The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is located between Arequipa and Moquegua departments, in the provinces of Arequipa, Caylloma and General Sánchez, in a volcanic mountain range. The reserve was created in 1979 to ensure the protection of the vicuñas that live in the area. It stretches over 366,936 hectares (906,719 acres). The reserve contains majestic volcanoes, including Misti, Chachani, Pichupichu and Ubinas. Between the mountains are the high Andean plains, inhabited by vicuñas, alpacas, llamas and guanacos. The reserve also contains beautiful lagoons and wetlands, a habitat for birds including flamingos and crested ducks.
The reserve's inhabitants preserve a worldview that is deeply connected with nature and the balance of all its elements. Their traditions include yanapacuy (intra-family division of labour), ayni (reciprocal work); minka, tinkan (payments to the earth and water) and knowledge about the use of medicinal plants. Their economy is based on breeding domesticated South American camelids for meat and for wool, which they use to make clothes for themselves and to sell.
The reserve has good access routes and contains roadside viewpoints to admire both volcanoes and vicuña herds. Tours from Arequipa to Colca Canyon usually include short stops in the reserve.
Once inside the reserve, tourists can visit the cave paintings in the Sumbay Caves, Salinas Lagoon, and climb the volcanoes such as Misti and Chachani.
Altitude Range: 3,500 - 6,075 metres (11,483 - 19,931 feet) above sea level.
Activities: Flora and fauna observation, trekking, mountaineering, bird watching, trout fishing (in approved locations and during authorised seasons) and cycling.
Climate: Annual average temperatures range from -2°C to 8°C (28°F to 46°F), but can drop to a minimum of -20°C (-4°F) and reach a maximum of 15°C (59°F). Sunny days and cold nights. The rainy season is from January to March, and the recommended period for visiting is from April to December.
Access by Air: From Lima to Arequipa takes 1 hour 30 minutes.
Access by Land:
- From Lima to Arequipa takes 16 hours by bus.
- Route 1: From Arequipa to Yura; highway to Juliaca. Distance: 80 km (50 miles). Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Route 2: From Arequipa to Cabrerías - Cañahuas Checkpoint. Distance: 60 km (37 miles). Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Route 3: From Arequipa to Chihuata - San Juan de Tarucani (road to Puno). Distance: 80 km (50 miles). Time: 3 hours.
Services within the reserve
- Toccra information centre, 2 hours 30 minutes from Arequipa. Open to the public: 08:00 to 13:00.
- Salinas Huito and Patahuasi checkpoints.
- Basic food and supplies store, police patrols (along the paved road that crosses the reserve) and park rangers.