- Atacama Desert & Altiplano
- Nevado Tres Cruces National Park
The Nevados Tres Cruces National Park is located in the Atacama Region and constitutes a wetland of international importance. Come to know of the Negro Francisco lagoon and Laguna Santa Rosa.
Nevado Tres Cruces National Park is located in the Región de Atacama, in the district of Copiapó and Tierra Amarilla. It covers 59.081,87 hectares, 47.000 of which belong to the Santa Rosa area, and 12.000 to Laguna del Negro.
Created in 1994, this park is an important wetland for the lake systems of Laguna del Negro Francisco and Laguna Santa Rosa.
Location: The park is located in the Región de Atacama, in the pre andean area of the Copiapó province, 200 kms northeast of Copiapó.
Public transportation: only hiring private services or private cars (4WD)
You can visit the park between October and April without doing any paperwork. Nevertheless, those who want to stay overnight, should book the refuge in CONAF's regional office, setting the date and the amount of days they will be staying. For special visits and student excursions it is recommended to organise with the CONAF's regional office in Atacama.
- Laguna Santa Rosa: There is a refuge in the Santa Rosa area, but it is not equipped because it is only used for emergencies. Nevertheless, you can stay there overnight if you have a good sleeping bag (-5º C or more). It is also possible to camp in the surroundings if you have a mountain tent. It is important that you get rid of the garbage you produce.
- Laguna del Negro Francisco: The refuge in this area is equipped with a furnished kitchen, beds, water, gas, gas water heater, and showers. You must bring your own drinking water and sleeping bags. In case of emergency or need contact the park rangers.
- Salar de Maricunga: CONAF has no refuges in this area. There is only a police post, where SAG is located.
- Laguna Verde: CONAF has no refuges in this area. There is only a police post.
- Sector la Ola: No information available.
Roads: In general, all roads are in good conditions and can be covered by bike, following the safety recommendations pertinent to the place, of course. The only difficult road is the one joining Laguna Santa Rosa and Laguna del Negro Francisco, because it has too many stones.
Attractions and in Nevado Tres Cruces National Park
What to see:
- Santa Rosa Lagoon and Maricunga Salt Flat: overlooking the wonderful peak of Nevado de Tres Cruces, Santa Rosa lagoon is a water mass located on the southwest side of Maricunga depression. This water mirror is located at 3.715 mts m.s.l, covering an area of 200 hectares. It is relatively shallow and it is connected to Maricunga salt flat through two bodies of water. Its waters have high salinity levels and during the winter season they freeze over.
- Del Negro Francisco Lagoon: divided in two portions of different colors, this lagoon has an impressive view of Copiapó volcano. It is the most important water mirror located south of Atacama Salt Flat. The fluctuations of its hydric level have created a barrier that separates the water into two areas with different salinity levels. It covers approximately 30 km2, and its main tributary is Astaburuaga river.
- De la Gallina River: it is an area where you can see the traditional vegetation of high-Andean moor ecosystems. Its beauty is characterized by the intense green of the vegetation and the contrast between the superficial waters in the depression. It is posible to find herds of vicunas and guanacos.
- Santa Rosa Lagoon Viewpoint: it is a place located south of Santa Rosa lagoon, with a panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding landscape. You can get to it through the road coming from La Puerta area, then taking the road left, which will take you to the viewpoint.
- Del Negro Francisco Lagoon Viewpoint, Laguna Salobre area: it is located on the southwest side of Laguna del Negro Francisco. From there, you can see the whole extension of Laguna Salobre with its three types of flamingo, which arrive during the summer season.
- Negro Francisco Lagoon Viewpoint, Laguna Salada area: it is located on the northeast side of Laguna del Negro Francisco. From there, you can see Laguna Salada, its characteristic red shade and the surrounding landscape.
- Ciénaga Redonda Viewpoint: you can get to this spot through the route coming from Santa Rosa Lagoon. The viewpoint is located to the left of the road, on the mouth of Ciénaga Redonda Pond. From there, you can see the moor in its whole extension, with the majestic Nevado Tres Cruces in the background.
- Río Lamas Viewpoint: you can get to this viewpoint through the international road that goes to Argentina. To the right side of the road, you will see the beautiful Río Lamas waterfall and the herds of vicunas grazing in its bank.
- Chilean Path: Stretch Santa Rosa lagoon - Maricunga Salt Flat: it is a 36 km stretch located at an altitude of 3.700 mts m.s.l. You can get to it through Ruta C-601 (from Copiapó to International Road, via Paipote) and road C-173, coming from the north through Salvador and Potrerillos. The trail has signage, a refuge in Santa Rosa lagoon, resting areas and a viewpoint.
- Chilean Path: Strech Del Negro Francisco Lagoon: 24 km stretch that surrounds the lagoon bearing the same name at an altitude of 4000 m above sea level. The road offers a great view of Copiapó volcano and the plateau surrounding the lagoon. Just like the previous stretch, it has signage, a refuge in Santa Rosa lagoon, resting areas and a viewpoint.
- Self guided path Ciénaga Redonda - Astaburuaga River - Del Negro Francisco Lagoon: it is a 90 km road that connects the lagoonas of Santa Rosa and Del Negro Francisco. In this road you can see the high andean meadows and moors, and the birds and vicunas associated to this ecosystem.
- La Gallina River environmental Interpretive road: in it you can see endemic fauna of mountain streams and high-altitude flora. You can get to the starting point by vehicle.
Nevado Tres Cruces National Natural Heritage
Due to the diverse habitats and animal richness present in them, the two lagoons in this park are included in the List of Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance, especially as habitats for water species.
Located within the limits of Nevado de Tres Cruces National Park, this area has a surface of 62460 hectares distributed in the lagoons of Santa Rosa (15.500 ha) and Negro Francisco (47.000 ha). These two lagoons make up a unique scenario in the region of Atacama, and cover 40% of the total surface of the park. This complex houses several species of birds, some of which are protected species. The three Southamerican flamingoes (Andean, Chilean, and James's) and the horned coot are vulnerable. Being part of this park, these species are especially protected, and all the information gathered is part of the Ramsar program.
Flora: According to Gajardo and his "Sistema Básico de Clasificación de la Vegetación Natural de Chile", the national park is part of the sub-region of Altiplano and the Puna, which in turn belong to High-andean Steppe. In the park you can find the following vegetal formations: Desert Steppe of the Andean steppes, and Andean high desert Ojos del Salado.
The flora in this park has 65 species, divided in 23 families and 42 genuses. The park is a transit and nesting area for a great amount of birds, especially the family of Phoenicopteridae.
According to "Libro Rojo de la Flora Nativa de la Región de Atacama" (2008), the park is part of a protection area called Nevado Tres Cruces, which houses 90 native species, with 1 endangered and 1 vulnerable.
Fauna: There are 77 species divided in 26 families and 49 genuses, 62 of which are birds, 11 mammals, and 4 reptiles. You will find vicunas, guanacos, three types of flamingoes (Andean, Chilean, and James's) and the horned coot. Among the 16 species protected in the park, 4 are endangered, 7 vulnerable, 3 rare, and 2 not known enough.
- Copiapó: 400 mts msl.
- La Puerta: 1600 mts msl.
- Santa Rosa Lagoon: 4000 mts msl.
- Negro Francisco Lagoon: 4200 mts msl.
- Salar de Maricunga: +/-3800 mts msl.
- Sector La Ola: 2800 mts msl.
- Potrerillos: 2800 mts msl.
- El Salvador: 2800 mts msl.
- Laguna Verde: +/-4400 mts msl.
The cuisine in the North of Chile is characterized by a variety of legumes and cereals, due to the arid climate. Within the most common ingredients are quinoa, a staple in the Inca culture, also is the potato, carrot and various tropical fruits like mango, passion fruit and guava.
Among typical dishes are roast alpaca cooked on firewood, chuño which is a soup-based Popes alpaca, onion, wheat and other vegetables. Also you can find al types of seafood and fishes to make differents dishes.
Further to the North, a typical sweet is the chumbeque this fact of flour, lard and layers of Orange, mango, passion fruit jams. There are also the pululos, which are a kind of very common puffed rice in the north end.
How to go
- Plane: From Santiago to Copiapó.
- Bus: From Santiago to Copiapó.
- Tour: From Copiapó to Nevado Tres Cruces National Park.
For more information about prices press the next link: http://www.conaf.cl/parques/parque-nacional-nevado-de-tres-cruces/
The weather in this place is desertic, which means that throughout the year there is a very large temperature oscillation between day and night. The average annual temperatures are between 15° C and 3° C.
Many of the excursions and tours that are done include visiting places that are in the Chilean plateau, 3,500 above sea levels. This means that people may experience altitude sickness. It is important that people drink lots of water so they keep their body well hydrated. People shouldn’t make sudden or harsh movements, and let their body get used to the heights and the altitude.
Stores in rural areas are open all day, but they close between 13.00 and 15.00. We advise you to carry local currency (Chilean pesos), since it isn’t possible to pay with debit or credit cards in kiosks and rural stores.
Do not throw garbage on the beaches, parks or streets. To take care of our environment is everyone's responsibility. Avoid fines by following the rules.