Pozo de las Ánimas

Useful Information

Location: Malargüe Department. Provincial Route No. 222 between Las Leñas and Los Molles.
(-35.189912, -70.001870)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstTiankeng
Light: n/a
Dimension: A=2020 m asl. L=290 m, W=240 m, VR=101 m. L=370 m, W=340 m, VR=90 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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19-DEC-1981 explored by a team of scientists led by Rodolfo Rogelio Rocha.


The Pozo de las Ánimas (Well of Souls) is a double collapse doline, which is big enough to be called a tiankeng. The name is a result of the howling sound, which is created by the wind blowing across the holes. The northern doline is almost circular, with a diameter of around 250 m and a depth of 100 m, 80 m above the lake at the bottom plus the 20 m deep lake. The southern has an irregular shape, more like a peach, is much bigger but also much shallower. It also has a lake, which is obviously at the same level, as both are the groundwater body. With a bigger diameter and the same depth, the walls are less steep. While the northers doline has vertical walls with a steep pile of debris at the foot, the southern has the shape of a crater or funnel. The two dolines are so close together that they slightly overlap, forming a sort of ridge with a pass.

The site has been known to the locals for a long time, and several attempts have been made to climb down to the lakes. Some were successful, but apparently they have not been recorded. The first recorded exploration took place on 19-DEC-1981, by a team of divers, scientists, gendarmes, athletes, and journalists. It was led by Rodolfo Rogelio Rocha. They surveyed the dolines, climbed down to the lakes, and even explored the lakes underwater with a rubber boat and diving equipment.

There is a layer of gypsum, which is dissolved by the groundwater. Sometimes huge caverns form, which are water-filled and finally collapse. But the ongoing dissolution also causes a continual downlift of the bottom of the dolines.

The indigenous people called the place Trolope-Co, which means water of the dead or water from the cry of the spirits. According to their belief it is the place where the souls that walk in pain in the mountains go to pray and cry. They have a legend how the place was named.

There was a dispute between the peoples who lived on both sides of the Andes. After a quarrel, a group from the Chilean side, people with crude customs, pursued a small number of people from the Los Molles area. Night fell, and in complete darkness the pursuers noticed that the shouts of their enemies could no longer be heard. After taking precautions in case it was a ruse by their enemies, they returned to their homes via some detours. The next day at dawn they retraced their steps of the previous day, and returned to the place where the pursuit had ended. Soon they heard howling noises that caught their attention. To their great surprise, they came upon two huge shafts that had sunk beneath the feet of their pursuers. At the bottom lay the dead bodies of their enemies, and they heard howling sounds. From that moment on, the place was called the place where souls weep.