Arequipa has innumerable tourist places. One of the best is the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary as a Protected Natural Area. It is appreciated and cared for by locals and tourists. It presents an extreme biodiversity and provides environmental services to more than a million people in the country. Its beauty also places it as an important destination close to the White City.
This place works as a water processing reserve, which is used in agriculture, energy, industry and also for domestic use in nearby communities. This is how it directly benefits the economy of the region. In addition, it is the home of protection of one of the most emblematic species of the country: the vicuña. More than 12,000 live on the reservation. It also includes a territory where more than 13 communities live, whose activities are mainly based on agriculture. Thanks to them, travelers can carry out experiential tourism and learn about their ways of life.
The Andean flora of the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is made up of 358 species of plants, the majority made up of shrub and herbaceous species. The most representative plants of the place are the desert scrub, the bofedales, the queñual and, above all, the high Andean grassland.
Investigations in the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve show the existence of up to 207 species, including birds and mammals. Likewise, 3 types of fish, 4 amphibians and 5 reptiles were recorded. The most representative animal of the reserve is the vicuña. They also highlight the presence of other camelids such as: the alpaca, the llama and the guanaco.
Among the most representative mammals of the reserve are the Andean puma, the vizcacha, the Andean cat, the tarucas, the Andean fox, the osjollo and more. Among the most famous bird species are the goose, the huallata, the flamingos (parihuanas), the condor, the Andean duck, among others.
The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is located in southern Peru, in an Andean geographical area that includes the Arequipa provinces of Caylloma and Arequipa as well as the Moqueguan province of General Sánchez Cerro.
Salinas and Aguada Blanca extends over more than 360,000 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 the queñal forests. These are the populations that are most in danger.
In addition to the fauna and flora of the place, you will be able to 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.
One of the main activities is the observation of native species. There are about 158 species of birds, 37 species of mammals, 3 fish and 4 amphibians. The guanaco, the alpaca and the llama are also noted on the tour, as well as the puma and the Andean cat. The birds that can be seen the most are the Andean goose (the most numerous), the Andean duck and, of course, the parihuanas. Salinas y Aguada Blanca is the perfect ecosystem for more than 358 species of plants to develop in the best way, among which the shrubs and herbaceous ones stand out.
In this natural reserve you can find two control points: the Interpretation Center and the Salinas Huito y Cañahuas post. In them there are also two viewpoints, from which you can observe the landscape in all its splendor and take all the pictures you want. To tour the reserve you must be accompanied by an authorized tour guide and navigate the network of official paths.
Here you will be able to appreciate the diverse ecosystem in the great network of streams and rivers within the reserve. Nearby you can practice adventure sports such as authorized fishing, mountain biking or other trekking routes in areas that exceed 5000 meters of altitude.
Through the contour circuits you can visit other tourist spots, such as the Pampa del Confital, the Laguna del Indio, the cave paintings of Sumbay, the rock formations of Mauca-Arequipa, among others. If you want to cool off and take advantage of the medicinal properties, visit the Umalaso hot springs.
The bus ticket from Lima to Arequipa costs between 50 and 95 soles at redbus.pe. 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 the Salinas Lagoon, 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 correct 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.
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.
The 1-day tours have an approximate cost of 200 Peruvian soles per visitor (62 US dollars, approximately). All services include: transportation, entrance ticket, tour guide and first aid kit.
The best time to visit the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve is during the dry season, from April to October. At that time of the year the rains are not frequent, so it is easier to explore the geography of the place. Keep in mind that the rainiest months are January, February and March.
The climate in the reserve is cold. The maximum temperature during the day can reach 15ºC. (59ºF) while the minimum temperature at night can drop to -10ºC. (14ºF).
The mountain geography within the reserve also allows the practice of different adventure sports, such as: hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and more. These must be done through an authorized tourism agency.
In 1979 the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve was created. Likewise, in 2003 the Salinas lagoon, the bofedales and the Indio lagoon were declared wetlands of international importance (assignment according to the Ramsar convention).
The reserve has a cold climate due to the high geography of the Andes mountain range. At these altitudes it is common for visitors to suffer some symptoms of altitude sickness. It is recommended to acclimatize to the city of Arequipa, at least 2 days before the visit. It is also advisable to bring a windbreaker and warm clothing.
During your visit, preserve the existing diversity of flora and fauna. Try not to disturb the vicuñas when they graze in the field. Likewise, respect the environment and do not throw waste on the ground. The tour guide will explain what care you should take during your visit.
The national reserve is extensively populated. Most of its territory belongs to 13 peasant communities and within it 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 Shield.
To promote the conservation of this high Andean camelid, its management and sustainable use were optimized, which has allowed the 13 communities that are located inside the protected natural area to make rational use of one of the finest fibers in the world.
The national reserve is distinguished by the presence of the majestic Ubinas, Pichu Pichu, 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 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 altiplano cause rain, snow and hail between October and April, which are retained by the yaretales, queñuales, pajonales and totorales, storing them in the bofedales, lagoons and in the subsoil. From there it is slowly released throughout the year, thereby regulating the hydrological cycle, for the benefit of the communities.
In the Interpretation Center in Tocra and at the checkpoints in Salinas Huito and Cañahuas you can see the landscape. Similarly, along the paved road that crosses the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve you can find basic food and grocery services, as well as police patrols.
It has a good network of roads that allow access to a large part of the protected natural area, such as the circuit around it where you can appreciate its main attractions. 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 Indio lagoon, the cave paintings of Sumbay , several and extensive bofedales, volcanic craters such as Chucura and hot springs such as those of Umalaso.
Additionally, you can see an extensive network of rivers and streams where you can see the various ecosystems, fauna and flora characteristic of the region. Likewise, within the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve you can practice adventure sports compatible with the protection category of the national reserve, such as trout fishing in authorized season, mountaineering in the spectacular volcanoes, as well as cycling and the walks.
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 Perú, 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.