The saltiest water on Earth

On December 28, 2013 by Peter

I didn’t expect to find water in the Atacma Desert, reputedly the driest place on our planet, so it was a bit of a surprise to spend the bulk of December 28 riding out into the desert in search of water and Los Ojos de Salar (literally, the eyes of the salt pan — or the eyes of the Atacama Desert). We stopped briefly to try to fix the clapped out drivetrain on one of our bikes and made a friend.

San Pedro Dog

There really wasn’t a lot to see en route, other than the always magnificent mountains which surround the Atacama. The speck on the road in this photo is a dog that ran nearly 15 miles in blazing heat after its owners, who were also riding bikes. More on the large (and only) tree in a moment.

The Atacama Salt Flat

After about 30 kilometers of occasionally brutal washboard, sandy roads, we arrived at Los Ojos de Salar.

Los Ojos de Salar

Leo had a brief swim to cool off, and Walter rolled in with the support van so we could refill our water and demolish some snacks while he enjoyed a contemplative moment.

Los Ojos de Salar

We rode back the way we came, admiring the views of the Andes in the distance.

Salt and Andes

After another 10 kilometers, we turned off at the road to Laguna Cejar and headed for a swim in one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth; certainly the saltiest I’ve experienced. I swam about 25yds of freestyle before the salt burned my sinuses to the point of intense discomfort. The water is so buoyant that you can stand upright and float, or you can take an even more leisurely approach.

Jen floating in Laguna Cejar

When your skin dries after swimming, you are transformed into a human saltlick.


While we were swimming, Leo and Walter headed back down the road a little ways to the giant tree to set up what may have been the best picnic in history. Turns out Walter is an awesome chef, in addition to being a great guide. He and Leo prepared an epic feast and laid it out beautifully in the shade of the arbor.

Atacama Picnic

Here’s the ride summary.

*All photos are copyright Peter Roady and may not be reproduced or reused without written permission*

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