Puna salteña, Tolar Grande


October 15, 2022

The Puna is a dry and elevated region in northern Argentina that extends through Chile and Bolivia, reaching heights of up to 4,000 meters above sea level. In this impressive landscape is Tolar Grande, a small mining town that offers spectacular views. Located on Route 27, it is 210 km from San Antonio de los Cobres and 384 km from the city of Salta. The whole area surrounding Tolar is part of the Los Andes Flora and Fauna Natural Reserve, one of the largest reserves in the country.

How to get to Tolar Grande?

Tolar Grande, a small mining town located in the puna of Salta, offers breathtaking scenery for those seeking adventure in the region. To get there from Salta, take Route 51 to Olacapato and then join Route 27 at Caucherí. From San Antonio de los Cobres, the route is an unpaved mining road that is only recommended to be traveled in a pickup truck. The journey can take about 6.5 hours, so it is important to plan the trip well. If you search on Google Maps, the suggested road may take you on a longer route that crosses Catamarca, so it is always best to check the best routes beforehand. In addition, it is important to consider the fuel issue, as there are no official gas stations between San Antonio de los Cobres and Tolar Grande. Therefore, it is recommended to carry an extra tank.

If you prefer a more comfortable option, you can hire a private tour of 3 days and 2 nights. We did it with the agency DeAltura Viajes, highly recommended!

Either way, the road to reach Tolar Grande offers a succession of breathtaking landscapes. You cross the Yunga full of vegetation, but as you gain altitude, the landscape becomes more arid and the mountains turn reddish, with the presence of salt flats in the landscape. On the way, you can see the old tracks that belonged to the freight train that used to reach the Chilean border, as well as passing through the Devil's Desert with its gently undulating red hills and the 7 curves. In short, a trip that is worthwhile for nature lovers.

Best time to visit Tolar Grande?

To fully enjoy the beauty of Tolar Grande, it is advisable to visit in spring, summer or autumn, as during the winter temperatures can reach double digits below zero. On our visit, which was in May, we experienced a temperature of -8 degrees Celsius in the morning.

The route

Where to stay in Tolar Grande?

There are not many lodging alternatives so it is important to book in advance. They are usually inns that have dining rooms for dinner/lunch and breakfast. I think the best option to find lodging is to search in google maps within tolar grande hospedaje and call the phone numbers that appear, or, if you go with an excursion, ask the agency to help you find it.

How many days?

We went for 3 days, 2 nights including the trip and we were able to see everything we have listed below!

What to see around Tolar Grande

Devil's Desert

Before arriving to Tolar you will find the impressive Devil's Desert with its reddish pyramidal shapes. From the famous 7 cuervas you have a view of the entire desert.

Arizaro Salt Flat

This is the largest salt flat in Argentina and the third largest in America (after Uyuni and Atacama). It is in this extensive salt flat where the famous Cono de Arita is located.

3.Arita Cone

It is a volcanic pyramid 200 meters high and 500 meters in diameter, located within the Arizaro Salt Flat. It is believed that it was a volcano that was never strong enough to erupt and make a crater.

It is located 1 hour from Tolar Grande, on a gravel road. It is well signposted how to get there.

Arita Cone
Seen from above with the Drone
Arita Cone
Viewed from a panoramic point

4.Sea eyes

It is located 5km from Tolar Grande. They are a salt flats of volcanic origin where there are some freshwater pools (sea eyes) where there are stromatolites (the oldest form of life on the planet). We went at sunrise and it looked amazing. 

Ojos de Mar
Ojos de Mar

5. El Arenal

It is a huge reddish sand banks called El Arenal. We climbed a little and got a wonderful view of the sacred volcanoes of the Incas as the Llullaillaco and the Cordillera de los Andes. It is located 8km from Tolar and can only be reached by four-wheel drive vehicles.

El Arenal
El Arenal

Why is it called Tolar Grande?

Its name comes from the Tola, a creeping shrub typical of the puna. It is one of the few species that survives in such extreme conditions as those of this area.