This is the first salt flat I've ever seen, so I was really looking forward to it. I had to make the drive from Purmamarca alone, since my wife couldn't handle the altitude on the road to the salt flats. While the flats themselves aren't so high, part of the pass is over 4000 meters/13,000 feet.
I drove a rental car and was able to avoid the tourist-trap stuff and just drive a mile or two from the road and kitsch and just watch the salt extend for miles. It was so peaceful. I would recommend a car, if you're comfortable driving in Argentina (not really a big deal in the north).
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