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Bolivian Salt Flats & The Andean Desert

6 days with Intrepid Travel   Rating: Budget

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Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices Day 1 La Paz
Touch down in lovely, but dizzying, La Paz. Dizzying because it sits at a spectacular 3,660 metres above sea level. Perched on the edge of a canyon and backed by the looming Mount Illimani, La Paz makes sipping a cup of Bolivian tea a jaw-dropping experience. Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned until an important welcome meeting at 6pm in the hotel with your Intrepid local representative. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place.
During this meeting, your Intrepid representative will let you know your flying time to Uyuni on day 2 and will hand over to you the necessary e-tickets and vouchers you will need to complete this trip. He/she will also be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details with you. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception.
Notes: Altitude Sickness – This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.

Day 2 Salar de Uyuni 
Today take a flight from La Paz to Uyuni. The flight time will be advised at your evening meeting on Day 1. Arriving in Uyuni feels a bit like you've reached the end of the road, which in many ways is true. This remote small town sits on the edge of the high altiplano, a wilderness that extends for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. So it's hardly surprising that the town has a bit of a wild west feel about it. Uyuni is best known for its proximity to the Bolivian salt flats known locally as the Salar de Uyuni. The town was once a distribution hub for trains carrying minerals on their way to Pacific Ocean ports. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed and many trains were abandoned.
Spanning over 12,000 square kilometres, and heaving with around ten billion tonnes of salt, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest saltpan, and there are plenty of opportunities for perspective-bending photographs with your group (using props really adds to it). 
Stop by the small town of Colchani, where you'll see how locals farm and process salt from the Salar. After you'll visit Isla Wasi – a rocky, cactus and coral-like structure covered island erupting from the monotonous salt crust like a hallucination.

Day 3 Andean Desert
Drive through the spectacular landscape of the Atacama Desert, which is sprinkled with other-worldly volcanoes and lakes. During this drive you’ll reach an altitude of approximately 4,900 metres above sea level, so it’s important to revisit the notes on altitude sickness (please see the ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ sections of the trip notes). Stop by Laguna Colorada, a rich red lake vividly coloured by algae and rich minerals. Perhaps one of the strangest sights in such an arid and inhospitable landscape is the abundant wildlife, with llamas, flamingos, vicuñas, and foxes frequently making appearances on the Altiplano.

Day 4 Natural Hot Springs / Uyuni Town
This morning we will visit the picturesque Laguna Verde (Green Lake) a mineral salt lake, located 4300 metres above sea level at the foot of Volcano Licancabur.
Apart from incredible vistas and snow-capped volcanoes, the arid landscape of the Atacama Desert also hosts some stunning natural hot springs. We'll stop at one of the desert’s natural thermal baths. Soak in the soothing outdoor baths and watch steam rise from the water against the morning sun. Afterwards hop back into the 4WD and travel back to Uyuni, passing geysers and volcanic vents along the way (today will be a long day, approximately 12 hours before arriving back at Uyuni Town)
Back in town, wander around the streets of this remote settlement and chill out before heading back to La Paz tomorrow.

Day 5 Uyuni / La Paz 
Catch a morning flight (included) to La Paz and enjoy a free day to explore this incredible city's irregular-shaped streets and alleys at your leisure. Perhaps pay a visit to the intriguing Witches Market (Mercado de Hechiceria), stop in for an impromptu tour at the La Paz Chocolate Factory, or try some empanadas at the Mercado Camacho. Maybe head to the Mirador Killi Killi Lookout, located on top of a steep hill in the neighbourhood of Villa Pabon, and one of La Paz’s most impressive viewing points. Nearby is the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore, which exhibits a wide collection of stunning works that takes you through Bolivian history. Toast the end of your high plains adventure with a glass of api and plate of chicarron.

Day 6 La Paz
Your Bolivian adventure comes to an end after breakfast. If you're not departing La Paz today, perhaps experience another side to this incredible city with a spot on our 'Food With Altitude' Urban Adventures tour.
Map
All This Included
Cruise across the otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama Desert, past ice-capped mountains and colour-shifting lakes, on this 4WD safari. The beautifully unforgiving salt flats and high plains of Bolivia are both a source of history and inspiration, a place where the local Boliviano's have battled with the elements for centuries. Visit the remote towns that make their homes on the outskirts of the world's driest desert, climb among the rusted ruins of the abandoned train cemetery, and create hilarious perspective-bending portraits on the seemingly never-ending salt flats. Embrace freezing temperatures and windy conditions to be rewarded with a luxurious soak in a thermal hot spring. See the twisted geometric formations that inspired Salvador Dali and witness roiling fumaroles and geysers. This is an adventure in its truest sense, taking you to the edge of the Earth on a journey you won't soon forget.
  • Meals - 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Transport - 4x4, Plane
  • Full-day 4x4 tour of Salar de Uyuni including a visit to Isla Inca Wasi
  • Salt flats - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde
Highlights
  • If you've ever dreamt of walking on water (well, at least on a lake), this is your chance. Cross the epic white expanse of Bolivia's salt lakes on a 4WD adventure across the rocky Atacama Desert.
  • Empty, haunting and spectacular, the laws of earthly physics bend on the surreal Salar de Uyuni saltpan.
  • Uyuni is full of unexpected sights - just one of these is families of abandoned geriatric locomotives left to rust slowly in the sun at the eerie Train Cemetery.
  • Ancient mummies don't just exist in Hollywood movies. See some real ones in the Coquesa Caves, which happen to sit at the foot of a dormant volcano.
  • As you explore the rocky island of Isla Wasi, rising from the salt pans and covered with flowering cacti, you might feel like you've stepped inside a surrealist painting.
Accommodations
Dormitory (2 nights)
Hotel (3 nights)
Notes
  • Ages: Min 5
  • Group size: Min 1, Max 12
  • This Short Break Adventure is a ‘join in’ group departure, which means you are not accompanied by an Intrepid group leader – instead you will have two separate local representatives (one in La Paz and one in Uyuni) – and the configuration of any fellow travellers in the group might change during the trip.
  • This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health.
  • You'll be spending a lot of time in a 4WD crossing some bumpy surfaces. This is the best way to see the sights in and around Uyuni, and is all part of the adventure.
  • In Bolivia (especially in Uyuni), sometimes things don't go to plan. For example, an attraction may be closed for the day with no notice or reason. Although this doesn't happen very often, please be prepared for the possibility.
  • Making your way across the Andean Desert and salt flats isn’t exactly luxurious. Temperatures in the area can be very cold, especially at night, so bring warm clothes with you. Meals are simple, toilet facilities are basic, showers can be cold and the multi-share accommodation is dormitory-style. This is all part of the adventure. Without a doubt, this amazing experience will be one of the highlights of your trip to South America.
  • Due to the 'remoteness' of the area this itinerary visits the accommodation is limited therefore days 2 & 3 is dormitory/multi-share accommodation, regardless of if you've paid the single price or not.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Intrepid Travel terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.