Uncover South America’s encapsulating interior of colonial cities and vast salt lakes

Get exploring South America with Intrepid and Lonely Planet on a 15-day small-group experience that takes you deep into Bolivia and Argentina. Beginning in La Paz, journey from whimsical potion-filled markets through Sucre’s landscaped streets to the once-rich silver ore mines of Potosi. Take on the Bolivian desert as you embark on a 4WD adventure across the salt pans of Salar de Uyuni, winding up among the cactus-filled valleys of Bolivia’s wild west. Cross the border into Argentina to discover indigenous cultures in Tilcara, before spending a few days at leisure in the fiery capital of Buenos Aires. Local knowledge will lead the way, and plenty of freedom to explore will give you the power to see South America in your style.

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Terms & Conditions

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

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • La Paz gives 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.

  • Elegant colonial architecture, political history in spades and the hilly neighbourhoods dotted with terracotta roofs – Sucre might be Bolivia’s most beautiful city.

  • Discover the Bolivian mining town of Potosi – once a hive of activity due to its nearby abundance of silver ore, and now a historical snapshot of small-town industry.

  • Take an unforgettable 4WD adventure across the Salar de Uyuni – some of the largest salt lakes in the world. Pass cactus islands, train cemeteries and mineral lakes teeming with flamingos.

  • Get under the skin of Buenos Aires with plenty of time to explore. With its eclectic neighbourhoods, emphasis on food and wine and huge theatre scene, it’s the perfect place to travel independently.

Is this trip right for you?

  • La Paz, Potosi and Uyuni all are situated at high altitude. 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 to be safe, 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 Salar de Uyuni 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.

Itinerary

Welcome to Bolivia! Your Lonely Planet Experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, feel free to explore the side streets of La Paz, or alternatively, venture out of the city in search of crisp mountain air. You could 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 fascinating, 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’ sections of the Essential Trip Information for more details.

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).
Today, you’re free to discover La Paz at your own pace. 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, 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
For your overnight bus journey, you will travel in comfortable recliner seats, 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. Before departing La Paz, it’s highly recommended to stock up on water and snacks for the trip.
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 local cultures and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta – a 400-year-old convent which 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 check out the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Museo de la Recoleta - BOB15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy another free day to see the sights of Sucre. Resting in a mountainous valley and overflowing with white-washed buildings and well-preserved architecture, Sucre is not only Bolivia’s official 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-Inca path known as the Chataquila trek – which is mostly downhill and offers 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, with over 12,000 of them. There’s also a food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or a fresh juice at the Central Market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Sucre - Dinosaur footprints at Cal Orcko - BOB70
  • Sucre - Casa de la Libertad - BOB21
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 silver ore-rich Cerro Rico (Rich Hill). The discovery and extraction of the silver led to a financial boom for the Spanish empire; however, the city’s riches quickly diminished and its citizens soon slipped into poverty once the silver dried up. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico is definitely a highlight to consider here. 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. Intrepid has partnered with a local operator to offer travellers what has been assessed to be a safer and more rewarding option. 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. Please note that your group leader is strictly prohibited from recommending or assisting travellers in booking other mine tours that Intrepid has not deemed safe.
Today, leave Potosi behind and travel to the city of Uyuni (driving time 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 of 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
Uyuni is known to be being extremely cold at any time of the year, 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 with limited amenities, make the most of your 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 pink flamingos. Make the most of your time on the salt flats, pose for some snaps and explore Inca Wasi – an 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.
Continue driving through the spectacular landscape of the Bolivian Salt Flats with another day to explore this natural phenomenon. Depending on the time of year, the reflections themselves are nothing short of extraordinary, and you and your travel pals can take some seriously cool images. Your local leaders will stage your poses to ensure you capture the best optical illusions. Tonight (weather depending), consider booking into a stargazing experience, where you’ll go spotting shooting stars deep in the Bolivian wilderness. The skies are so clear, and with no light or smoke pollution out here, the constellations will shine bright.
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 be aware of altitude sickness. Please see the ‘Is This Trip Right For You?’ and ‘Health’ section of the Essential Trip Information for more details.
Venture out of Bolivia’s wilds and back to Uyuni town today. Once arrived and settled back into your accommodation, you’ll have a free day to check out the town or just simply relax and check out your photos after an action-packed couple of days in the desert. If you’re still up for adventure, be sure to ask your local leader for their recommendations on what to do here – there’s the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum as well as other mining towns that you may have bypassed on your way to the salt flats. After recharging your batteries (as well as your devices), why not head out to stock up on supplies and have a bite to eat with your travel group – keep it low-key tonight as you’ve got a full day worth of travel 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. Set off at 6 am from Uyuni town on a public bus to La Quiaca. Arriving around 1.30 pm, cross into Argentina by foot and then jump in a taxi to the bus station. You’ll have a chance to stop briefly for lunch with your group, before jumping on another bus to Tilcara, arriving at approximately 6 pm. Nothing is planned on arrival, but if you’re not too exhausted from today’s journey, perhaps head out for dinner – your group leader will be able to point you in the right direction for a feed.
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, 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. 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 local street food favourites, like the traditional empanada. Keep in mind that tonight you’ll be taking a two-hour flight bound for Buenos Aires, so be sure to check in with your group leader who’ll provide all the details on where you need to be, and at what time, to catch your transfer to the airport.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Half day Bike tour from Tilcara to Juella - Free
  • Quebrada de Humahuaca - Free
  • Purmamarca Town - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Fiery Latin passion, European elegance and superb cuisine combine to make Buenos Aires one of the world's most enthralling cities. You’ve got the next few days to choose your own adventure – 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 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 (3 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Buenos Aires - Malbec Trail of Palermo Urban Adventure - USD113
  • Buenos Aires - Gourmet Buenos Aires Food Urban Adventure - USD113
  • Garganta del diablo (Devil's Throat Waterfall) - Free
  • Buenos Aires - Polo day - USD185
Meals Included
  • Breakfast (2)
With no activities planned after breakfast, you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out policies. If you would like to spend more time in Buenos Aires, be sure to ask your leader for recommendations on activities and sights in this exciting city. We’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

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

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Best of Bolivia & Argentina trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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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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