Miscanti & Miniques Lagoons, Atacama

The Altiplanic lagoons of Miscanti and Miniques are located around 13,845 feet above sea level, in the Los Flamencos National Reserve of the Atacama Desert. The lagoons are surrounded by the volcanic mountains Cerro Miscanti (18,445 feet) and Cerro Miniques (19,390 feet). These volcanoes add to the spectacular scenery of the area, with their snow-covered peaks and rugged slopes providing a dramatic backdrop to the lakes.

Miscanti is the larger of the two lagoons and is known for its deep blue color. The lake covers an area of approximately 16 hectares and reaches a depth of about 20 meters. It is surrounded by grassy shores and bordered by rocky hills. Miñiques Lagoon is the smaller of the two and is located to the north of Miscanti Lagoon. It is distinguished by its emerald-green waters and smaller size. The two lagoons were once connected, until the eruption of the Miniques volcano about 1 million years ago.

Despite the harsh conditions at this high altitude, the lagoons and their surroundings support a variety of wildlife and plant species. Visitors may spot various bird species, including flamingos, Andean geese, and Andean gulls. Vicuñas, a wild relative of the llama, can also be seen grazing in the area.

The lagoons are a popular destination for hiking and exploration. There are well-marked trails and viewpoints around the lagoons that offer breathtaking panoramic views of the entire landscape, including the volcanoes, the lagoons, and the surrounding desert. Because of the high altitude, visitors should be prepared for the thin air and intense sunlight at the lagoons. It’s advisable to acclimatize to the altitude before visiting and to take necessary precautions, such as drinking plenty of water and wearing sun protection.


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