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Laguna Tebinquinche

by Martin Mergili

Cordillera Austral Map
General information

Laguna Tebinquinche is one of the largest open water surfaces in the core area of the Salar de Atacama, located in the northern part of the salt flat. In contrast to the lagoons in the eastern portion of the salar, such as the Laguna Chaxa, it is mainly fed by groundwater, part of which has entered the salar millions of years ago. Also the Laguna Tebinquinche has a small surficial inflow which brings water from the north to the centre of the salt flat. The hard environmental conditions such as high solar irradiation, extreme temperature differences between day and night, high salt content of the water, and high content of arsenic related to the volcanic activity nearby, make the lagoon an eldorado for ideally adapted microorganisms. They can thrive almost undisturbed from larger organisms. Flamingos are much less commonly encountered here than at the Laguna Chaxa, but there is still some other fauna.

A walk along the Laguna Tebinquinche

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Click on the arrows or into the image to explore the lagoon and its surroundings.

Laguna Tebinquinche can be easily reached from San Pedro de Atacama, but nevertheless it is less frequently visited than some other lagoons in the salar. Therefore, you can quietly walk along the shoreline and explore its secrets. But do not leave the designated trails and remember: the ecosystem is fragile and the organisms are often so small that you cannot see them without a microscope.

In the contribution on the Laguna Chaxa you can learn more about the ecosystems in the lagoons of the Salar de Atacama.

The Bolivian Winter

Click on the arrow to start the video.

The photos in this contribution show the lagoon and its surroundings during the weather phenomenon Invierno Boliviano (in English: Bolivian Winter), which is characterized by humid air crossing the Andes and proceeding all the way to the Salar de Atacama. The results are cloudiness, rainfall, and even hail showers. Those who do not believe this story should watch this video, which was recorded just north of the Laguna Tebinquinche on the road in direction to San Pedro de Atacama.

The Invierno Boliviano is not at all related to the phenomenon of El Niño, which can also bring rain to the Atacama Desert.

Video: student of the University of Vienna

References and links

Farias, M.E., Contreras, M., Rasuk, M.C., Kurth, D., Flores, M.R., Poiré, D.G., Novoa, F. & Visscher, P.T. (2014): Characterization of bacterial diversity associated with microbial mats, gypsum evaporites and carbonate microbialites in thalassic wetlands: Tebenquiche and La Brava, Salar de Atacama, Chile. Extremophiles 18(2): 311-329 [Access source]

Fernandez, A.B., Rasuk, M.C., Visscher, P.T., Contreras, M., Novoa, F., Poire, D.G., Patterson, M.M., Ventosa, A. & Farias, M.E. (2016): Microbial diversity in sediment ecosystems (evaporites domes, microbial mats, and crusts) of hypersaline Laguna Tebenquiche, Salar de Atacama, Chile. Frontiers in Microbiology 7: 1284 [Access source]