Excursion to Galan volcano and Laguna Grande among flamingos

April 21st, 2016 

The trip to Argentina's Puna continues with a day tour from El Penon to the Laguna Grande (high altitude lagoon) where thousands of pink flamingos can be admired during the summer, before heading to the Caldera of the Galan volcano with its colourful lakes among a spectacular landscape.

El Penon Cemetery on the Andes
The village of El Penon is the ideal base for various excursions in the southern regions of Puna de Atacama. With its 3400 meters of altitude, it is the ideal place to acclimatize gradually to the high altitude. In the picture on the right, the green oasis around which the village rises. In the picture on the right, the small cemetery on top of a hill.
In the Puna de Atacama it is not uncommon to see ostriches, a bird now protected, because after huge hunting, the population has decreased a lot.
Puna Argentina Puna de Atacama
The landscape around the village of El Penon is spectacular: just drive a few kilometres in a 4x4 to find places that seem to belong to other planets: a true paradise for photographers and geologists.
The excursion from El Penon scheduled for today involves the climb to some high altitude lagoons and to the Caldera of Galan Volcano. In the distance, you can see Campo de Pedra Pomez (the white strip that looks like a glacier) visited the previous day.
Sand dunes with snow on top
The sand dunes on top of high mountains are certainly rare: a snow-covered sand dune, in the middle of an high altitude desert, is even more rare.
Some vicuñas grazing in search of food among the very dry vegetation.
Andes vegetation High mountain vegetation
Vegetation on the Andes Vegetation at extreme elevations
At an altitude higher than 4000 meters, the plants must defend themselves from one of the most hostile environments on the planet. The rarefied atmosphere, the greater the amount of ultraviolet rays, the cold, the sometimes violent wind and the presence of some herbivorous animals, caused the vegetation to evolve sophisticated defence systems, represented mainly by the presence of hair and large amounts of thorns.
Andes Andes in Argentina
Colorful lagoon

The spectacular scenery of Puna de Atacama in Argentina, among the heart of the Andes, at an altitude of about 4500 meters. Some lagoons host particular types of algae that give a very unusual coloration to water.

Photos of Laguna Grande. The Laguna Grande is about 2 hours drive from El Penon, along a not easy 4x4 track. From October to April, this lagoon hosts many flamingos that come here to feed on the particular algae present in these waters.
Pink flamingos Pink flamingo
Photos of Flamingos in Argentina. The flamingos feed in the lagoon water, filtering algae and other micro-organisms, while making their way into the partially frozen waters of the lagoon. From May to September, the flamingos will go in less hostile regions to spend the winter.
High mountain
The excursion continues along the edge of a caldera where ancient lava flows, subsequently eroded by atmospheric agents, generated rocks of bizarre shapes.
High mountain vegetation
Still some photos of the high mountain vegetation, living in the Puna de Atacama in Argentina, at an altitude of more than 4000 meters.
Galan caldera Galan lagoon
The tour continues to the large caldera of the Galan volcano, where there are some coloured lagoons containing particular algae and mineral salts.
Couple of flamingos Fox

The lagoons of the Galan volcano, at least those whose waters are not poisonous for the presence of arsenic, house small ecosystems, where there are also foxes, flamingos and vicuñas.
Mountain lagoon Lagoon on the Andes
Galan volcano
Galan High altitude lagoon
The bottom of the caldera of Galan volcano lies at an altitude of 4500 meters in a spectral landscape, among various lagoons and small lakes of different colors.
A group of ducks walks on the frozen surface of a coloured lagoon.
Diamond lagoon
Blue lagoon

The Diamond lagoon, within the Caldera of Galan volcano, does not host flamingos because its water is rich in arsenic and therefore it's poisonous. The blue coloration is however given by boron.
The beautiful landscape of Puna de Atacama, where the highest mountains exceed 6000 meters in altitude.
Colorful mountains Laguna grande
Lagoon with flamingos
More photos of Laguna Grande and flamingos. It is estimated that during the summer season, roughly from November to March, this lagoon hosts about 18,000 pink flamingos. October and April (these photos have been taken in April) are transition seasons and there are fewer birds, but the effect is any case spectacular. During the winter, flamingos migrate to regions with a less hostile climate.
Photos of flamingos. More pictures of the flamingos in Argentina.
Hotel in el Penon
Hosteria el Penon

Where to stay in El Penon? El Penon is a small village in the Andes and, as said, the town is the ideal base for excursions to Puna de Atacama, including Laguna Grande, Galan volcano and Campo de Pedra Pomez. It takes almost two days to fully explore these attractions, you might wonder where to spend the nights, without sacrificing comfort. The hotel Hosteria el Penon, built in traditional style with clay bricks, offers comfortable rooms with bathrooms, hot water, electricity, Wifi and excellent food.

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