This park is 150 km from Copiapó. This area is a magnet for mountain climbers who want to climb Ojos del Salado, the highest volcano in the world, or Nevado Tres Cruces. To access the park it’s necessary to take the Camino Internacional after turning onto the highway leading to Quebrada de Paipote.
Salt flats, mountains over 6,000 meters high and immense desertscapes have made this park one of the main reference points for high Andean ecosystem conservation and an extraordinary attraction for photographers. The park’s 59,000 square hectares are home to a surprising diversity of aquatic birds and sixty species, including flamingos, foxes, llamas and guanacos, mammals typical of the altiplano.
There are two clearly defined sectors in the park; Laguna de Santa Rosa and Salar de Maricunga, with 47,000 hectares, followed by Laguna del Negro Francisco, with 12,000 hectares. These wetlands are crucially important global centers for the conservation of migratory birds.
Higher-altitude climate is dry with a major difference between day and night temperatures. The park is open to visitors year round, but subject to snow warnings in July and August. Driving with additional fuel is recommended at all times of the year.
Laguna del Negro Francisco is a small guesthouse with 10 beds, several mountain bike circuits and 4-wheel drive vehicle routes featuring beautiful lagoons and salt flats. Animal life thrives in the area thanks to an elaborate natural system of meadows known as wetlands, providing suitable vegetation for local species.
A mountain climber’s paradise with several high mountains, the park’s main challenge is the climb to Ojos del Salado, the highest volcano in the world (6,893 m). This is no climb for rookies. Expeditions to the peak last between 10 and 13 days but are free of technical complications until the final stretch. At any rate, it is important to talk to local operators and avoid unnecessary risk.
There are two camps on the way up to the summit; the Universidad de Atacama camp at 5,100 meters, and the César Tejos camp at 5,750 meters. Summit attempts are started from this last camp. All necessary precautions must be taken in order to avoid altitude sickness.