Bolivia: Flooded Uyuni Salt Flats & Sajama National Park – 7 days

Embark on a mesmerizing photographic journey through the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, nestled in the heart of Bolivia’s Altiplano. This high-altitude plateau, shaped by the dynamic forces of the Andes Mountains, shares its elevation with downtown La Paz, Bolivia, standing tall at 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) above sea level.

Located in the Departments of Oruro and Potosí in southwestern Bolivia, near the border with Chile, the Salar de Uyuni spans over 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 square miles), making it a truly unparalleled natural wonder. Millennia ago, this area was part of Lake Minchin, a colossal prehistoric lake that, over thousands of years, evolved into the shallow Paleo Lake Tauca. As Paleo Lake Tauca dried up, it left in its wake two modern lakes, Poopó and Uru-Uru, as well as two immense salt deserts, the Salar de Coipasa to the north and the expansive Salar de Uyuni south of it.

This vast plateau is a mosaic of fresh and seasonal saltwater lakes, interspersed with numerous smaller salt flats, devoid of any drainage outlets. During the rainy season, minerals and salts carried by rainwater and mountain snowmelt cascade down from the surrounding peaks and dormant volcanoes, forming a 10-meter-deep layer of salt.

The Salar de Uyuni is famed for its transformation during the rainy season, from mid-December to late March/early April. When calm winds prevail, a thin layer of water covers the salt flats, creating an awe-inspiring natural mirror. This remarkable landscape, first glimpsed by American astronaut Neil Armstrong from space, is surrounded by rugged terrain, including the formidable peaks of the Andes, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Throughout our journey, we’ll stay in various accommodations strategically chosen to provide diverse perspectives and access to rarely seen imagery. These locations include salt hotels, sites with pre-Inca mummies, the slopes of majestic volcanoes, concealed caves, encounters with wild vicuñas, and sightings of vibrant pink flamingos during the wet season.

While the Salar de Uyuni dazzles visitors year-round, the experience varies with the seasons. During the dry season, from April to December, the salt flats may not be covered in water but instead feature large puddles. Nevertheless, the ethereal beauty of the Uyuni Salt Flats remains unchanged, captivating all who visit. This enchanting destination is a bucket-list-worthy experience, offering a glimpse of the surreal and austere beauty of an otherworldly landscape.

Please note that this tour is available year-round and is not limited to the rainy season.

Whether you visit during the wet or dry season, the Salar de Uyuni promises a magical and unforgettable adventure.

We continue with the tour-de-force and head north to Sajama National Park next to the border with Chile.

Sajama National Park is a stunning natural reserve located in the Altiplano region of Bolivia. It is Bolivia’s oldest national park (est. 1939) and is known for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique geological features.  It covers an area of approximately 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) and is part of the larger Andean region.  The park’s namesake is the Sajama Volcano, which is the highest peak in Bolivia, reaching an elevation of 6,542 m (21,463 ft) above sea level and is a prominent feature of the park’s landscape.  This arid park is home to a variety of high-altitude plant species adapted to the extreme conditions of the Altiplano. The iconic queñua trees, a type of Andean evergreen, are found in the park and provide vital habitat for local wildlife and form the highest forest in the world at close to 4570 m (15,000 ft).  The wildlife include vicuñas, foxes, puma, skunks, armadillo, ducks, flamingos, condors, falcons and eagles.

One of the unique features of Sajama are the natural hot springs, where visitors can relax and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of the mineral-rich waters while taking in breathtaking views of Sajama volcano.  The park is inhabited by local Aymara communities who live a traditional way of life including small-scale farming and animal husbandry for llamas and alpacas, both providing abundant and high-quality wool.

Due to its high-altitude location and barely existent light pollution, Sajama National Park is an excellent destination for stargazing. The clear, dark skies provide an ideal backdrop for observing the night sky, including the Milky Way.

After a couple of nights in Sajama’s clear Andean skies we return to La Paz on the final day to our nice hotel and a farewell dinner.  We will arrange airport transfers based on your flight schedules any time after dinner.

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

December to April (wet season)

Group Size Limit

10 Guests

Transportation
Accommodations

Hotels & Hostels

Challenge Level

Level 2 - Easy Level

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
• Sajama National Park – Sajama volcano, geysers, wild vicuñas, surreal Altiplano views
• 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$ 3,665 / per person
Average Price4-6 travelers$ 4,050 / per person
Optimum Price2-3 travelers$ 4,365 / per person
Highest Price1 solo traveler$ 4,985 / for 1 person
  • 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

The sky-high capital city of La Paz (av. height of 11,500') lies in a deep canyon below the Bolivian Andes Mountains.

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

 

Airport Arrival

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 4,023m (13,200’) above La Paz.  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 900m (3,000’) in elevation to your hotel at 3,100m (10,200’) you should feel much better.

Immigration & Customs

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.  Once everyone is together we will head to our private vehicle for the hotel transfer. 

Private transport to the hotel

We will collect your bags then board our private vehicle for the 45-minute drive to the hotel.  We’ll have plenty of bottled water in the vehicle which helps with the acclimatization process.  We’ll be heading down a winding mountain road with breathtaking views of the valley below. We head to Hotel Mitru Sur (5*) 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 after lunch

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.  After the city tour concludes you can freshen up and rest a bit before our welcome dinner at a local restaurant. 

Group dinner and upcoming travel plans

During dinner we will get to know each other better and talk about the upcoming days and clear up anything you may have questions about.  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: Mitrú Sur (5*)

Meals Included: D

Mt. Huayna Potosi in the Cordillera Real mountain range as seen

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.  En-route we will enjoy magnificent views of the Cordillera Real above Lake Titicaca with waterfowl along the lake shore as we visit small hamlets and villages and seeing the campesinos work their agricultural lands.

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 on your own

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 to the hotel.  En-route we may have some opportunities for some photos as there is always something interesting to see on this route.  Dinner is on your own tonight; we will present you with a curated list of nice restaurant options and help you decide which is a good fit. 

Hotel: Mitrú Sur (5*)

Meals Included: B, L

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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…in the heart of the Altiplano.  We depart at 8 AM and drive out of the canyon of La Paz onto the rim of the Altiplano in about an hour, rising from 10,200 to 13, 300 ft.  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.   A couple of hours later dirt roads brings us to the northern edge of the Salar de Uyuni – Earth’s Celestial Mirror – sitting below the gaze of Mt. Thunupa, an extinct volcano rising to 5,335m (17,500’).  We pass via the villages of Jirira, and Coquesa then arrive in the village of 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 – over 4,000 square miles of salt located at 12,000 ft above sea level – the same height as downtown La Paz.  We return after sunset to freshen-up before dinner.  Dinner and overnight at Hotel Tayka de Sal.

Hotel: Tayka de Sal (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 4: Tahua - Salar de Uyuni - Tahua

 

Sunrise at the 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 after our sunrise photo session 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 in sheets hanging from the ceiling – a surreal experience. 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 seen from every angle in the region as it dominates the skyline at 5,335m (17,500’) 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.  It has signs of being an island on prehistoric Lake Minchin and Lake Tauca which were once 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 head down 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 – Challapata - Pumiri - Sajama National Park

 

Last salt flats sunrise and north to Sajama National Park

Our last morning in the salt flats. Every day there is a new sunrise spectacle, and we aim to see as many as we can. We return to the hotel for breakfast then depart soon thereafter for our journey north around Mt. Thunupa and towards Bolivia’s first National Park, Sajama. We retrace our route as we head north to Challapata then towards the western border of Bolivia with Chile. En-route we will see countless volcanoes across the vast Altiplano with many landscapes that few people ever see – rivers, lagoons, lakes, undulating scrubland, bofedales (high-altitude wetlands) and lots of wildlife; vicuñas, eagles, Rheas, ducks, fox, etc. 

Lunch en-route and visit Cities of Stone

We will have a picnic lunch at a pre-determined location in a city of stone called Pumiri where we will take time for a nice walk and see amazing natural lava flows and rock formations that look like animals, monsters, and strange beings. We continue north along remote roads before arriving at the south-western entrance to Sajama National Park. After checking-in at the park, we head to the lagoon below Mt. Sajama (Bolivia’s tallest mountain).  This strato-volcano is reflected in the lagoon and is the perfect location for both sunrise and sunset.  It rises quickly to 6,542m (21,460’) and creates its own weather patterns since there is nothing close to it in height in the immediate area.  Depending on the current weather conditions we can stay for sunset or head to the NW corner of the park to our hostel for the night in the village of Tomarapi which is about 45 minutes away. Upon arrival in Tomarapi, we will check-in to our hostel and freshen up before dinner. The hostel we are staying at is a community-owned enterprise that was founded in 2003 with the hopes of developing a sustainable business to support the tourism sector in the Sajama region. Overnight in Hostal Tomarapi (3*).

Hotel: Hostal Tomarapi (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 6: Sajama National Park - Full Day

 

Sunrise in Sajama National Park

To experience one of Bolivia’s greatest locations, we need to depart early this morning so we can arrive at the lagoon before sunrise. We depart in the dark for about 45 minutes and head southwest to the lagoon below Mt. Sajama and where the volcanic twins called “Payachatas” are located on the Bolivia-Chile border.  Sajama is Bolivia’s first National Park (est. 1945) and is named for the strato-volcano rising to 6,542m (21,460’). The volcano is the centerpiece of this spectacular, high-altitude region where extensive herds of domesticated llamas and alpacas feed in the scrublands.  Surrounded by volcanoes and puna wetlands and cut by ice-cold rivers draining from the summit glaciers, this region has many surprises. It has the world’s highest forest made up of the native Queñua tree with the tree line being close to 16,000 ft. It has a geyser field tucked into a canyon high on the slopes at around 4,572m (15,000’) where the water is hot enough to boil eggs! Caution is advised!  It is the resting place for Aymara leaders that are buried in funerary towers made of mud, straw and stone called “chullpas”.

Wildlife and Volcanic Landscapes

This wilderness is home to wild vicuñas (camelids), cute viscachas (a cross between a large rabbit and a squirrel), eagles, hawks, the Suri (American Rhea) a large flightless bird that looks very much like an ostrich but with beige and brown feathers.  Condors, also call this wind-swept region home.  We will have breakfast in the village of Sajama, before heading to visit some of the nearby natural wonders. We amble our way slowly east to Tomarapi for lunch and rest.

In the afternoon we head to the remote corners of the park to look for wildlife and other fabulous Altiplano landscapes. We plan to see the sunset at the lagoon near the village of Sajama before heading back to Tomarapi for dinner and rest. There will be time to freshen-up before dinner. Overnight at Hostal Tomarapi (3*).

Hotel: Hostal Tomarapi (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 7: Sajama - Patacamaya - La Paz

 

Final morning in Sajama National Park

Our last sunrise in Sajama. The sun lights up the eastern flank of this strato-volcano and the church in Tomarapi. We will get access to see the inside of this church and enjoy the frescoes and art that adorn the inside. After breakfast we depart on a dirt around Mt. Sajama that takes us to the southern edge of the park onto the paved road between La Paz and Arica, Chile. Our route heads east and crosses the Altiplano via canyons and river valleys and the extensive Altiplano landscape. We will stop and visit some “chullpas” (funerary towers) on the way north to La Paz.  We should arrive in La Paz in time for a late lunch.  After checking-in at Hotel Mitru Sur, you can rest and relax for the rest of the day. The afternoon is FREE for you to enjoy La Paz at your leisure.  Now would be a good opportunity for some personal shopping time.

Farewell dinner in La Paz

We will get together for a final group dinner at 7 PM at a local restaurant and enjoy one last session of recounting stories of this journey where landscapes, people and wildlife were an integral part of our adventure on the flooded Uyuni Salt Flats and Sajama National Park. We return to the hotel for some rest.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: B, L, D

 

**If you depart tonight (or very early in the AM tomorrow) we will pick you up for your departure flight three (3 hours) ahead of time.

The moon as seen from the Valley of the Moon in The Atacama dese

Day 8: 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
  • more than 25 years of tourism experience

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 staff

 

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.