Experience South America’s wild interior, from arid deserts to vast salt lakes.

Traverse the untouristed interior of South America on this Intrepid journey that veers well away from the beaten path. Beginning in Bolivia, journey from the potion-filled markets of La Paz, through the landscaped streets of Sucre and on to the once-rich silver ore mines of Potosi. Next, embark on a 4WD adventure across the rocky plains of the Atacama Desert and the vast salt pans of Salar de Uyuni, before winding up among the cactus filled valleys of Bolivia’s Wild West. Finally, adventure across the border to Argentina and discover the remnants of a flourishing indigenous culture in Tilcara, before re-engaging with civilisation in the fiery capital of Buenos Aires.


Start
La Paz, Bolivia
Finish
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Destinations
Argentina, Bolivia
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
GGBJ
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • From other-worldly landscapes to deep-rooted cultures – this all-encompassing tour will cover a lot of ground across two diverse destinations in just two weeks.

  • La Paz provides insight into the many sides of Bolivian culture. While young people flock to the city for its booming industry, traditionally dressed residents sell ancient potions at the Witches Market.

  • Enjoy free time to discover the elegant colonial architecture, political history and surrounding mountainscape of Sucre – Bolivia’s most beautiful city.

  • Take a three-day 4WD adventure across the rocky Atacama Desert and the largest salt lakes in the world, passing cactus islands, train cemeteries and mineral lakes teeming with flamingos.

  • Get under the skin of Buenos Aires with two full days to explore. With its eclectic neighbourhoods, emphasis on food and wine, and huge theatre scene, this is the perfect place to end your adventure.

Is this trip right for you?

  • While in the Andean Desert, you’ll reach altitudes of up to 4900 metres. La Paz, Potosi and Uyuni all have high altitudes too. Even at 2900 metres above sea level, the air is a lot thinner and it can take a bit of time to adjust. Some people aren’t affected at all, but if you are, be sure to drink plenty of water and take it easy. Although altitude sickness can affect anyone, it’s important that you’re healthy enough to travel, as pre-existing medical conditions can worsen at high altitude. During your trip, ensure you monitor your health carefully. It may even be a good idea to arrive into La Paz early so that you have time to acclimatise to the altitude. Please see the important ‘Health’ section of the ‘Essential Trip information’ for more information.

  • Making your way across the Andean Desert and salt flats isn’t exactly luxurious. There will be long travel days spent in 4WDs on dusty and bumpy tracks. 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.

  • Bolivia is the least developed and most challenging country you’ll travel through during this trip. Facilities are basic and food might be simpler than what you’re used to. Transportation between different locations can be slow and isn’t as easy as it might be in developed countries. Yet this is all part of the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ charm and adventure that makes Bolivia such a great place to visit.

  • There are some long travel days and an overnight bus journey on this trip. Although the buses feature comfortable reclining seats, they are not beds. There’s also usually a toilet on-board, and some of the buses make toilet stops. These trips can be tiresome, but an adventure trip around South America wouldn’t be complete without an overnight bus journey.

  • Please note that our leaders are not able to organise a trip to the ‘Death Road’ for you due to safety concerns. Injuries are common along the road and there have been a number of fatal accidents. Our leaders are also unable to organise tours to the Potosi Mines for safety reasons.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2019 itinerary
Welcome to Bolivia! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, feel free to explore the nooks and side streets of La Paz or, alternatively, venture out of the city in search of crisp mountain air. Perhaps hop on a local bus out to the extraordinary landscape of Moon Valley – this maze of canyons and colossal clay spires, make for staggering views. Alternatively, why not take a cable car to the Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches Market)? Though we can’t guarantee the potions, incantations and voodoo dolls will work their magic, the experience is reliably fantastic, and the locals will be happy to tell you about their significance. After your meeting this evening, you might like to head out with your new travel buddies for a group dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or the hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

As La Paz is 3600 metres above sea level, please ensure you take the necessary measures in regard to altitude sickness (refer to ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and the ‘Health’ section of ‘Essential trip information’ for more detail.)

This trip is part of a combination trip. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have started their trip in Lima 15 days ago on Explore Peru and Bolivia (GGSUC).

Your second day in La Paz is free to explore. Perhaps visit the Museo de la Coca, which isn’t too far from your hotel. This unusual museum delves into the history of the coca plant that grows in the region, a plant that’s played a huge role in the rise and fall of governments, has ended many lives, and was one of the original ingredients in one of the world’s favourite soft drinks! You may also like to check out the cuisine scene in La Paz on a food tour – taste fish fresh from Lake Titicaca as well as a variety of intense flavours on a chocolate stop. Late in the afternoon, leave La Paz on an overnight bus to Sucre (approximately 9-10 hours).
Accommodation
  • Overnight bus (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Paz - Visit to the 'Witches Market' - Free
  • La Paz - Coca Museum - BOB12
  • La Paz - Food With Altitude Urban Adventure - USD57
  • La Paz - To 3,600 Metres, and Beyond Urban Adventure - USD41
  • La Paz - City Tour & Moon Valley - USD25
  • La Paz - Chacaltaya & Moon Valley Tour - USD16
  • La Paz - Tiawanaku tour - USD39
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
There are comfortable recliner seats on the bus locally known as ‘coche cama’ or ‘bed seats’. There’s usually a toilet on the bus and the driver will also make a stop along the way.
On arrival in Sucre, drop off your luggage at the hotel before heading out to explore in your own time. Bolivia’s World Heritage-listed capital is a hub of progressive culture and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta – this 400-year-old convent provides great views over the city and is home to a fascinating collection of sculptures and paintings. If you have time, head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to rub shoulders with Sucre's affluent residents and investigate the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Sucre - Dinosaur footprints at Cal Orcko - BOB70
  • Sucre - Casa de la Libertad - BOB21
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day to explore Sucre at your own pace. Resting in a mountainous valley and overflowing with a wealth of white-washed buildings and well-preserved architecture, Sucre is not only Bolivia’s capital city, but also the most beautiful. Wander the pretty streets and snap photos of the quaint houses and medieval churches, or for something more active, hike along the pre-Incan path known as the Chataquila trek – mostly downhill, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding Andes. For something completely different, discover a prehistoric landscape and compare shoe sizes with a dinosaur at Cal Orcko, where footprints millions of years old have been preserved. This is the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world, over 12,000 of them! There’s also a proud food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or fresh juice at the Central Market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning take a local bus to the colonial mining town of Potosi (approximately 3-4 hours), once the wealthiest city in the Americas thanks to its location at the base of Cerro Rico (Rich Hill) – a mountain containing a wealth of silver ore. The discovery and extraction of the silver produced a financial boom for the Spanish empire, however the city’s riches quickly diminished once the silver dried up and its citizens soon slipped into poverty. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico could be a highlight of your trip here, but due to safety concerns we strongly advise you not to enter the mines (please see ‘Special Information’ below). Another place of interest is the Santa Teresa Convent Museum where you can observe the art and treasures on display inside the convent’s original walls.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Potosi - Santa Teresa Convent Museum - BOB33
  • Potosi - National Mint of Bolivia - BOB48
  • Potosi - Cerro Rico mine tour - BOB150
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Visiting the mines in Potosi can be a thrilling yet a dangerous experience. We at Intrepid have partnered with a local operator to offer travellers what we have assessed to be a safer and rewarding option for this visit. This tour involves visiting the miners’ market and a minerals distillery as well as entering the first 150-200 metres into the Grito de Piedra mine. We believe this experience offers a great understanding of the social, cultural and economic importance of the mine to Potosi and the region while avoiding the risks associated with entering deeper sections of the mine. This activity is not for the faint hearted or those that suffer claustrophobia. Your tour leader is strictly prohibited from recommending or assisting travellers in booking other mine tours.
Today, leave Potosi behind and travel to the city of Uyuni (approximately 3-4 hours). This remote town sits on the edge of the high Altiplano, a wilderness area extending for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. Apart from being a gateway to the Salt Flats, Uyuni also happens to sit above the world’s largest lithium reserve – about 100 million tons. While it won’t help you if you’ve arrived with a flat battery, Uyuni’s lithium, once extracted, could potentially provide enough fuel for the entire planet’s smart phones and electric cars for the next century. Enjoy free time on arrival – perhaps take the opportunity to rest up before you kick off your exciting excursion to Salar de Uyuni tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
The area is notorious for being extremely cold, so it’s important to pack warm clothing and base layers. Tonight’s hotel is fairly basic, but it’s clean, comfortable and has hot water. As you’ll be heading out into the desert and salt flats over the next few days, make the most of the bathroom facilities tonight.
Depart Uyuni this morning and venture out on a three-day 4WD excursion – be prepared for a busy few days ahead. The first stop will be Cementerio de Trenes (the Train Cemetery) for an eerie look at abandoned locomotives that have been engulfed by the desert. Then, continue on to the highlight of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flats. This vast desert-like landscape of blinding white salt and cactus-studded islands is the remains of a dried-up prehistoric lake. The desolate and dehydrated eco-system hosts very little wildlife, however it is home to an abundance of pink flamingos. Make the most of your time on the salt flats, pose for some snaps and explore Inca Wasi, an other-worldly island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.

Accommodation
  • Dormitory (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Salt flats - Visit to 'Fish Island/Inca Wasi'
  • Uyuni - Colchani Salt Factory Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Please be aware that from December to March, there’s a risk of the Salt Lake being flooded. If this is the case, the itinerary will be adapted to accommodate.
Today will be spent driving through the spectacular landscape of the Andean (Atacama) Desert – an expansive plateau strewn with volcanoes and lakes. It’s also home to a vast quantity of quartz and copper, which is said to give its people positive energy and good vibes. Stop by Laguna Colorada, a blood-red lagoon brimming with hot-pink flamingos. Surrounded by the towering Andes, this rare natural wonder is a photographer’s dream – its shallow red waters contrasting against the crisp blue sky and snow-capped mountains. Keep an eye out for an abundance of wildlife such as llamas, flamingos, viscachas and foxes feasting in the nutrient-rich waters.
Accommodation
  • Dormitory (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada & 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. In the rainy season, the itinerary may need to be altered depending on the accessibility of roads.

During this drive you’ll reach an altitude of approximately 4900 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’ section of the ‘Essential Information’ for more details).
This morning we depart Uyuni and head to the tranquil town of Tupiza, one of Bolivia's best kept secrets and, according to legend, the site where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end in one last shoot-out with the authorities. Spend time enjoying the dramatic Wild West landscape, from cactus-filled valleys to arid desert ravines and dramatic red rock canyons. If you feel like an adventure, why not hike to the peak of Cerro de la Cruz (an approximately 2-hour round trip), where you can soak up panoramic views of Tupiza and its breathtaking surrounds. The path is steep and rocky, so make sure you’re prepared with sturdy shoes and plenty of water, but the scenery is worth it. Alternatively, you might like to take the time to relax in this quaint town and get a good night’s rest before the early start tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Rise and shine and prepare for a long travel day as you cross the border into Argentina. Witness rural life roll by as you travel by public bus to Villazon, on the Bolivian side of the border. From here, your leader will be on hand to assist with the crossing into Argentina, where you’ll stop for lunch in La Quiaca. After stretching your legs and refuelling with a good feed, take another public bus and continue the journey to Tilcara, where you’ll arrive at approximately 6 pm. There are no planned activities on arrival, so if you’re not tired from the journey perhaps head out for dinner with the group for your first taste of the town.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Today's total travel time is about 12 hours. You will be jumping on and off different buses so there will be plenty of opportunities to get out for some fresh air and to stretch your legs, but it’s advised to stock up on snacks and drinks for the bus journeys. In addition, make sure you have a good book and that your devices are fully charged if you want to bring your own entertainment.
Today is a free day to explore this dusty and enchanting town. Nestled in the mountain valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca, a World Heritage site, Tilcara is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Argentina with an indigenous culture dating back more than 10,000 years – and the influx of tourists hasn’t stopped the age-old customs and rituals from flourishing. The contrast of modernity and tradition is ever-present here, from the arty urbanites who’ve arrived in search of a quieter existence, to the local farmers fulfilling their daily tasks as they have for centuries. You might like to marvel at the pre-Inca ruins at Pucara de Tilcara, or perhaps venture out of town and check out the colourful hills of Purmamarca. If you’re keen for an authentic lunch, visit the vibrant local market, Mercado Municipal de Tilcara, to try some empanadas (filled pastry) or locro (hearty stew) – lunch service here ends at 1.30 pm, so get in quick!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy another free day to explore the charming town of Tilcara before catching a late flight to Buenos Aires. If you don’t mind an early start, there are plenty of hiking options available. You might like to trek through rugged terrain and dusty canyons to El Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat) or take a short bus ride out of town and explore the striking landscape of Quebrada de las Senoritas (Gorge of the Ladies). Dust yourself off and rejoin the group as you’re transferred to the airport ready for a 2-hour flight to the vibrant Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, where you’ll spend the next few days soaking up the sensations of the city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Buenos Aires - Malbec Trail of Palermo Urban Adventure - USD113
  • DISCONTINUED Buenos Aires - Tango, Tango, Tango! Urban Adventures - USD90
  • Buenos Aires - Gourmet Buenos Aires Food Urban Adventure - USD113
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Fiery Latin passion, European elegance and superb cuisine combine to make Buenos Aires one of the world's most enthralling cities. Your last few days are free for you to do what you want with it – nibble on alfajores, wander San Telmo's cobblestone streets, talk football with Portenos (people from Buenos Aires) in a cafe or get a history lesson at the quirky Museo Evita. Alternatively, you might like to join the tourists and walk among the tombs at the La Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of Eva Peron, or check out some of the great museums in the Recoleta district. Visit the neighbourhood of La Boca, home to the colourful Caminito artists’ street and world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors. The hottest spot in town is Palermo's Plaza Serrano, so why not head out in the evening for a tango with the locals. There are so many things to see and do in Buenos Aires, it's simply a matter of trying to fit them all in.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Buenos Aires - Polo day - USD170
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (1)
After breakfast, your adventure through Bolivia and Argentina comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day, however if you’re extending your stay, be sure to ask your leader for recommendations on activities and sights in this exciting city.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Plane, Overnight bus, local bus, 4x4

Accommodation

Hotel ( 11 nights), Dormitory (2 nights), Overnight Bus ( 1 night)

Included activities

  • Salt flats - Visit to 'Fish Island/Inca Wasi'
  • Uyuni - Colchani Salt Factory Visit
  • Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve - Altiplano tour including Laguna Colorada & Laguna Verde

Dates & availability

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Important notes

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
Please note that the Single Supplement does not include nights 2, 7 & 8

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 Essential Trip information (ETI) for more information. 

PASSPORT DETAILS REQUIRED
Full passport details are required at the time of booking in order to purchase Entrance fees to certain sites. Additionally on certain trips it's needed to book bus, train or flight tickets. Delays to provide this information may result in booking fees or changes to your itinerary.

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.

View Essential Trip Information

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