High in the Argentine Puna near the tiny, windswept town of El Peñon lies a rock formation that will blow your mind, and fill your camera memory. From a distance this amazing phenomenon looks like a glacier, but in the middle of a desert!
This visit, and one to Laguna Grande (see our video of the flamingos at the bottom of this page) plus the largest volcano crater in the world are done on a complete 4 or 5 day circuit of the Puna or on a short side trip just up to El Peñon. The full circuit includes much more, which we will be blogging about later, but even the short trip to El Peñon offers you some amazing visits you will never forget.
This area of the world is highly volcanic in origin and the pumice fields of El Peñon, and many of the surrounding features, were created by eruptions thousands of years ago. Pumice is a white, easily weathered rock that is formed when super heated lava is expelled from a volcano and then rapidly cools and depressurizes at the same time. Gases are trapped in the lava and go on to form the porous, bubbly texture and appearance of this stone.
The drive to the 5km long field of pumice stone takes around 90 minutes from the town, through ever changing high altitude desert landscapes and over very rough tracks. Be prepared for a bumpy ride, for this reason we only use robust 4 x 4 vehicles for this route as other cars could get stuck in the sand and rocks (or even break down completely). Your first views of the stone field present a large mass of whiteness on the horizon but as you get closer and see the ravines appearing it starts to look like a fractured glacier, when you get really close you start to see the scale of the ravines and strange rock shapes, and when finally you park up and walk into the field you cannot help saying WOW!
We try to visit later in the day so that the shadows lengthen and colors change, in the afternoons there can be a lot of wind so be prepared for that. Spending an hour or two at the site gives you plenty of chances to wander among the rocks that have been heavily weathered into strange shapes, letting your imagination run wild with what you see. You will take plenty of photos and have time to really get a feel for this lovely place literally in the middle of nowhere. We take a small picnic so we can enjoy refreshments while you watch the shadows change.
From El Peñon we also take a side trip out to the Laguna Grande lake where thousands of flamingos gather at certain times of the year, enjoy some aerial views by clicking our drone video below. The lake and the pumice fields are highly recommended and even if you dont have time for the complete Puna circuit you will be able to see both the flamingos and the stone fields with two nights spent up at El Peñon.