blinding white expanse seems to go on forever with only a stark line separating the snow like ground with the vast blue sky.
In other directions you can just make out the deep red mars like landscapes of the Andes mountains in the background.
Of course, the nearby Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia are much much larger at 10,582 sq km.
But that doesn’t make the Salt Flats Argentina any less impressive. They also have these unique turquoise pools which makes the landscape look different.
Salinas Grandes Argentina
In this guide on how to visit the Argentina Salt Flats were going to give you all the different options for getting there.
We’ll let you know what to take and what kind of facilities there are. Plus the best time to go and where to stay nearby.
How To Get To The Argentina Salt Flats
The closest town to Salinas Grandes Jujuy is Purmamarca where the Hill of Seven Colours is.
And because the best time to see the Purmamarca rainbow mountains is in the morning, it’s a good idea to do that first thing and then head out on a Salinas Grandes tour after.
From Purmamarca there are a couple of transport options.
Tour From Purmamarca
From Purmamarca, the Salinas Grandes tours leave from the centre of town. You’ll hear the sales guys shouting “salinas” and directing people to minivans.
The price for this Salinas Grandes tour is $500 ARG ($8.50 USD / £6.50 GBP) per person and it lasts around 3 hours.
They leave when the mini bus is full from around 11am, so you should be back in Purmamarca from about 2/3pm.
It takes roughly half an hour to get to the start of the Salinas Grandes Jujuy side. But travelling the 30km is an adventure in itself.
The landscape is gorgeous. Pretty mountain scenery dotted with cacti and the odd herd of vicunas.
But if you get travel sickness easy, don’t forget your nausea pills because the route is seriously windy with lots of switchbacks. In fact the road looks like something out of one of those fancy car commercials at points.
You’ll make a few stops along the way to take photographs and visit a couple of roadside stalls.
If you don’t already have some coca leaves to chew that’s a good time to grab some because the altitude ain’t playing here. It’s serious stuff.
After you pass the Cuesta de Lipan (Lipan Slope) and the highest point in Jujuy, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the massive salt desert way off in the distance.
At the actual Salt Flats you’ll have around 45-60 minutes to explore and take photographs.
Hire A Private Driver
Another option if you are already travelling in a group to the Argentina Salt Flats is to higher a private driver.
This may sound a little extravagant, however the remises work out the same price with four people.
You’ll spot them easy enough waiting in a line in Purmamarca.
These Salinas Grandes tours are the same length of time, 3 hours. But you have more flexibility on when you leave, can stop wherever you like (or not) along the way and they do move abit quicker so you will get slightly more time at the actual salt flats.
They won’t leave without 4 people though – unless you just pay the full $2000 ARG ($33.50 USD / £26 GBP) of course.
Salinas Grandes Tour From Salta
If you are short on time or just aren’t planning on heading further north than Salta (we were on our way to Bolivia), an alternative option is to take a Salinas Grandes tour from Salta.
This day trip to the Salinas Grandes Salta side with Get Your Guide has great reviews.
Pick up is from your hotel in Salta and travel along the same route as the famous “Tren a las Nubes” (“Train to the Clouds”) railway line.
You’ll make a stop to take in the beauty of the Quebrada del Toro gorge, then carry on to the 15th century ruins of Santa Rosa de Tastil.
Taking the Abra Blanca mountain pass you’ll arrive in the small town of San Antonio de los Cobres for lunch.
After that it’s on to the salt flats before finishing with a visit to the Cerro de los Siete Colores in Purmamarca.
It’s an early start and a long day. But the drive is spectacular and constantly different as you take a circular route through the stunning landscapes of both Salta and Jujuy provinces.
If you fancy including a hike into Purmamarca’s rainbow mountains in your Salinas Grandes tour, this one comes recommended.
And there’s also a Salinas Grandes day trip from Jujuy if you are staying there instead.
As these tours are so jam packed and you are travelling quite a distance, you will only get around 30 minutes at the actual Salt Flats. But it’s enough time to take in the geological wonder and take a few snaps.
Rent a Car
If you prefer total flexibility and taking the wheel yourself, you can also hire a car to drive to the Argentina Salt Flats. The roads are well maintained and fun to drive.
They aren’t, however, lit so we’d advise heading out with plenty of time so you’re not navigating the switchbacks in the dark. Especially the Cuesta de Lipan zig-zag.
We always find that Auto Europe have great worldwide car hire deals. Plus they have a handy free 48 hour prior cancellation policy in case your plans change last minute too.
If you’re arriving from Purmamarca along Ruta 52, you can’t miss the Salt Flats because the road literally cuts right through the middle of them.
Finally, there is one last way to get to the Salt Flats in Argentina and that’s by public transport.
There are buses that run between Susques & Jujuy, however we’re not 100% sure on the timings so you’d need to check that out locally.
Argentina Salt Flats Opening Times
This surreal landscape is completely open so there aren’t any actual opening times.
Although all tours run during the day and as we say it’s probably not the best idea to be driving those switchbacks at night.
Entrance Fees To Salinas Grandes
There are no admission fees to visit the Argentina Salt Flats. Your only costs are for transportation and tour guide if you’ve opted to take a day trip from Salta or Jujuy.
Guided Tour of Salinas Grandes
We did hear that for an additional fee, you can take a tour with a local guide at the Salt Flats too. Apparently they’ll take you out into the middle and explain about the formation and salt extraction process.
You would need to have travelled there independently for that though, because with any of the tours from Purmamarca, Salta or Jujuy you just wouldn’t have enough time.
Salinas Grandes Food and Facilities
Facilities wise at Salinas Argentina, there’s not a lot.
There’s a few port-a-potty style loos that you can use for $5 ARG each, sometimes a few food stalls selling grilled, cheese-filled tortillas and the odd souvenir stall selling small hand carved salt figures.
So make sure you eat before you head over there, or at least take some snacks with you.
Best Time To Visit Salt Flats Argentina
The Salinas Grandes basically has two different seasons – dry season and wet season.
During the May to December dry season the landscape is perfect for taking the creative perspective photos. Don’t forget to bring props and a travel tripod!
Wet season which runs January to March brings with it a whole other vantage point. As the layer of water that sits stop the salt lends a mirror type affect so it literally looks like you’re walking in the clouds.
Owing to the altitude and because the landscape is so exposed it gets pretty windy and chilly out there. So the best time to visit on the daily is generally between 12-4pm.
What To Take To The Great Salt Flats
We’ll mention it again, because if you forget them you’ll be kicking yourself. Bring props for your perspective photos, a quick search on Instagram will give you plenty of inspiration.
Yes the photos are cliche, but they are lots of fun too.
Other essentials are some good quality sunglasses. The reflection of the sun is blinding and you’ll struggle to see much without any.
And a handy down jacket to keep that wind chill at bay. They are a must for exploring North Argentina, we never go anywhere without ours.
Salinas Grandes Altitude Sickness
Arriving from Purmamarca along Cuesta de Lipan you’ll reach 4170m (13,680 ft) above sea level.
Just in case you’re not familiar with altitude, that’s high. And unless you’re already well acclimatised you’ll feel it so if you’re driving take it steady.
The average altitude at the Salinas Argentina is 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) above sea level so it doesn’t get any easier either.
When you first get out of your transport to explore, pop a few more coco leaves in your gob and go slow.
Where To Stay Near The Salinas Argentina
If you’re looking for a place to stay nearby the Argentina Salt Flats, there a few towns you can stay in – Purmamarca, Tilcara or Humahuaca.
Purmamarca is the closest, however it is really small and there’s not much going on after the tour buses leave each day.
Humahuaca and Tilacara are a bit bigger and have better choices of restaurants. Humahuaca is quite far away though.
When we visited the Salinas Grandes, we stayed in Tilcara and recommend you do too.
From Tilcara to Purmamarca, there’s usually buses leaving hourly from the main bus station that cost around $30 ARG ($0.50 USD / £0.40 GBP). Do be aware that they are not all direct though.
Some go straight through to Salta so will just drop you off on the highway at the turn off for Purmamarca. From here it’s a 3k walk into the town, or alternatively you can hitch a ride.
Alternatively you can take a remise for $200 ($3.50 USD / £2.70 GBP) per person. We had to do this as there was a bus strike on the day that we were there but the driver was happy to go with just the two of us.
Here’s our pick of the bunch of Tilcara accomodation.
Affordable Luxury: Vientonorte
Centrally located, this attractive Tilcara hotel features Andean architecture, a heated outdoor pool, a solarium and WiFi throughout. Rooms are spacious with large panoramic windows and some have balconies to boot.
Enjoy stunning views of the Cerro Negro hill from the terrace bar where you can enjoy both regional and international dishes. The delicious buffet breakfast includes fresh fruit and homemade bread and jams.
Mid-Range: Aguacanto Cabañas
Set a stones throw away from the main square, these Tilcara cabanas are fitted with heating, WiFi, separate dining areas and fully-equipped kitchens.
They overlook a lovely garden complete with hammocks to relax in. A yummy breakfast with homemade bread is included. And reviews consistently say that staff are friendly and welcoming.
Cheap & Cheerful: La Albahaca Hostel
As soon as you walk into this Tilcara hostel, it will immediately feel more like a home than a hostel. The staff are friendly and super knowledgable about the local area.
Breakfast is prepared fresh for you daily and there’s plenty of space both inside and outside on the patio or in the gardens to chill out. There’s WiFi throughout and you’re close by to everything you need.
Good Reads About Argentina:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
We never go anywhere without travel insurance – and neither should you. This particularly goes if you’re planning on adventuring in more remote destinations like Northern Argentina.
World Nomads is our preferred choice for great cover and a no bullshit approach, grab yourself a quick quote below: