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Altiplano Crossing

Overview

Driving across the world’s largest salt lake, the Salar de Uyuni, is one of the greatest experiences available to the South American traveller. This short trip is bursting with natural wonders from coral islands at over 4,000m (13,000ft) to multi-coloured lakes, rocks sculpted by the wind, craters bubbling with lava and volcanic landscapes giving way to the eerie stillness of the desert. This is an unmissable adventure that ends in the fascinating town of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Trip Code: BOTSUTA

Location: Bolivia, Chile

ITINERARY INSPIRATION

Uyuni, founded in 1889 by Bolivian president Aniceto Arce, is still an important military base. It lies in south-western Bolivia, 3,670 metres above sea level and situated on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. The Salar de Uyuni covers over 10,000 square kilometres of the Bolivian Altiplano and is fringed by the mountains of the Andes. Beneath it lies the world’s largest lithium reserve estimated to be about 100 million tons and accounting for around 70% of the world’s lithium reserves. The salt in the salt flats is over 120 metres deep. The area is remote, arid and cold, stark, yet stunning, boasting extraordinary beauty and a silence that is captivating.

Today we depart across the Great Salt Flats to Colchani village, to observe the methods of salt extraction and salt processing. The tour then continues to Incahuasi Island (better known as Fish Island) - an oasis with a unique and isolated ecosystem that is populated by giant columnar cacti up to 10 metres high, some over 100 years old. We continue our journey, travelling north to visit the pre-Columbian Pucara de Ayque fort and the nearby chullpares on the foothills of Thunupa volcano, then east to our hotel near Colchani (2 hours). A picnic lunch and dinner are included today.

Uyuni Salt Flats

After breakfast, continue the road journey south crossing the town of Uyuni, visit the cemetery of old trains and then enter the southern highlands crossing the villages of San Cristobal Mine, Culpina K and enter the rich and high Andean Valley of Alota. Continue south passing great stone formations to finally arrive at Villamar. Picnic lunch and dinner included today.

Colchani - Villamar

We depart early this morning to the REA reserve. Covering an area of over 700,000 hectares, the reserve features salt pans, volcanoes, snow-capped peaks, thermal springs and geothermal geysers and is home to unique species of fauna that have adapted to the extreme conditions of the region. We visit Laguna Colorada (4,278 metres), declared a RAMSAR site due to the 30,000 Andean flamingos that nest here. Laguna Colorado is characterised by the red colour of its water and it is the most important flamingo site in the region. You may also see vicuñas, llamas and vizcachas. We also visit the “Sol de Mañana” geysers, with their active fumaroles and volcanic craters. The crater bottoms display boiling lava and the fumaroles emit spouts of mixed water and superheated steam that reach heights of 80 to 100 metres. We also visit Chalviri Lagoon and the natural hot springs of Polques. We continue through the high desert of Pampas de Dali until we reach “Laguna Verde” (3 hours), a beautiful green lagoon at the foothills of the Licancabur volcano where flamingos are often seen. A picnic lunch is taken on the way and the tour continues to the mountain pass of Hito Cajon on the border between Bolivia and Chile.

Villamar - REA - Hito Cajon - San Pedro de Atacama

You will be met at the border by your Chilean guide and be transferred to San Pedro de Atacama. Should you not be able to locate them, please refer to the front of your itinerary for emergency contact details of our representative office. Please note this service is with a driver only.

Transfer Hito Cajon to San Pedro

The small oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama lies on an arid high plateau in the Andes Mountains in the heart of some of northern Chile’s most spectacular scenery. Overlooking the Licancabur Volcano, its dramatic surrounding landscape ranges from desert, salt flats, steaming geysers and hot springs to fascinating rock formations. The church, dating back to 1774 and featuring adobe, cactus wood and leather-bound beams and the Archaeological Museum are both worth a visit.

Atacama
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TAILOR MADE TRIPS TO Altiplano Crossing

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Pricing & date

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Important Information

  • • Services and meals as mentioned in the itinerary
    • English speaking local guides
    • 4 passengers per 4WD car
    • Accommodation as mentioned in the itinerary
    • All entrances fee as mentioned in the itinerary

    NOT INCLUDED
    • Early check-in, late check-out, beverages, hotel extras, and personal expenses
    • Anything not listed in the itinerary
    • Airport Taxes
    • Tips
    • Air Tickets La Paz/Uyuni

  • 3 (High altitude; basic accommodation)
  • Contact us for more details

  • We would recommend packing clothing suitable for a mountain environment, including sun protection.

    A sleeping bag is necessary.

    Weather at high altitude can change very quickly and the sun reflected off the Salt Lake is particularly strong.

    A private version of this tour with English-speaking guide can be organized.

  • Season and availability

Accommodation

We believe that appropriate accommodation should add to the authentic travel experience, as well as providing utmost enjoyment. For that reason our accommodation is scrutinised by our staff on the ground frequently, ensuring the properties adhere to our high standards. This key will help you understand the levels of accommodation available on this tour.

SPEAK TO A SPECIALIST

Talk to one of our Destination Specialists to plan your South American adventure and turn your dream into a reality. With exceptional knowledge and first hand experience, our consultants will assist in every way possible to make your journey the most memorable it can be, matching not only the itinerary, but the accommodation and activities to suit your style of travel and budget.

Sustainability

Chimu Adventures undertakes a number of sustainability measures within its operations including:

1) Only using local guides and office staff to both maximise local employment opportunities and minimise carbon footprints. Local guides also ensure you benefit from the intimate knowledge, passion and culture of the country you’re visiting.

2) Where possible, using locally owned and operated boutique hotels to maximise the return to the local community.

3) Chimu’s “Pass it on” programme has provided funding to hundreds of local community projects in Latin America. Our aim is to empower local communities, helping them to develop their own infrastructure for the future. Since 2006, we have been working with Kiva (a well-known Non-Governmental Organisation), providing hundreds of loans to local businesses all over South America.

4) In our pre tour information we provide a range of tips and advice on how to minimise your impact on both local environments and communities.

5) Chimu Adventures’ offices also take a number of sustainability measures including carbon offsets for company vehicles and most staff travel. Chimu Adventure’s internal processes are also structures to create a paperless office and to reduce waste. There are also internal programmes to help staff minimise their carbon footprint such as our staff bike purchase assistance plan which encourages office staff to commute to work via bicycle. Currently almost half of our office based staff commute to work via bicycle.

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