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Salar de Atacama is the largest salt flat in Chile. It is located 55 km south of San Pedro de Atacama, is surrounded by mountains and has no drainage outlets.

At an average elevation of about 2,300 m, the salt flat encompasses 3,000 km², is about 100 km long and 80 km wide, which makes it the Americas' second largest and is also the second in the world, after Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

Since for the most part it is permanently free of water, it is mostly a vast plain of rough octagonal-shaped crystals of salt.

To its east, it is bordered by the main chain of the Andes, dominated by large volcanos including the Licancabur, Acamarachi, Aguas Calientes and the Láscar. To the west lies a secondary mountain range of the Andes called Cordillera de Domeyko.

Some areas of the salt flat form part of Los Flamencos National Reserve. The reserve covers a total area of 740 km² and consists of seven geographically distinct sectors, mostly to the south and east of San Pedro.

In the midst of Salar de Atacama, is the reserve's most easily accessible flamingo breeding site, Laguna Chaxa, which we visited. There are five known species of flamingoes that can be seen here including the Chilean flamingo and the Andean Flamingos. Other birds include Andean Avocet, Speckled Teal, Crested Duck, Puna Plover, and Baird's Sandpiper.


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