Buckle up for a 4WD adventure across the incredible Atacama Desert and Bolivian Salt Flats

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.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
La Paz, Bolivia
Finish
La Paz, Bolivia
Country
Bolivia
Style
Original
Code
GGAD
Physical rating
Ages
Min 5
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • 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

Is this trip right for you?

  • 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. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.

  • 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.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Included Activities
  • Full-day 4x4 tour of Salar de Uyuni including a visit to Isla Inca Wasi
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Depending on when you arrive into Uyuni, you'll visit the Train Cemetery either today or tomorrow.

Our accommodation tonight is very basic. Toilet facilities are basic, showers can be cold and the multi-share accommodation is dormitory-style.

Please be aware that from December to April, there’s a risk of the salt lake being flooded. If this is the case, the itinerary will be adapted to accommodate this. Please see the itinerary section of these trip notes for more information.
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.
Included Activities
  • Salt flats - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Accommodation in the desert is basic. Shower facilities can be unreliable and cold, as the pipes often freeze in the winter months. Electricity is generated by solar panels, so there won’t be enough power to charge electronic devices.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Visit to Galaxy Cave
Optional Activities
  • Atacama Desert - Thermal Baths Entrance fee - USD1
  • La Paz - Visit to the 'Witches Market' - Free
  • National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore, La Paz - Free
  • Chocolate Factory, La Paz - Free
  • Mirador Killi Killi Lockout, La Paz - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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. 
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

4x4, Plane

Accommodation

Dormitory (2 nights), Hotel (3 nights)

Included activities

  • 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
  • Visit to Galaxy Cave

Dates & availability

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Important notes

SHORT BREAK ADVENTURE
This Short Break Adventure is a ‘join in’ group departure, which means you are not accompanied by an Intrepid group leader – our local representative fills this role – and the configuration of any fellow travellers in the group might change during the trip. This trip will run with a minimum of one person, so you may be joined by other travellers (some possibly booked through different companies) booked on the same date as you, or you may be on your own. The vehicles used are normally Toyota Land Cruisers and they can take up to six passengers plus the driver.

WET SEASON ITINERARY ALTERNATION
From December to March during the wet season it’s likely we will not be able to cross the Salt Lake due to flooding, therefore your itinerary will be altered slightly and alternative activities will be scheduled.
During this time there are countless photo opportunities. The water covering the slat lakes creates a mirror effect.The mirroring effect of the water results in the striking illusion of there being two skies, two sunsets and two sunrises.
You will still have a full day on the salt lake and it will be mainly spent driving around searching for best photos.
The night usually spent in the Salt Lake hotel will instead be spent in the hotel in Uyuni town.

BOLIVIAN VISA FOR U.S CITIZENS
Nationals from the United States need a visa to enter Bolivia and you we highly recommend you obtain this visa in advance from your nearest Bolivian consulate or Embassy. Not obtaining the visa in advance is likely to cause long delays at the border.
Please see the visa information on these trip notes for more information.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.