What does the Puna mean?
The word Puna has an indigenous origin; it probably comes from the Quechua dialect and it appears in the older dictionaries of Spanish America., The word Puna arrives to the northwest of Argentina linked to the Inca conquest.
The configuration of the central Andes contains within it an elevated region, bounded by a volcanic chain to the west and a mountain belt to the east. This region corresponds to the Altiplano-Puna, extending from Peru, going through Bolivia and ending in the Northwest of Argentina. Though it is a single geotectonics unit, this Andean Plateau has deep internal physiographic differences.
The name "Puna de Atacama" should be attributed only to the region of the "Salar de Atacama in Chile", a thousand feet below the "Puna Argentina".
"La Puna Argentina" is a natural prolongation of the Bolivian highlands, with which it also differs because Bolivia has a high open plateau, while the Puna region of Argentina is fractured internally by mountain ranges and depressions.
The Andean compression at these latitudes has produced a series of longitudinal blocks: the high ones have given rise to mountain ranges, while those who fell are now large areas of depressions.
Furthermore, lateral portions of the Andean volcanic arc cross the plateau from northeast to southeast, surrounding the depressions we have mentioned before, giving rise to closed areas, where today the famous Andean salt lakes are found.
In the south, although the definition is not universally accepted, the Puna ends with the "SAN BUENAVENTURA" Range, right in front of the oasis of "El Peñón" and the great desert of "Campo Piedra Pómez" in Catamarca. (Pumice field in Catamarca).
The height of the Puna varies considerably, from 3,700/800 meters above sea level in the Puna of Jujuy to 3,200 meters above sea level in the south of the Puna de Catamarca.
The "Puna" is a high altitude desert, and has the largest thermal amplitude of the world: the recorded temperature ranges in April were daytime temperatures of +30 ° C and of -30 °C overnight. A day in the Puna has all the 4 seasons: between 8.00am and 11.00am, spring; between 11.00am and 4.00pm, summer and from 4.00pm till 7.00pm, autumn and after that... winter.
Source: La Puna Argentina, Ricardo N. Alonso