Welcome to La Paz and the start of your amazing journey. Upon arrival at the airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre tour accommodation.
Built on a series of hills and considered one of the world's most beautiful cities, La Paz was established in the basin of a canyon with the snow-capped Mount Illimani in the background. Our hotel is very centrally located and is just around the corner from the city's colourful indigenous street markets including the fascinating Witches Market. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is also within walking distance.
There are also many optional excursions available. You might like to visit the Moon Valley with its strange rock formations shaped by the weather. Another fantastic excursion is to the emerald green area of Coroico, the gateway to the Bolivian jungle region and a great place to see sub -tropical vegetation and plants.
Overnight: La Paz
La Paz - Potosi. After our final day in La Paz we transfer to the bus station for our comfortable overnight bus through the beautiful landscapes of the Atliplano to the mining town of Potosi.
Overnight: Overnight Bus
The city of Potosi was established by the Spanish in 1545 soon after the discovery of a rich vein of silver in a nearby hill, the Cerro Rico (or “rich hill”). It soon became the world's largest silver producer and silver from Potosí underwrote the Spanish economy, particularly the monarchy's extravagance, for over two centuries. In Spanish there is still a saying ‘valer un potosí’ (to be worth a fortune).
Millions of the indigenous population, and later, African slaves, worked in the mines in appalling conditions. You have the option to visit the mines, stopping first at the miners market to buy gifts such as coca leaves, dynamite and cigarettes. In the mines we will experience the difficult conditions in which the miners work - including 50°C heat. We'll pass several of the shrines they have made to the “Tios” which they hope will protect them while they are working in what they believe is the devil's territory. If you'd like to learn more of the historic silver industry you can take a tour of the Moneda, a museum exhibiting coins, artwork, mummies and many other interesting artefacts from Potosí's history
On day 4 we move on reaching the desolate town of Uyuní in the south of Bolivia where we spend the evening.
After a night in the town, we visit what is claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliant white vast Salar de Uyuní. Travelling by 4WD vehicles we will spend two days exploring the salt lake and surrounds. First on the agenda is a visit to the Train Cemetery, where you can see the remains of 19th and early 20th century steam locomotives - a good place for artistic photographs. We will then come to Colchani, the main plant for the iodisation of salt and the best place to observe the methods of salt extraction from the salar. Here ovens are used to dry the salt, which is then formed into cakes. The highlight of the day is Fish Island (seasonal dependent). Located in the centre of the salar, 100 kilometres from Uyuní, this hilly outpost is covered in giant cacti amid a flat, white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. The island is so named because it has the shape of a fish. Visiting Fish Island is quite otherworldly and the fantastic contrast of the brilliant blue sky (weather permitting of course) and the pure white of the salt flats will take your breath away. Tonight we may stay in a hotel made of salt.
Overnight: Uyuni / Salar De Uyuni Region | Lunch x 1, Dinner x 1
Following breakfast we head for the Red Lagoon (Laguna Colorada). We pass through the Siloli Desert where we encounter spectacular landscapes with multicoloured volcanic rock formations and stop at other lagoons en route. Covering an area of 60 square kilometres, the lagoon has a rich red colouration derived from algae and plankton which thrive in its minerals. The shoreline is fringed with brilliant white deposits of sodium, magnesium, borax and gypsum and the lagoon is inhabited by numerous flamingos, three unique species of which breed there.
Overnight: Laguna Colorada | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Laguna Colorada – San Pedro de Atacama. Leaving Laguna Colorada we visit the volcanic zone ‘Sol de Manana' (Morning Sun) at 4,850 metres above sea level. Here you'll discover a geyser basin with bubbling mud pots, hellish fumaroles and a thick aroma of sulphur fumes. Inside a small crater we will observe boiling lava and we will also stop at hot springs where you can bathe. Crossing a 5,000 metre pass we come to Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) rich in lead, sulphur and calcium carbonate and shadowed by the cone of the Licancabur Volcano.
Continuing on we will cross into Chile and come to San Pedro de Atacama for the next 3 nights - the world's driest desert. The area is famous for its lunar landscapes, geysers, salt flats and hot springs. There is an excellent archaeological museum at San Pedro de Atacama, housing a good selection of mummies and other ancient artefacts. Here we have the included visit to the eerie eroded salt mountains of the Valley of the Moon.
Overnight: San Pedro de Atacama | Breakfast x 3
San Pedro de Atacama – La Serena. After our final day in San Pedro de Atacama - we board an overnight bus for our next stop - the charming coastal town of La Serena.
Overnight: Overnight Bus | Breakfast
On day 11 we arrive into La Serena, a pleasant little coastal town and important astronomical centre. Here you can laze around on the long beach, visit the interesting town or stroll to neighbouring Coquimbo along the bay. There are also optional excursions to the Elqui Valley the home of Chilean Pisco and also an optional excursion to one of the many Observatories to get a bird’s eye view of the night sky.
Overnight: La Serena | Breakfast x 1
La Serena - Santiago. This morning we make our way to Santiago. We enter the fertile region of the Chilean heartlands, passing farmland and vineyards before arriving in the Chilean capital. Enjoy this city at your leisure. Visit Santa Lucia Hill for excellent views over the city or take the funicular railway to the top of San Cristobal where the Statue of the Virgin overlooks the capital and the distant Andes.
Overnight: Santiago | Breakfast
Today marks the end of your holiday. Consider visiting Plaza Constitucion at the Palacio de la Moneda or further exploring this exciting capital city before hotel check out at 12 noon. Post tour accommodation can be arranged, should you require.
Salt Flats and Desert Dunes NB
Overall excellent tour and Heidi was great fun. The only thing that I would say is that the majority of the activities were optional. Overall adventure was great ! ”