Lagunas Altiplanicas

A Tour of the Lagunas Altiplanicas and the Piedras Rojas

My tour of the Lagunas Altiplanicas and Piedras Rojas was with the company Cosmo Andino.  Cosmo Andino is the only tour company I have toured with that I will not recommend. Despite almost dying in a fatal accident, the Lagunas Altiplanicas tour was the most beautiful scenery I witnessed during my visit to the Atacama. The day-long tour would take me to three stops, which consisted of the Piedras Rojas, and the Lagunas Altiplanicas, which included Lake Miniques and Lake Miscanti. Of course, sometimes things don’t go as planned, and our tour group experienced a life-threatening situation. I will explain that situation in detail below. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Looking Back at the Piedras Rojas
Dirt Road Looking Down Towards Piedras Rojas

Due to the road conditions and lack of cell phone service, I recommend taking a tour or hiring a guide to see the Piedras Rojas and Lagunas Altiplanicas.  This is my only travel blog company where I don’t recommend the tour company I toured with.  Below, are various tour options for all budgets.  Vaitor works with many different agencies so before booking I would make sure it isn’t with Cosmo Andino.

I am an affiliate partner of Viator.  If you book a tour using one of the links below I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider booking using one of my links.

Prices are accurate as of May 2023.

Atacama Lagunas Tour
Lagoons in Atacama Salt Flat - Half Day - Typical Tour - San Pedro de Atacama - $68.00

Lagoons in San Pedro de Atacama salt flat welcome you to this land next to the desert valleys. This vast space gathers the flora and fauna that lives in the dry habitat of the Antofagasta Region, and allows an exchange of experiences between people and biodiversity.

Lagoons are the entrance to the subsoil composition, and for understanding how everything flows and connects in the valleys of the desert. They are also the door to magic, letting people visit them respectfully and rest in their salt water that allows to float.

During this tour through the lagoons in Atacama salt flat you will have the chance of knowing and admiring the source of energy of the earth of this place: water and its mysticism.

4 Day Atacama Tour
4-Day Best of Atacama: Moon Valley, Tatio Geysers and Altiplanic Lagoons - $585.00

4-Day tour getting to know San Pedro de Atacama, a small town in the driest desert of the world! Skip the hassle of dealing with logistics as we take care of your Calama airport round-trip transportation!

Find yourself relaxed as you take in the views of the beautiful landscape of the Altiplanic lagoons, with waters of an intense blue fed by underground rivers. Tour the place where the Earth exhales its millenary breath, on the geothermal field of the Tatio Geysers. Also, the world-famous Moon Valley awaits you: Resembles a fragment of the lunar landscape. Get ready to see how all the colours change in the desert at sunrise and sunset! A trip you can't miss!

You can choose between 3 types of accommodation with breakfast included and shared or private services, depending on your preferences. Lunches and dinners are at your expenses, and your guides will be happy to recommend places for you to taste the local cuisine.

Atacama Lagoons and Red Stones Tour
Full day Altiplanic Lagoons + Red stones viewpoint + Salar de Atacama - $216.86

Full day to learn about Chile and its geographies, take the best pictures in the driest desert in the world.
The company has the best collaborators to deliver a unique and quality service.
-Altiplanica lagoon
-Red Stones
-Toconao Town
-Salar de Atacama

Atacama Salt Flats and Lagoons Tour
Atacama Salt Flat and Altiplanic Lagoons Day Tour - $98.00

Discover the Atacama Salt Flat, the largest in Chile, home to one of the most important Flamingo Reservations, the Flamingos National Reserve. Make a soft walk along a path to the Chaxa Lagoon, in order to appreciate the rich fauna of the place.

A Tour of the Lagunas Altiplanicas - Table of Contents

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Stop #1: Touring the Piedras Rojas and a Frozen Salt Lake

The Piedras Rojas (red rocks) were accessible via a rough dirt road. Behind the stunning rocks was a frozen lake that was full of salt. The salt made the frozen water a beautiful light blue color. All around the lake were red-colored rocks that created the perfect backdrop for pictures. With the lake being frozen, it was easy to walk out towards the middle to get the best angles for photos. We spent about an hour at this location before taking off for the next part of our tour, the Lagunas Altiplanicas of Lake Miniques and Lake Misani. The next part of our tour is where the tour took a turn for the worst.

Piedras Rojas
The Beautiful Red Rocks with the Frozen Lake/Mountains in the Background
Zoomed in on the Piedras Rojas
Beautiful Mountains Behind the Salt Lake
The Mountains, Lake and Blue Sky Made for Great Pictures
Beautiful Mountains Behind the Salt Lake
Beautiful Mountain Backdrop
Piedras Rojas, Salt Lake, and Mountains in the Background - Atacama Desert
Piedras Rojas, Salt Lake, and Mountains in the Background

A Scary Experience

Up until this point, I would have highly recommended Cosmo Andino’s Lagunas Altiplanicas Tour but as we were driving up a steep incline, suddenly our van swerved out of control and broke towards the guard rail.  Our driver, Juan Carlos, was skillfully able to apply the break and keep the van from going over the edge.  It turns out the van had been serviced the day before, and the lug nuts had not been tightened.  Not only had our tire broken loose but the entire wheel was missing from the van.  If it had not been for the quick thinking of our driver, we would have gone over the edge.  Our tour guide, Pablo, used his satellite phone to contact the tour company.  They informed us that it would be two hours until a replacement van could reach us. 

Pablo decided that we should eat lunch and did his best to set up the food on the side of the road.  Thankfully, we did have a good view and some food.  More than two hours later, a new van arrived, and we continued on our way quite delayed.  I was slightly annoyed that Cosmo Andino did not offer us anything for the inconvenience.

The Road Where the Wheels Fell off the Cosmo Andino Van
The Road Our Wheels Fell Off On
The Broken Cosmo Andino Van
The Van Waiting For the Tow Truck
Lunch During the Tour of the Piedras Rojas and Atacama Lagunas
The View from the Cosmo Andino Van Breakdown
The View From the Breakdown


While we were on our way to Lake Miscanti, we stopped to see some wildlife.  On the right is a guanaco, which is a member of the antelope family.  They blend in quite well with the desert landscape.  Other animals commonly seen in the Atacama include various types of birds, flamingos, and llamas. 

A Guanaco Seen from the Site of the Cosmo Andino Breakdown
A Guanaco

The picture below features four guanacos.  I took this picture at the end of the tour and will mention it more in the next section.

A Heard of Guanacos Near the Lagunas Altiplanicas
A Herd of Guanacos

Stop 2: Lagunas Altiplanicas: Lake Miscanti and Lake Miniques

It was getting near sunset when we arrived at Lake Miscanti.  Many people in our tour group were so tired that they didn’t even get out of the van.  I wanted to see as much as possible and walked around taking in the beautiful scenic views. It was at least a mile hike down to the shore of the lake.  Due to our breakdown, we did not have time to hike towards the shore which was disappointing.  Even more disappointing, the members of our tour voted to skip Lake Miniques.  This mean we only were able to see one of the The Lagunas Altiplanicas.

One big positive is as we left, I was able to get a breathtaking shot of four guanacos with the moon in the background.  This picture was in the wildlife section above and is one of my favorite wildlife pictures that I’ve ever captured.

Lake Miscanti
Lake Miscanti
Lagunas Altiplanicas - Lake Miscanti
The Lagunas Altiplanicas Lake Miscanti
Beautiful View of the Lagunas Altiplanicas Lake Miscanti
Beautiful View of the Lagunas Altiplanicas Lake Miscanti
Lagunas Altiplanicas - Frozen Lake Miscanti
There Really Wasn't a Path

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One Final Reason to Avoid Cosmo Andino

When we got back to San Pedro de Atacama, I quickly went to bed because my final tour was leaving at 4:00 a.m.  This tour would take us up even higher in the Andes to the hot springs and geysers.  The next day, I woke up and put on all of my warm clothes and braved the near-zero temperatures to go to my designated pick up spot.  I would stand there for over an hour before I gave up and went back to bed.  When the Cosmo Andino office opened, I was informed that I had been accidentally forgotten.  It was my final day, and although I was issued a refund, I missed the chance to go to the hot springs and geysers.  If I ever do return to the Atacama, I will be trying a different tour company.  

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