To see lakes this high above sea level, you have to come to the altiplano, the very definition of which is “high plain,” an area between the peaks of the Andes in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. These two lakes, Miscanti and Miñique, are located at about 13,500 feet and are within driving distance of San Pedro de Atacama.
The two lakes are a deep blue, backed by snow-capped volcanoes and surrounded by a large plain of yellow tussock grass that whips in the wind. This grass is one of the preferred foods of the vicuña, the shyest of the llama-like species in the area, and if you are lucky, you may see a small herd around here. It is also fairly common to see a fox or two and sometimes even quick-running rheas, an emu-like bird native to the area.The protected lakes make for a great photo opportunity, but swimming is not allowed.
The lakes are managed by an indigenous community located in Socaire, a town often visited for its handmade crafts and local historical church.
The Altiplanic Lagoons are located 71 miles from San Pedro de Atacama, and it is generally very cold in this area due to the high altitude. Swimming in the lake is prohibited.