Near the south border of Salar de Arizaro, the sixth largest salt flat on earth and the second largest in Argentina, 70 km from the village of Tolar Grande, lies one of the world’s most mysterious natural formations, an almost perfect cone, it rises unexpectedly in the middle of the salt pan.
This is Cono de Arita, so perfectly shaped that it appears man-made, that looms majestically 122 meters above the Salar. Its name comes from the Aymara language where Arita means “sharp”.
In fact, all through the early twentieth century, everyone was convinced that, like the actual pyramids of Egypt, it had been built by man.
However, scientific research has since showed that this imposing formation is actually the tip of a small volcano which lacked strength to burst through the crust and so never threw lava or developed a crater.
In any case there are still many unknowns regarding Cono de Arita, but what legends and archaeological evidence suggest is that it may have been used as a ceremonial site since before the arrival of the Incas.
And numerous supposedly UFO sightings have also been reported in the area, which only adds to the mystery of the place.
Cono de Arita is sometimes referred to as “the floating volcano”, because of the optical illusion people often see when looking at the conical formation from afar: against the vast salt flats the volcano sometimes appears to be floating.
As reaching Cono de Arita means traversing the barren Salar de Arizaro, which is no easy feat, despite its charm, never really draws big crowds. You may pass some vicuñas (cousins of the alpaca and llama) or viscachas on your way (rabbit-like rodents with long tails), or a few lonely donkeys.
Images from web – Google Research