The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is located in the provinces of Arequipa and Caylloma in the department of Arequipa and in the province of General Sánchez Cerro in the department of Moquegua. Its extension is 366,936 hectares. The average altitude is 4,300 meters above sea level. Its main objective is to conserve the natural and landscape resources of the area.
To access the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, you must take the route that starts in the direction of Yura – Juliaca, the old Cabrerías highway or the Arequipa – Chiguata – Puno highway. The national reserve is widely populated. Most of its territory belongs to thirteen peasant communities and in its interior there are more than one hundred private properties recognized by current legislation.
The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is distinguished by the presence of the majestic Ubinas, Pichupichu, Misti and Chachani volcanoes in the southwestern part, and by the snow-capped Chuccura and Huarancante on the north side. The high Andean plains, dotted with beautiful lagoons and wetlands, complete the icy landscape of most of the territory inhabited mainly by South American camelids and a large number of land and water birds, as certified by its designation as a RAMSAR site since 2003.
Salinas y Aguada Blanca was initially conceived as a place for the protection of vicuñas, but today it also represents the main water reserve of the city of Arequipa and surroundings. This unique ecosystem provides a valuable and irreplaceable environmental service: the winds that come from the Puno-Bolivian highlands cause rain, snow and hail, between October and April, which are retained by the yaretales, queñuales, pajonales and tolares, storing them in the bofedales. , lagoons and in the subsoil. From there it is slowly released throughout the year, which regulates the hydrological cycle, for the benefit of the communities.
All these characteristics, added to its capricious rock formations, its archaeological remains, the rich living culture of its current inhabitants and its easy accessibility, make it one of the most valuable natural protected areas in the country.
Protect the habitats that offer optimal conditions for the development of populations of vicuña, taruca, common parihuana, Andean parihuana and James’s parihuana. Protect queñual forests.
On August 9, 1979, through Supreme Decree No. 070-79-AA.
In the departments of Arequipa and Moquegua, in the provinces of Arequipa, Caylloma and General Sánchez.
In the Reserve there are 37 species of mammals and 158 of birds. The presence of 5 species of reptiles, 4 amphibians and 3 fish has also been reported. The characteristic herbivores of the typical fauna of the puna are the South American camelids: llama (Lama glama), alpaca (Lama pacos), vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) and guanaco (Lama guanicoe).
Tarucas (Hippocamelus antisensis), vizcachas (Lagidium peruanum), puma (Puma concolor), Andean cat (Oreailurus jacobita), osjollo (Oncifelis colocolo), and Andean fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus) are also recorded. Among the resident birds, the huallata or Andean goose (Chloephaga melanoptera) stands out for its abundance, the Andean duck (Anas specularioides alticola) and the flamingos or parihuanas (Phoenicoparrus jamesi, P. andinus and Phoenicopterus chilensis).
The flora is basically made up of 358 plant species, among which the herbaceous and shrubby species stand out. Among the main plant associations are the puna pajonal or high Andean grassland, the desert scrub, the bofedales and the queñual.
Very low average temperatures are recorded, ranging between 2° and 8° C. It presents annual rainfall averages of 200 to 600 mm, mainly from January to March, a period in which 65% of the rains fall. During almost the whole year there are frosts that can reach -20 ° C.
The Reserve has a network of paths that allow access to a large part of the protected natural area, such as its contour circuit where its main attractions can be appreciated. These are: the Chachani, Misti, Pichu Pichu and Ubinas volcanoes, the Salinas lagoon, the Pampa del Confital, the rock formations of Mauca-Arequipa or those of Pillones and Puruña in Pampa Cañahuas, the Laguna del Indio, the cave paintings of Sumbay, various and extensive bofedales, volcanic craters such as Chucura and hot springs such as those of Umalaso.
Also, within the area you can practice adventure sports such as trout fishing in authorized season, mountain climbing in the spectacular volcanoes, cycling and hiking.
The high Andean plains, dotted with beautiful lagoons and wetlands, complete the icy landscape of most of the territory inhabited mainly by South American camelids and a large number of land and water birds, as certified by its designation as a Ramsar site since 2003.
Salinas and Aguada Blanca was initially conceived as a place for the protection of populations of vicuña, taruca, common parihuana, Andean parihuana and James parihuana, as well as bofedales, queñuales, yaretales and pajonales; but today it also represents the main water reserve of the city of Arequipa and surroundings.
The unique ecosystem of this protected area provides a valuable and irreplaceable environmental service: the winds that come from the Puno-Bolivian highlands cause rain, snow and hail, between October and April, which are retained by the yaretales, queñuales, pajonales and totorales, storing them in bofedales, lagoons and in the subsoil. From there it is slowly released throughout the year, which regulates the hydrological cycle, for the benefit of the communities.
The national reserve is widely populated. Most of its territory belongs to 13 peasant communities and in its interior there are more than one hundred private properties recognized by current legislation.
All these characteristics, added to its capricious rock formations, its archaeological remains, the rich living culture of its current inhabitants and its easy accessibility, make it one of the most valuable natural protected areas in Peru.
After years of work and through participatory management, local communities have been a key player in the protection of the vicuña, emblematic species of Peru and representative of the animal kingdom in the National Coat of Arms.
To promote the conservation of this high Andean camelid, its management and sustainable use were optimized, which has allowed the 13 communities that are inside the protected natural area to rationally take advantage of one of the finest fibers in the world.
Salinas and Aguada Blanca extends over more than 360 thousand hectares, according to Sernanp. Much of its area also covers the department of Moquegua. Its main objective is to provide optimal environmental conditions for the populations of vicuña, the common parihuana, the Andean parihuana and the James parihuana to live, through the protection of queñal forests. These are the populations that are most at risk.
In addition to the fauna and flora of the place, you can see several volcanoes such as Misti, Ubinas, Pichupichu and Chachani. You can also see the snow-capped mountains of Huarancante and Chuccura, along with several lagoons and plains. The rock formations with curious figures embellish the landscape, while the culture and experiential tourism in the nearby communities will enrich your trip with traditions and adventures.
The bus ticket from Lima to Arequipa costs between 50 and 95 soles. Travel time is approximately 16 hours. Upon reaching the city center, you must take a taxi to the Chiguata district. The road to there is paved and they will charge you a maximum of 15 soles for the 25 km traveled.
This small district is the starting point for a hiking route to Laguna de Salinas, although you can also travel by car. It will take between an hour and a half to 2 and a half hours on foot, depending on the speed of your group. Don’t worry, the route is easy so it is not necessary to have great physical resistance. Of course, remember to bring a light snack, windbreaker jackets and sweaters, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the weather.
What we do recommend is proper acclimatization upon arrival in Arequipa, since the reserve is located at more than 3,500 meters above sea level. If you are going to visit the place until sunset, keep in mind that the average annual temperatures are between -2 and 8 degrees. In winter they can reach -20 degrees when night falls. Although the days are very sunny, do not forget your warm clothes.
As we told you, the weather can be very cold. If you want to avoid the rainy season, do not travel between January and March. In those months, 65% of annual rainfall occurs. At night, frost can cause the weather to drop to 20 degrees below zero. However, tours at night or early in the morning are not authorized and camping areas are minimal. Consult them with the guide that accompanies you.
This will be a dream trip. In addition, in Arequipa you will find several other attractions. These include: the Toro Muerto Petroglyphs, the Añashuasyco quarries, the Historic Center, the Colca Valley and Canyon, the Camaná beach circuit, the Inka Port and more.
Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Peru, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.