Bolivia: Altiplano Salt Flats, Volcanoes & Pink Flamingos – 14 days

The natural wonders of Bolivia’s Altiplano stand unparalleled on Earth. Situated between Peru to the northwest, Chile to the west, and Argentina to the south, Bolivia claims an astonishing 90% of this high-altitude plateau, enveloped by the interconnected minor ranges of the Andes Mountains, defining South America’s backbone.

Our journey commences at the northern edge, where La Paz rests amidst the imposing Cordillera Real. Progressing southward, the Altiplano reveals its mysteries across rolling landscapes. We acclimate in La Paz at 12,000’/3,660m before setting course for Lake Titicaca (shared between Peru and Bolivia at 12,500’/3,810m). The Island of the Sun, birthplace of the Inca Empire, beckons from the Cordillera Real and Apolobamba ranges, embodying a convergence of natural majesty.

Continuing southward, we drive across the Salar de Uyuni, the planet’s largest salt flats. Encompassing over 3,900 sq mi/10,000 sq km, it metamorphoses into a celestial mirror during the rainy season, a testament to its ancient origins, boasting dormant volcanoes, cactus-laden islands, and snow-capped peaks bordering Chile.

In the remote southwest, the Sud Lipez region rises to heights of 14,050’/4,280m, adorned with lava flows and ancient petroglyphs recounting bygone civilizations. Amidst the towering 20,000’/6,000m volcanoes lie the Red and Green Lagoons, epitomizing a juxtaposition of power and serenity in an unforgiving terrain. Here, myriad flamingos, wild vicuñas, and the robust American Rhea thrive amidst the harsh Andean high-altitude deserts.

At the southernmost tip of Bolivia lies a colossal caldera at 16,000’/4,875m, teeming with geysers and boiling mud its, feeding the Sol de Mañana geothermal plant and the Polques hot springs at its feet.

Venturing eastward, hot springs, salt flats, and multicolored deserts paint a subtle tapestry, leading to rugged canyons near the Argentinian border. Descending from the southeastern Altiplano, Tupiza enchants with its vibrant canyons, offering a sanctuary from the rugged landscape and boasting a Mediterranean climate.

Our journey continues to Potosi, a colonial-era city enriched by the exploitation of native labor under Spanish rule. Descending from the lofty heights, we find respite at Hacienda Cayara, a living museum nestled in a protected canyon, preserving Bolivia’s rich history from over 300 years ago.

Returning to where it all began, the journey concludes in La Paz. As we gaze upon the Cordillera Real’s snow-capped peaks and the sprawling cityscape of El Alto, below the rim, La Paz hides in a deep canyon, a testament to resilience against the altiplano’s harsh elements.

A farewell dinner in La Paz celebrates our remarkable journey through this captivating region, a testament to Bolivia’s natural and cultural wonders which you have experienced first-hand.

Tour Length
14 Days
13 Nights
Start / End City
Arrival: La Paz, Bolivia
Departure: La Paz, Bolivia
Best Season

*optimum March to November

Group Size Limit

10 Guests

Transportation

4x4 vehicles

Accommodations

Hotels & Hostels

Challenge Level

Level 3 - Moderate

Highlights

  • La Paz, Bolivia – the world’s highest Capital city, hiding between the Andes and Altiplano
  • Andes Mountains – the world’s longest chain with many peaks over 6,000 m (20,000 ft)
  • Lake Titicaca – the world’s highest navigable lake in Bolivia and Peru at 3,810 m (12,500 ft)
  • Bolivia’s Altiplano – 500×170 km (310×105 mi) at av. height of 4,000 m (13,000 ft)
  • Strato-volcanoes, hidden river valleys and lava rock canyons hiding petroglyphs
  • Native Aymara and Quechua people that are part of the intricate social fabric of Bolivia
  • Visit Inca ruins that are the roots of the most expansive empire in South America
  • Visit colonial cities and ruins from the Spanish empire that controlled the region for 300 years
  • Unique flora and fauna of the Andes; condor, vicuña, llama, alpaca, Suri, Queñua tree
  • Uyuni Salt Flats – the world’s largest and highest salt flat 10,500 sq km (4,085 sq mi) of salt
  • 4×4 vehicle overland adventure – taking you to remote and breathtaking landscapes

Prices

Our tour prices are based on a tiered pricing modelMore guests = lower price, per person.  That means the prices go down on a per-person basis as more people book onto a specific tour departure.  Prices are based on double occupancy / twin share basis.  All prices are in U$ Dollars.  

Contact us for guidance on a quote for your group or private trip.

Lowest Price7-10 travelers$ 6,850 / per person
Average Price4-6 travelers$ 7,185 / per person
Optimum Price2-3 travelers$ 8,025 / per person
Highest Price1 solo traveler$ 11,150 / 1 person
Single Supplement Feeper person / per tour$ 875 / per single room
  • Single Supplement Fees are quoted per tour.  Contact us for details.
  • Deposit: $ 700.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee, included in the final price).
  • International airfare is NOT included in price.
  • For airline tickets, contact Geo Travel at 210-225-7903

Daily Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrival La Paz, Bolivia (AM) – City Tour (PM)

 

Airport Arrival, Immigration & Customs

Depending on your international flight schedule you will arrive very early in the morning (between 2-6 AM) at El Alto International Airport. The airport is in the city of El Alto which is on the edge of the Altiplano at 4,023 m (13,200 ft) above La Paz (downtown La Paz is at 12,000 ft). You are now at high altitude; so, you need to be aware of the effects of altitude on your body; you may feel light-headed and short of breath, but that’s normal.  Once we drop down 900 m (3,000 ft) in elevation to your hotel 3,100 m (10,200 ft), you should feel much better.

Upon arrival, you go through Bolivian Immigration for your tourist visa (issued upon arrival) then Customs (Aduana).  Your guide will be waiting for you at the general passenger meeting point, just look for the sign from Sergio Photo Tours.  We will take your luggage to our private vehicle for transport to the hotel.

Private vehicle transport to your hotel

We drive from the airport to the lowest elevation in the city of La Paz which sits at 3,100 m (10,200 ft ). We’ll be heading down a winding mountain road with breathtaking views of the valley below. We head to Hotel Mitru Sur (or similar), located in Calacoto-Achumani neighborhood.  You’ll check in and rest until lunch time (on your own) at the hotel.

The best way to acclimatize to altitude, is to move slowly, drink plenty of water and rest when you are tired.  Acclimatization time is a very personal affair, some do it quickly, and others take more time. It can take a few hours or a few days.  Listen to your body.  We design all high-altitude itineraries with acclimatization time built in.

La Paz city tour

At 2 pm we’ll begin a 4-hour city tour of this fascinating city deep in the heart of the Andes; visiting open air markets, colonial neighborhoods, the witches’ market and take in the vast canyon of La Paz from breathtaking viewpoints.  We return to your hotel so you can rest before dinner.

Hotel & welcome dinner

After the city tour concludes you can freshen up and rest before dinner.  We will get to know each other better over dinner and talk about the rest of the trip in detail.  Now would be a good time to make sure everyone is set with all their clothing and equipment questions and anything else they need to do.  Once we leave La Paz, we are not coming back until the end of the trip.  We recommend a light dinner, avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.  During the day you may want to enjoy a Mate de Coca (coca tea), a local herbal tea that helps with acclimatization, but refrain from it at night.  Anise and chamomile teas help with digestion as well.

Keep drinking water, it’s very important for acclimatization.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included:  D

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Day 2: La Paz – Lake Titicaca – La Paz

 

Breakfast and AM departure

We hope you rested well and enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the hotel. Today we depart at 8 AM to Lake Titicaca, the jewel of the Andes.  Our aim is to take you to see Bolivia from generations past, where few if any tourists go.  We head to the Taraco Peninsula on the small lake. En route we will enjoy magnificent views of the Cordillera Real rising above Lake Titicaca with waterfowl along the lake shore as we visit small hamlets and villages and seeing the campesinos work their agricultural lands as they have for generations.

Lunch on the shore of Lake Titicaca

Our lunch spot has great views of the lake where traditional Bolivian dishes are served, soups, fresh trout and local vegetables.  We have a few choice restaurants with views and proper bathrooms.  After a casual lunch and a brief walk, we begin our return to La Paz.

Return to La Paz & Dinner together

We will return towards La Paz at an appropriate time to avoid the traffic of the city of El Alto.  Our drive should be about 2 hours from our restaurant on the lake to the hotel.  En-route we will have some opportunities for some photos as well.  Dinner is at a local restaurant so we can get to know each other better.

Hotel: Mitrú Sur (5*)

Meals Included: B, L, D

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Day 3: La Paz – Oruro - Tahua - Salar de Uyuni

 

Breakfast & AM departure to the Uyuni Salt Flats

After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, we head south towards the Uyuni Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) …in the heart of the Altiplano.  We depart at 8 AM and drive out of the canyon of La Paz and head south on the Altiplano.  Drive time from the hotel to the rim of the Altiplano is about an hour, rising from 10,200 to 13, 300 ft.

Southeast to Oruro, lunch in Challapata and a salt hotel

Our direction is south on the main paved road that will take us to Oruro and continue to the town of Challapata for lunch.  Continuing southwest we pass by the town of Salinas de Garci Mendoza then we begin the dirt road portion of today’s journey.   About an hour and a half on dirt roads brings us to the northern edge of the Salar de Uyuni – Earth’s Mirror.  We pass via the villages of Jirira, then Coquesa then arrive in Tahua.  Depending on our arrival time and the current weather conditions we can either check-in or head to the edge of the salt flats for sunset.  Before your eyes is the world’s largest salt flat – the Salar de Uyuni – over 4,000 square miles of salt located at 12,000 ft above sea level! It’s actually the same height as downtown La Paz.  We return after sunset to freshen-up before dinner. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Tayka de Sal (4*).

Hotel: Tayka de Sal (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 4: Tahua – Chiquini - Salar de Uyuni – Tahua

 

Sunrise at the Uyuni salt flats

Hopefully you got bed early and had a good night’s rest.  We depart pre-sunrise for a 10-minute drive to the edge of the salt flats today. There are few things more spectacular than watching the sun rise over the eastern horizon and reflecting on the flooded salt flats of Uyuni! The sun rises quickly at these latitudes so soon after sunrise we return to the hotel for a proper breakfast. After a brief rest, we depart inland to the caves of Chiquini, where we will see ancient formations of petrified plants. The route winds across canyons and overlooks where you will see the different faces of the salt flats. We will have a picnic lunch en route and return to the hotel for a brief rest in the afternoon.

Mt. Thunupa volcano and mummies and sky-high view of the Salar de Uyuni

After a rest we drive up the flanks of Mt. Thunupa, an extinct volcano seeing from every angle in the region as it dominates the skyline at 17,460’/5,321 m and is used for navigation. Upon arrival to the end of the road we take a 5-minute walk around the flanks to a hidden cave where mummies lie from the pre-Inca period. The volcano was active during the Pleistocene era with lava flows constructing the layers of the volcano and there are signs that it was once glaciated until about 15,000 years ago and it has signs of being an island on Lake Minchin and Lake Tauca which once were part of the Altiplano. The jaw-dropping views from this height will show you that you still cannot see the edges of the world’s largest salt flat. We return to the edge of the salar for sunset and then return to the hotel for dinner and rest. Overnight at Hotel Tayka de Sal (4*)

Hotel: Tayka de Sal (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 5: Tahua – Coquesa Mummies – Salar de Uyuni islands – Uyuni

 

After breakfast we head east, around the foot of Mt. Thunupa to the village of Coquesa where we will drive up the flanks of this volcano to see mummies that are found in a cave nearby. The view, 1000 ft higher, will give you a much better idea how incredibly massive the Salar de Uyuni is!  Afterwards, we enter the salt flats and head south, to the center of it to Incahuasi Island where we will have time for a walk to the top of the island before having lunch. We head east towards Colchani, the only exit in the southeast corner, before we continue onto the town of Uyuni. We exit via the village of Colchani and then head 30 minutes down the road to the city of Uyuni. We will check into our hotel and freshen up. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Jardines de Uyuni (4*).

Hotel: Jardines de Uyuni (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 6: Uyuni – Chiar Khota Lagoon– Siloli Desert– Ojo de Perdiz

 

We depart after an early breakfast and head southwest, towards the Sud Lipez region. We take only dirt roads today that are minimally maintained then continue onto remote roads that are much rougher. We fuel up one last time in San Cristobal, as there are no gas stations anywhere in the region! Our route takes us via a city of stone, a massive lava flow with strange and unique formations. As we head south, we begin the route of the lagoons, where a series of high-altitude lagoons dot our route on the western border of Chile and Bolivia. This is the home of pink flamingos, eagles and wild vicunas. We enter the Siloli desert after a series of secluded Altiplano canyons and emerge onto one of the most spectacular high-altitude deserts in all of South America. This multi-colored pastel desert surrounded by 18,000 ft volcanoes is where the magic of the Sud Lipez region shows its character. Our hotel overlooks this desert, and we will check-in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Tayka del Desierto (4*).

Hotel: Tayka del Desierto (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

Pink flamingos at sunrise at Laguna Colorada in southwestern Bolivia's Sud Lipez region of the Altiplano.

Day 7: Ojo Perdiz – Lag Colorada/Verde – Sol de Mañana – Polques - Villa Mar

 

Today we have an early departure so we can catch the sunrise at Laguna Colorada while the flamingos are still waking up. After Laguna Colorada we begin the slow climb to the highest pass on our route (4,816 m/15,800 ft). We’ll flank the boiling mud pits and steaming fumaroles at Sol de Mañana crater, where hot volcanic gas exit into the cold Andean sky. We drop into the Salar de Chalviri and the Polques hot springs for an early lunch. We continue southwest via the Desierto de Dali and continue to Laguna Verde that sits below Mt. Llicancabur, a strato-volcano straddling the Bolivia-Chile border that rises to 5,916 m/19,410 ft. We return towards Polques Hot Springs and continue over a small range and onto the village of Villa Mar. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Mallku Cueva (4*).

 Hotel: Mallku Cueva (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 8: Villa Mar – Salar de Chalviri - Quetena Chico – San Pablo de Lipez

 

Today is a long day. We’ll get started soon after an early breakfast. As we head southeast, we’ll marvel at how the morning light dances on the spectacular landscape found in the Sud Lipez region’s multi-colored lagoons, salt flats, lava flows, Andean puna marshes, rocky canyons and sandy desert landscapes.  In a secluded spot, we’ll have a picnic lunch. The canyons and pampas offer a never-ending kaleidoscope of colors and geographic wonders around every corner. Continuing east to the town of San Pablo de Lipez, we will cross a series of rivers before arriving in a perfect location for sunsets as the pampas, and Sud Lipez Mountain Range catches the setting suns’ full effect. After checking-in we’ll have dinner at the hotel. Overnight at Hotel Sumaj Jall’Pa in San Pablo de Lipez (2*).

Hotel: Sumaj Jall’Pa  (2*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 9: San Pablo – Lipez Mountain Range - Ciudad Roma – San Pablo de Lipez

 

We want to take advantage of the full day as we have much to see in the canyons south of San Pablo. The drive is about an hour and a half, over rough terrain. The closer we get to the end of the road, the more spectacular the scenery becomes. Once we arrive at the top of a knoll, we take time to orient ourselves to the scene before us; deep canyons, eroded mountains, volcanoes in the distance a a citadel of eroded sandstone that dominates the scene. This is Ciudad Roma, a hidden treasure that few people ever see. As eons passed, layers of sediment eroded via wind, water, freezing temps and scorching sun and left behind a masterpiece of natural beauty that is hard to believe. We take our day packs with lunch and drinks, and we begin our hike down to the valley bottom. Our hike can be short or long, depending on the group, but one thing for sure, it will be breath-taking! We have lunch en-route and continue until we are satisfied with our discoveries. The return is uphill, so we make sure to pace ourselves on the way back to our vehicles. We return to San Pablo de Lipez before sunset, enjoy a shower and then have dinner together. It will be a long day, but it will be more than worth the effort. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Sumaj Jall’Pa  (2*)

Hotel: Sumaj Jall’Pa  (2*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 10: San Pablo Lipez – Ciudad Encantada – Tupiza

 

Today’s drive climbs over a series of mountain ranges and goes into hidden canyons before emerging onto a dry riverbed. The terrain changes all the time, and we will see deep reds, yellows and greens all over the landscape as we drive northeast towards a hidden location known as La Ciudad Encantada (the Enchanted City), a series of deeply scarred hills, full of canyons, mud flows that seem frozen in time and intricate and delicate formations that few ever see. If you can imagine a room full of melted down candles, two hundred feet high, then you can imagine this place. It is surreal and other-worldly, delicate and spooky and utterly mesmerizing! After our visit we have a picnic lunch then continue on our way southeast towards Tupiza. Keep an eye out for condors as they are often seen en-route.

The drive will keep us high above the rugged canyons for some time until we come to the edge of a cut in the geography and below us will be the town of Tupiza, surrounded by grey and red rock canyons and massively eroded badlands. This truly is one of Bolivia’s most spectacular vistas, bar none! We should be arriving just before sunset when these hills come alive with colors. After dropping two thousand feet into the canyon, we will enjoy Tupiza’s temperate climate. After check-in and a shower, we get to enjoy Tupiza’s restaurant options. Overnight at Hotel Mitru (3*).

Hotel: Mitru (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

The multi-colored layers of eroded badlands catch the last rays

Day 11: Tupiza - Canyons and Badlands – Tupiza

 

To catch the glimmering sunrise today we’ll be departing before the sun rises to spectacular canyon country, an hour away across a dry riverbed. After sunrise, we return to Tupiza and have breakfast at our hotel. The rest of the morning is free for you to rest and relax; swim at the pool, read a book or just enjoy some quiet time. Lunch together at 12:30, then a brief rest before we head out around 4 pm to another set of canyons just outside of Tupiza. We return to our hotel after sunset and freshen up before dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Hotel Mitru (3*).

 Hotel: Mitru (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

The colonial-era Hacienda Cayara near Potosi, Bolivia is now a h

Day 12: Tupiza – Potosi – Hacienda Cayara

 

Our direction today is north to Potosi – the sky-high imperial colonial city that made the Spanish rich. The drive is a little over 3 1/2 hours on a paved road. The terrain and scenery along the way encompasses river canyons, rugged mountains and mining centers, still active after centuries of exploitation. The red earth and weeping willows are a beautiful contrast to the desert Altiplano we just left. We should arrive in Potosi, the world’s highest major city at a lofty 12,989 ft / 3,960 m in the late morning.  Lunch in Potosi upon arrival.  After a hearty lunch we visit the Casa de la Moneda (the Spanish Mint) where we will get a view of the cultural complexity that is part of Bolivia’s historical tapestry. Afterwards we head down to a hidden valley and a colonial-era Hacienda named Cayara. Cayara is a living museum, a working hacienda and a place to experience Bolivia’s colorful Spanish colonial history. The hacienda sits much lower than Potosi and is about 45 minutes from downtown. Dinner and overnight stay at Hacienda Cayara (4*).

Hotel: Hacienda Cayara (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

A miner with a wad of coca at the entrance to the colonial-era m

Day 13: Hacienda Cayara – Potosi – Hacienda Cayara

 

We can choose what we do today after breakfast.  Explore deeper into the high Andean valleys and see the people work the land. We could walk the city of Potosi to get deeper into the history of the colonial-era of Spanish domination and the modern-day enduring customs.  Or we could visit a working mine cooperative in the heart of the Cerro Rico to capture the real-life working conditions of miners working deep underground with the most basic tools in extreme conditions.  It’s an experience you will never forget!  Afterwards we’ll have lunch in Potosi then head down and spend the rest of the afternoon at Hacienda Cayara which has plenty of its own colonial history to share – original paintings, Spanish hand-written leather-bound books and bibles, hand-made furniture, original colonial-era clothing, frescoes and a private chapel!  Dinner and overnight at Hacienda Cayara (4*).

Hotel: Hacienda Cayara (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 14: Hacienda Cayara – Challapata – Oruro – La Paz

 

The drive to La Paz will take a while but is very spectacular because it stays high in the mountains for the first half of the trip and it’s on a paved road all the way to La Paz, so it’s fast and comfortable. Along the way you will see multi-colored red valleys, high peaks, green puna wetlands with llamas and alpacas grazing. The closer we get to La Paz you will see the glacier-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real rising above the Altiplano. The scenery is magnificent and should provide plenty of visual appeal along the entire route. We should arrive in La Paz in the late afternoon. Group dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate a wonderful and adventurous journey of the Bolivian Altiplano. Overnight at Hotel Mitru Sur (5*).

Farewell dinner in La Paz

We will get together for a final group dinner at 7 PM at a local restaurant, specializing in Bolivian dishes.  Our final group dinner where we get to share stories of this journey where landscapes, people and wildlife were an integral part of our adventure.

We return to the hotel for rest before we pick you up for your early morning departure flight back home.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 15: Airport Transfer in La Paz

 

Based on your flight schedule, we will coordinate a departure time from the hotel. The ride from hotel to the airport takes 45 minutes. Domestic flights require 1.5 hours before departure and international flights require 3 hours before departure.

Hotel: none

Meals included: none

End of our services.

Included

  • airport Transfers IN and OUT of your arrival city
  • private vehicle and driver
  • bi-lingual photographer guide
  • all hotel / hostel /estancia accommodations for all nights (based on double occupancy)
  • all daily meals as denoted on the itinerary as ‘B, L, D’ (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • all entry fees and permits to protected areas: national parks, islands and museums
  • domestic airfare within the destination country (if there is a domestic flight in the itinerary, it’s included)
  • unlimited bottled water per person per day
  • snacks during the whole trip
  • Over 25 years of experience in tourism

Not Included

  • international airfare to destination country
  • visa requirement and fees
  • personal expenses of any kind (liquor, laundry, personal purchases, etc.)
  • telephone, email, mobile phone, Wi-Fi services
  • emergency evacuation expenses
  • personal travel or health insurance, doctor visits
  • gratuities to guides, drivers and other personnel

 

We, of course, would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic to make sure you receive medical care.