Disembark the Silver Cloud this morning and transfer to the airport for your charter flight to La Paz, Bolivia. After getting acclimatized and time permitting, visit the Cholet Mansion district in El Alto, guided by Freddy Mamani, the charismatic architect who started the “New Andean Architecture”. This will give you an idea how nature and culture are interwoven in Bolivia and will prepare you for Bolivia’s otherworldliness. In the evening attend a private welcome dinner. Overnight at the Casa Grande Hotel.
After breakfast, a 5-hour drive to Sajama National Park will take you to the bottom of ice-capped Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak. Your luxury yurt will be ready to welcome you with drinks and coca tea to help you relax at 4,500 meters altitude. Before dinner an informative presentation will introduce you to the wonders of Sajama National Park.
This will be a day of exploring the Sajama National Park with its volcanoes and hot springs, looking for the evergreen yareta plants that based on their growth rate are estimated to reach an age of up to 3,000 years. We intend to see one of the small Aymara communities that have lived in the rugged region for millennia. These indigenous families work the land as they have always done, raising and herding livestock, using the wool of llamas and alpacas to yarn fabrics and weave beautiful textiles. Local herders will talk to us about breeding and sheering alpacas.
Today we will travel overland across never ending plains. Heading south we will have the Occidental Andes and the border with Chile on our right while the volcanos to our left are part of the Oriental Andes. Getting closer to the Uyuni salt flats, lagunas, cacti and flamingos will become more visible. After eight hours of driving from Sajama, we will have descended some 900 meters and will reach our luxury dome camp on the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, at the base of Tunupa Volcano.
This morning you visit the small village of Tahua and will hike to the cave of the Coquesa mummies at the foot of Tunupa Volcano. The Salar is the result of transformations of prehistoric lakes and is covered by a few meters of salt crust that is being mined in a few areas. In certain parts of the Salar, small mountains emerge like islands out of the salt. We will spend the rest of the day exploring the Salar and islands, visiting Isla de los Pescadores with its cactus forest and will have an unforgettable view of the immense salt lake and the Andes during a cocktail at sunset. At night, marvel at the clear sky and the amazing view of constellations and stars.
Set out onto the salt flat during the morning, crossing some 70 kilometers towards the southern edge. Once back on terra firma we will head further south to reach what is considered Bolivia’s wildest area: Sud Lipez. At the small village of San Juan we will have a look at the tiny archaeological and ethnological museum. We will later have a beautiful view of the volcano Ollagüe and will drive past the four lakes Hedionda, Ramaditas, Canada and Chiarcota. This so-called Lagunas area has hundreds of flamingos and other birds that still thrive in these harsh surroundings. A yurt camp will be waiting for you at the end of the day.
Today you will have ample time to explore the colorful Lagunas, look for bird and wildlife, marvel at the colors of the rock formations and mountains, and take a bath in hot springs. Some of the colors of the land are so strange that one desert further southwest in the Pampa Jara has been named Dalí Desert.
Another long day will take through canyons, over passes reaching 4,800 meters, across stony plateaus and past sand dunes to reach the Eduardo Avaroa Natural Reserve. From our camp in the Siloli Desert we will drive to see intriguing rock formations, including the Stone Tree, to Laguna Colorada with its rare James’s Flamingos. From there we will enter the Salar de Chalviri to reach Laguna Verde, located at the base of the famous volcano Licancabur. The unbelievable color of Laguna Verde changes based on the sediments in the lake. After crossing the border, the drive will be going through the Chilean National Reserve Los Flamencos, losing some 2,000 meters in altitude, before reaching San Pedro de Atacama. Overnight at the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa.
Enjoy a relaxing a day at the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa. Today your only decision is how much or how little to do!
This morning we will leave San Pedro de Atacama for Calama. On the way to the airport stop at the Pukará de Quitor, a pre-Incan stone fortress looking over the San Pedro River and valley.