Visit Chile, Argentina and Bolivia on a tour from Santiago to La Paz.

Travel to South America and set off on an unforgettable adventure through the soaring Andes, meeting friendly locals and discovering the rich culture and breathtaking scenery of this remarkable region. Starting in Chile's vibrant Santiago, this incredible journey continues through Argentina's picturesque wine region and includes an estancia stay – the perfect opportunity to unleash that inner gaucho. Discover the delights of colonial Salta before crossing into Bolivia to admire the mesmerising salt flats of Salar de Uyuni and fiery-red Laguna Colorada before finishing the adventure in colourful La Paz. This amazing trip is the perfect way to experience the best of this spectacular region.

Start
Santiago, Chile
Finish
La Paz, Bolivia
Countries
Argentina,
Bolivia,
Chile
Themes
Overland
Code
GDOF
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4 Max 22
Carbon offset
606kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Explore Chile's cosmopolitan Santiago
  • Visit Argentina and chill out in beautiful Mendoza
  • Tuck into a barbecue feast on a cattle ranch
  • Sip Argentine wine in Cafayate
  • Admire the colonial architecture of Salta
  • Be amazed by Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni
  • Learn about mining in Potosi
  • Keep up with the bustle of La Paz

Itinerary

Border information:
if you are joining in Santiago, you will most likely enter
Chile
at Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport.
Welcome to Santiago, the cosmopolitan Chilean capital! There will be an
important
group meeting at 6:00pm at the joining hotel - please look out at the
hotel reception for a note from your leader with more details about this
important meeting.
The following day
is
a free day to explore the incredible city, soak up
the
atmosphere of its streets, and discover its amazing culture, art, and music.
In Santiago we will stay in a centrally-located hostel.
Hotel for the night: Happy House Hostel
Happy House Hostel
Moneda 1829
Santiago
Chile
Tel - +56 2 2688 4849
About Santiago:
Bisected by the Mapocho River, Chile's capital is a large, modern city with a
very European atmosphere. In the centre of the city wide tree-lined boulevards
lead to pleasant plazas and leafy parks and on a clear day the snow-capped
peaks of the Andes provide a magnificent backdrop to the Santiago skyline.
Much of the centre is pedestrianised, which together with the wide streets and
efficient metro system make Santiago an easy city to explore on foot. There are
plenty of interesting museums where you can learn more about Chilean history
and culture, from the City of Santiago Museum which chronicles the city’s
history to the Natural History Museum and Museum of Pre-Colombian Art. The
city's many wonderful parks are also worth a visit, particularly O'Higgins and San
Cristobal which offers great views of the city from Cerro San Lucia.
As you would expect from a capital city of this size, Santiago is full of busy bars
and restaurants and has some lively nightlife to offer. For cheap eats, full of
local flavour, head to the Mercado Central (central market) which is packed full
of food stalls and simple cafes and restaurants. For a real treat, you might want
to head out to one of the more upmarket neighbourhoods like Bellavista or
Providencia, home to some really world-class restaurants and great bars. Barrio
Brasil is also worth a look; this old neighbourhood attracts an arty and
bohemian crowd and there are often interesting events going on here.
If you have the time, there's also plenty to do in the area surrounding the city.
Santiago is right in the middle of Chile's wine producing region, so it is
relatively straightforward to arrange full day or half day tours out to the local
wineries. You may also be interested in visiting the seaside town of Valapariso,
which can be visited as a day trip from Santiago.
Border information:
Exit Chile at Paso Cristo Redentor,
enter Argentina at Los
Libertadores.
Today we will drive over the stunning Cristo Redentor pass in the high Andes,
passing Aconcagua (the highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere) and
heading to the Argentine wine capital of Mendoza,
nestled in the dry flats
underneath the shadows of the largest mountains of the Andes. Mendoza is the
centre of Argentine wine production, and one of the nine 'Wine Capitals of the
World' - it is especially famous for its Malbec, grown at some of the highest-
altitude vineyards to be found in the world.
Estimated Drive Time - 10-11 hours
(please note that all drive times given here
are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions -
however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic,
road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors -
flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
On the following day we will have a free day to explore the incredible region,
head out on various adventure activities, or of course take a tasting tour of the
incredible wineries in the region.
In Mendoza we we stay in a centrally located hostel in dorm accommodation.
About Mendoza:
Mendoza is a vibrant city full of pleasant leafy boulevards and leafy plazas
where the locals catch up over coffee in the many street cafes and bars. A
university town and an important economic centre, the city has a bustling
cosmpolitan feel and has all the amenities you would expect from great
restaurants to lively nightlife, interesting museums and galleries and great
shopping. On summer weekends, open air concerts and markets often take
place in the beautiful plazas.
The city is perhaps most famous for it's wine. Whilst technically Mendoza is a
desert town, extensive artificial irrigation have made it possible to grow grapes
and olives here, both of which benefit from the long, hot, sunny summers. The
wine made here is world class and tours of local vineyards and wineries are
easily arranged.
Mendoza is also used by many people as a base from which to explore the
mountains in this area. America's highest peak Aconcagua is nearby and skiing is
popular in the winter months.
Today we will leave Mendoza
and start our journey through the beautiful San
Juan and
Cordoba
provinces towards Mendoza.
We will aim to camp in one of the small rural
towns
en route.
Estimated Drive Time - 10 hours.
About Rio Ceballos:
To the east of the Andes in the centre of Argentina is the country's second
major city, Cordoba. Nearby are the beautiful hills of the Sierra de Cordoba
where we will spend three nights at a unique Anglo-Argentinian estancia. The estancia has been in the same family for four generations, and is a working
cattle ranch, farming the prized Argentinian Aberdeen Angus cattle. Here we
will sample the traditional hospitality of the Anglo-Argentinian ranching
community, with great food straight from the farm. An asado or Argentinian
BBQ will be enjoyed on one of our nights here, as well as an evening of
traditional music, a chance to try lassoing and fantastic wine tasting featuring
some of the local produce. Daily horse riding excursions
will also be arranged to
ride through the hills on the fabulous horses and even completely
inexperienced riders will feel like gauchos in a short time. Please note that
these activities are subject to weather conditions.
Please also note that there is a strict weight limit for all riders of 15 stone /
95 kg to ensure the horses' well-being. If you are heavier than this weight
you will unfortunately be unable to ride.
Today we will compete our drive to our
unique Anglo-Argentine
Estancia, where
we will stay for
3 nights.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.
During our time at the Estancia, we will head out
horseback riding, taste the
excellent
wines produced by their vineyards, be entertained by a local
musician, learn some of the skills of the gauchos,
and enjoy
a traditional asado
(Argentine
BBQ). This isa magical experience in a beautiful and atmospheric
location, and many people's highlight of the trip!
Please note that some of these activities are subject to weather
conditions.
Please also note that there is a strict weight limit of 15
stone
(210lbs) or
95kg to partake in the horse riding - if you should weigh more than
this, then unfortunately you will not be able to participate
in the horseback
riding.
In the Estancia we will camp with facilities in the grounds near the
main house.
Today we will drive north across the
lush flat pampas and start climbing into
the drier mountains.
Tonight we will
camp in a basic campsite in the town of Tafi del Valle.
Estimated Drive Time - 10 hours.
Today we will have an included visit to the ancient ruins of the indigenous city
of
Quilmes en route, then arrive in
the serene town of Cafayate. This small
unassuming town
is the
centre of one of
Argentina
's principal wine producing
regions, famous for the quality of its Torrentes and Tannat wines! We will have
the opportunity to go to a few of the vineyards nearby to see how the wine is
made, and of course to try them!
In Cafayate we stay at a campsite with good facilities.
Estimated Drive Time - 2
hours.
About Cafayate:
Cafayate is a small town in north-west Argentina and an important wine-
growing area. The surrounding vineyards produce some of the best quality wine
in South America, and you should look out for the Torrontes in particular, a
distinctive white wine that is typically Argentinian and similar in style to a
Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Cafayate itself is small with a sleepy laid-back
feel, although it can become busy during Argentinian holiday periods.
Many of
the local bodegas offer tastings and tours of their wine cellars and this is easily
organised while you are here. Also worth seeking out is the local ice-cream
parlour, which together with the more usual flavours, also offers red and white
wine ice-cream! If wine is not your thing, the area is also popular for walking
and mountain-biking, as the gently undulating terrain makes for pleasant hiking
and cycling.
About Quilmes Ruins:
The ruins of Quilmes are located in Tucaman province in north-west Argentina.
The people of Quilmes were an indigenous tribe who inhabited this area as far
back as 1000AD, resisting Inca invasions in the 15th and 16th centuries and even
holding out against the Spanish for over one hundred years, before finally
succombing to a siege led by the colonial powers in 1667. After the siege
Spanish took the area over, deporting the few surviving indigenous people to a
"reservation" close to Buenos Aires. The 2000 remaining Quilmes Indians were
forced to make this 1500 km journey on foot, which meant that many died
along the way, never reaching their final destination. At it's height, the city we
see the ruins of here would have housed nearly 5000 people, today there are
only a handful of Quilmes descendents left in Tucaman. It is interesting to
wander among the ruins here today and imagine the city that would once have
been.
Today we wil drive through the spectacular rock formations of the Quebrada de
las Conchas, and reach the beautiful colonial town of Salta.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.
On th following day, we will have a free day to explore the town of Salta, visit
its many museums, or explore the beautiful surrounding hills on foot or
by
mountain bike. We will also have the chance to take the cable car to the
viewpoint on San Bernardo Hill overlooking the town, or take the famous 'Train
to the Clouds' through some of the incredible mountian scenery nearby.
In Salta we will stay in a local hotel or guesthouse.
About Salta:
Salta is an attractive town in the north west of Argentina. Nicknamed "Salta la
Linda" (or "Salta the fair") the city is well known as a handsome town in a
beautiful area. Home to some fantastic colonial architecture, the old town
centres around the main plaza which is lined with cafes and restaurants, a
great place to while away a couple of hours people-watching over a traditional
morning snack of a cafe con medialunas (coffee and small croissant like
pastries). It is an elegant and relaxed city, with a nice relaxed atmosphere, a
perfect place to wander the streets and explore. To get a better view of the city and surrounding area you can take a cablecar from Parque San Martín up to
the Cerro San Bernardo view point, and the many churches and the cathedral
are also worth a visit. Salta is also home to some fantastic museums, making it
a good place to learn a bit more about Argentinian history and culture.
Today we will have some more free time in Salta before heading up to the small village of Purmamarca, at the base of the aptly-named 'Hill of the Seven Colours' In Purmamarca we will camp at a local campsite. Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours
Border information:
Exit Argentina
at Paso Jama, enter Chile
at Paso Jama.
Today we will have a drive day to cross the mighty Andes,
cross the border into
Chile, and then
descend all the way into the Atacama desert.
Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.
On the following day we will have a free day to explore the incredible
highlights of the Atacama desert surrounding San Pedro. In the evening we will
take an included trip out to the extraordinary Moon Valley, where we will
hopefully see an incredible sunset. At night we will also have the chance to
go
stargazing, in one of the world's premier regions for astronomy
(please note
that this is only possible when there is not a full moon).
In San Pedro de Atacama we will stay in a centrally located hostel.
About San Pedro De Atacama:
San Pedro is a small oasis town in the Atacama desert. It's a quirky little place,
low-lying adobe buildings line the narrow streets, leading to a sleepy tree-lined
plaza that's home to a pretty white-washed church and a fascinating small
museum, home to some interesting mummies and various other Indian artifacts.
Pleasant though the town is, the real attraction here is the surrounding
landscape. This part of the Atacama has become well-known as a tourist
destination because of the spectacular scenery. Perhaps most well known is the
unusual desert landscape of "Moon Valley", just a short distance outside San
Pedro, where other-worldly rock formations, unsual layer-cake landscapes and
huge dunes combine to create some incredible views. The sunsets here can be
amazing, the changing light turning the stone and sand a kaleidescope of
different colours, so the end of the day is definitely the best time of day to
visit.
There are also a whole host of other activities on offer here, from star-gazing
to horse-riding and mountain-biking in the surrounding countryside. The town
itself is also a pleasant place just to kick-back and relax, with some good bars
and restaurants thanks to the developing tourist-trade.
Border information:
Exit Chile at San Pedro de Atacama, enter Bolivia at
Uyuni.
Today we will climb back up into the deserts and cross the Bolivian border into
the
wilds of the Bolivian
altiplano, a surreal and
desolate desert landscape that
stretches all the way to the town of Uyuni. We will visit the spectacular
coloured lakes of
Laguna
Colorado
and Laguna Verde en route.
In the Bolivian Altiplano we will stay in a basic mountain refuge.
Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.
About Bolivian Altiplano:
The high Bolivian altiplano stretches hundreds of kilometres from the small
town of Uyuni out across to the borders with Argentina and Chile. This is real
wilderness, there are no roads up here, just a few tracks to follow and you're
more likely to see a flamingo or llama than another human being. The only way
to cross the altiplano is by travelling in a specialist expedition vehicle like one
of our trucks, or local jeeps. The crossing is an adventurous one, with no roads
to speak of it's rough travelling and the trip from Uyuni to the border normally
takes a couple of days - but it's without a doubt one of the most unforgettable
journeys you'll ever make, because the landscape here is out of this world.
Wild and remote, the high altiplano is barren semi desert, but impressive
nonetheless. The open plains are dotted by streams and lakes, many of which
appear vividly coloured, due to the mineral deposits in the water. In the
background the lakes are flanked by the impressive volcanic peaks of the high
Bolivian Andes, awe-inspiringly beautiful and undoubtedly some of the most
spectacular mountain scenery you'll have ever seen. You'll also pass a few
remote villages, Quechua farmers who try their best to eke out a living up here
from the rough pasture, grazing a few llamas and alpacas.
The altitude here is considerable and it n be very cold and windy. When
travelling here you should be prepared for the cold temperatures and it is
worth making sure you have a really good quality sleeping bag.
Today we will have an early start to complete our epic crossing of the Bolivian
altiplano, and reach the town of
Uyuni, the gateway to the incredible salt flats
of the Salar de Uyuni.
In Uyuni we will stay in a friendly hotel, famous for serving the highest pizzas in
the world!
Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.
About Uyuni:
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 can have
a bit of a wild-west feel about it.

Affectionately nicknamed 'La Huja Predilecta de Bolivia', which means "Bolivia's
favourite daughter",
Uyuni is perhaps best known for its proximity to the
Bolivian salt flats known locally as the "Salar de Uyuni". Also in the area and
definitely worth a visit is the Cementario de Trenes, a graveyard for the
carcasses of old steam engines that have been left here to rust, an unwordly
and eerie sight set in the bright altiplano sunshine, set against the background
of the distant Salar.
Today we will
venture out onto the salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni, spending a
full day exploring this phenomenal location by jeep and on foot.
En route we
will explore the nearby train graveyard and
the cactus-filled 'Fish Island',
and
take all the time we need to get plenty of
perspective-bending photographs!
About Salar De Uyuni :
The Bolivian Salt Flats are a truly unforgettable sight, this is a landscape quite
unlike anything you're likely to ever have seen before. The Salar de Uyuni is a
dry lake of over 12,000 sq kms made of blinding white interlocking salt crystals.
It is Bolivia's largest salt pan and when there's a little water on the flats, it
reflects the bright blue sky of the altiplano perfectly, acting like a mirror and
making the horizon disappear. The effect is positively eerie. When dry, the
Salar becomes a blinding white expanse that stretches for miles and miles, as
far as the eye can see.
On the edge of the flats, local workers carve blocks of salt by hand for
processing in nearby antiquated factories, covered head to toe in old rags to
keep their bodies protected from the harsh conditions. Then when you head out
onto the Salar proper, you'll experience this unique "nothingness" of this
unusual landscape. Miles and miles of bright white salt. Bizarrely there is a
hotel situated out on the flats, where everything is made completely of salt
from the walls to the furniture
Today we will leave Uyuni
and head to the colonial mining town of Potosi, the
highest town in the world, and once famous for the area's abundance of silver!
The afternoon
will be free to explore Potosi, and there will be a chance to visit
the infamous silver mines of Cerro Rico near to the town.
In Potosi we will
stay in a friendly local
hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours.

Whilst in Potosi you can arrange to visit a mine that is still being worked, which
offers a challenging and yet fascinating insight into how mining has shaped the
history and culture of this town. Entering a dark maze of tunnels you will
descend to four levels below, down to the work face where miners use
hammers, chisels and dynamite more reminiscent of the 1800's than the 21st
century to dig out the remaining metal. Most of the silver here is long gone - it's
tin the miners are looking for now.
If you do choose to head down into the mines it's become a custom to take the
miners gifts of dynamite, fuses and cocoa leaves in exchange for their stories of
how their working conditions have not changed in centuries. Life is harsh for all
who work here but the mines have now all been organised into co-operatives
and so at least today the men have a say in their own future. You should note
that visiting these primitive mines is not for everybody as it is pretty tiring, you
will be in enclosed spaces and it can be dangerous.
Back in the city of Potosi itself, the winding streets are worth a wander. The
town has a bit of an air of fading grandeur, many of it's beautiful colonial
buildings and plazas having seen better days, but it's a fascinating place to
explore nevertheless. You can also visit the "Casa de la Moneda", the old mint,
which is a great place to learn more about Potosi's history and the story of the
mines.
About Potosi:
Potosi is a colonial mining town, founded in the sixteenth century after the
Spanish discovered huge silver deposits in the nearby Cerro Rico mountain.
Situated at over 4000m altitude, high up on the Bolivian altiplano the city can
claim to be one of the highest in the world.

Whilst in Potosi you can arrange to visit a mine that is still being worked, which
offers a challenging and yet fascinating insight into how mining has shaped the
history and culture of this town. Entering a dark maze of tunnels you will
descend to four levels below, down to the work face where miners use
hammers, chisels and dynamite more reminiscent of the 1800's than the 21st
century to dig out the remaining metal. Most of the silver here is long gone - it's
tin the miners are looking for now.
If you do choose to head down into the mines it's become a custom to take the
miners gifts of dynamite, fuses and cocoa leaves in exchange for their stories of
how their working conditions have not changed in centuries. Life is harsh for all
who work here but the mines have now all been organised into co-operatives
and so at least today the men have a say in their own future. You should note
that visiting these primitive mines is not for everybody as it is pretty tiring, you
will be in enclosed spaces and it can be dangerous.
Back in the city of Potosi itself, the winding streets are worth a wander. The
town has a bit of an air of fading grandeur, many of it's beautiful colonial
buildings and plazas having seen better days, but it's a fascinating place to
explore nevertheless. You can also visit the "Casa de la Moneda", the old mint,
which is a great place to learn more about Potosi's history and the story of the
mines.
Today we will leave Potosi and drive north to La Paz, Bolivia’s seat of
government and the highest administrative
capital in the world!
Estimated Drive Time - 10
hours.
On the following day we have
a free day to explore the city or take part in
optional activities.
In La Paz we will stay in a
good hotel in the historical centre.
Hotel for the night: Estrella Andina
Estrella Andina
Avenida Illampu 716
Zona El Rosario
La Paz
Bolivia
Tel - +591 2245 6421

About La Paz:
Bolivia's largest city, La Paz lies huddled in a canyon basin, hiding from the
harsh conditions of the surrounding altiplano. It is a fascinating city; the old
town and more expensive neightbourhoods at the bottom of the canyon in the
centre, surrounded by sprawling shantytowns which extend up the slopes of the
bowl, merging into "El Alto" back on the plains, a suburb of La Paz that has
grown to be a city in it's own right.
The city skyline is dominated by the snow-capped peaks of Mount Illimani, a
staggeringly beautiful back-drop that leaves many visitors stunned when then
catch their first glimpse of the city as they descend into the canyon. The old
town is full of markets and winding cobbled streets full of people selling
anything and everything you could ever think of. Different areas of the city have established markets selling things you'd expect like food and flower, and
also things you've probably never seen before - check out the dried llama
foetuses on sale in the witches market (Bolivian's believe that burying one of
these in the foundations of your home will ensure prosperity and good fortune)
There are plenty of other activities to do in La Paz, from playing a round at the
highest golf course in the Americas, skiing at an absurdly high height, or
trekking and gravity assisted bike rides through the Yungas. You can also
arrange excursuibs ti Mount Chacaltaya and Moon Valley where you can take in
the superlative mountain views. Another option is to visit the Tihuanacu Ruins
which are a short journey away close to the Peruvian border. The city is also
full of impressive churches and museums, including one dedicated to the
history of the Coca plant.
Please be aware that you may not be able to do all these activities during the
time you will have in La Paz at the start or finish of your trip with Dragoman, so
you may want to consider allowing some extra time here.
Border information:
if you are finishing in La Paz, you will most likely exit
Bolivia at La Paz El Alto International Airport.
Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in La Paz, and a free day
to explore the city or take part in optional activities.
Please note there is no
accommodation included on the trip tonight.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Jeep, Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 night), Camping (with facilities) (5 nights), Hostel (2 nights), Hotel (12 nights)
Included activities
  • Quilmes Ruins
  • Vineyard Tour
  • Valle de la Luna Excursion
  • Jeep tour of Uyuni Salt Flats

Dates

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Important notes

1. This trip is run by our experienced overland partner Dragoman.
2. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide 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.

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Reviews

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Santiago to La Paz , February 2016

Santiago to La Paz , March 2015