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Home > CONDORS' ROAD
Starting from Tupiza

CONDORS' ROAD
Starting from Tupiza

This self-sustained, off-the-beaten-path, 4Wd expedition traverses the marvels of the Bolivian Altiplano. From the pleasant town of Tupiza, we enter the “Great Lipez”, a region seldom visited by tourists where it is not rare to spot condors, and cross it until we reach the South point of Bolivia. We then head north, to the Salar de Uyuni following the route of the lagunas.

Note: This inhospitable region offers only rustic conditions, dust, sparse water points and cool nights…to the traveler. The marvels of nature must be deserved !

Map

Itinerary

  • Day 1: Tupiza - San Pablo de Lipez
  • Day 2: San Pablo de Lipez - Quetena
  • Day 3: Quetena - Laguna Colorada
  • Day 4: Laguna Colorada - San Juan
  • Day 5: San Juan - Uyuni

TRAVEL BOOK

Day 1: Tupiza - San Pablo de Lipez

We start today a five-day journey across the precious landscapes of South-Bolivia to reach the famous Salar de Uyuni.
After leaving Tupiza, we literally climb up to the Altiplano via the spectacular red rocks canyons of the Quebrada de Palala and El Sillar. We will now enter areas seldom visited and drive across wild and desert landscapes which are home to numerous condors and rheas that flew from the more visited area of Sur Lipez. Half-way, we will stop in the village of San Vicente (el. 4500 m.a.s.l.). Here ended the legendary wild ride of Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid, both killed during a shooting opposing them to the soldiers who were after them. At the end of the day we will reach San Pablo de Lipez (el. 4290 m.a.s.l.) after driving around 180 km.

Night at the Sumaj Jall'Pa hotel***.
Included : lunch (no drinks), dinner (no drinks), private transport, room & breakfast

Day 2: San Pablo de Lipez - Quetena

Today we enter the Sur Lipez area, elevated region of colorful landscapes and lagoons, rock formations and volcanoes. We will ride around 185 km to reach the village of Quetena (el. 4190 m.a.s.l.) at the end of the afternoon. After driving around 50 km we will first visit the ancient village of San Antonio del Nuevo Mundo. This village had its time of glory in the 17th century but is now totally empty. The legend tells that the village was suddenly deserted after a massive and unexplained plague of viscachas (typical rodent of the area). Driving 95 km more across desert landscapes we will reach the Laguna Morejón (el. 4855 m.a.s.l.) and the very remote Laguna Celeste (el. 4530 m.a.s.l.), both at the foot of volcano Uturuncu (el. 6006 m.a.s.l.). On our way we will also discover the strange rock formation of “el Torreón”. From the Laguna Celeste, we will drive 40 km more to Quetena.
Night at the Don Daniel accommodation.
Included : lunch (no drinks), dinner (no drinks), private transport, room & breakfast

Day 3: Quetena - Laguna Colorada

During our second day in the Sur Lipez we will discover the most famous highlights of the region. We start the day with the Laguna Colorada (el. 4278 m.a.s.l.). This immense lake of pinkish water owes its name to the presence in its waters of light sensitive phytoplankton, which also attracts thousands of flamingo part of the year. We will then visit the geysers Sol de Mañana (el. 4850 m.a.s.l.), a volcanic crater with sulphur springs and boiling mud. Next stop: the Polques thermal springs. You are almost 4200 m.a.s.l. but get ready to jump into hot water (86°F/30°C), surrounded by an amazing frozen landscape. We will then jump back into the jeeps and ride along the Laguna Salada and the Dali Desert (el. 4750 m.a.s.l.). Here the strong wind has created surprising rock formations that reminds the work of the Spanish master. Short before midday we will reach the Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde (el. 4350 m.a.s.l.), at the foot of volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5704 and 5960 m.a.s.l.). After having driven around 140 km we are here at the very south of Bolivia, close to the border with Chile. From here we will drive 90 km back to the Laguna Colorada, where we will spend the night.

Night in a shelter (basic comfort).
Included : lunch (no drinks), dinner (no drinks), entrance fees, private transport, room & breakfast

Day 4: Laguna Colorada - San Juan

This morning we head north to the Siloli Desert (el. 4700 m.a.s.l.) and its famous “Stone Tree”. Keep your eyes wide open: it is not unusual to spot some viscachas (Andean rabbits) in this area. We will then ride along the Chilean border on the scenic “Route of the Jewels”, which owes its name to all the lagoons along its way: Honda, Ch’arkota, Hedionda, Cañapa. These lagoons are home to three species of flamingoes. We will stop at the view point of volcano Ollagüe (el. 5868 m.a.s.l.). This volcano is still active and shelters one of the world’s highest open pit copper mines and then cross the small Salar de Chiguana located at the foot of volcano Tomasamil (el. 5900 m.a.s.l.). After a 230 km ride we will reach the village of San Juan (el. 3600 m.a.s.l.), where we will spend the night. This small village is famous for its surprising mummies of the “Lipez Lords” (1200 after J.C) and its interesting small museum.

Night at La Cabaña de Sal hostel* (basic comfort).
Included : lunch (no drinks), dinner (no drinks), entrance fees, private transport, room & breakfast

Day 5: San Juan - Uyuni

Today we leave the Sur Lipez and go for a unique moment: driving across the world’s largest salt flat! After a two hour ride we will reach the famous Salar de Uyuni (el. 3650 m.a.s.l.). We will then ride half an hour on the salt desert (34 km) to reach the Island of Incahuasi. This surprising island lost in the middle of the salar offers an incredible view over the Salar and the several volcanos that surround it. Of volcanic origin, it is covered with stromatolites and giant cacti (stromatolites are fossilized bacterial colonies, first traces of life on earth). In the afternoon, we continue loosing ourselves on the white desert during an hour and a half more (73 km) until arriving to the city of Uyuni. Just before leaving the Salar, we will stop in the village of Colchani to visit its salt exploitation and salt hotel (closed since 2001) and before reaching our hotel, we will stop at the train cemetery. On the outskirts of Uyuni, a collection of old rusted train engines reminds the glorious mining past of the region.

Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.
Included : lunch (no drinks), private transport, room & breakfast

Hotel Sumaj Jall'Pa   San Pablo de Lipez

Level : 3*
Included : room & breakfast, dinner (no drinks)

The Volcanos Hotel Tayka is located near the natural reserve of Andean flora and fauna (reserve Eduardo Avaroa). It houses some of the most surprising scenery in this part of the Andes. The location of the hotel overlooks the wetlands of the high Andes, with Uturuncu volcano (6008 m) in the background. From its terrace you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the whole region, and there are many hiking opportunities nearby.

Option : Accommodation driver La Paz

Lodging Don Daniel   Quetena

Level : 1*
Included : room & breakfast, dinner (no drinks)

The shelter in Quetena, owns by the mayor of the village himself, sounds lilke a perfect alternative to spend the night close to the Uturuncu volcano to try its ascent. The comfort is basic. The shelter is divided in two blocks. The first one offers private rooms w2ith bathroom and toilets and the second one, dormitories.

Lodging Don Fidel   Laguna Colorada

Level : 1*
Included : room & breakfast

This basic comfort shelter is situated in Huallajara, very close to the Laguna Colorada. Don Fidel and his daughter Pascuala manage the shelter together. The scenic view over the Laguna from the shelter is just stunning.

Hotel La Cabaña de Sal   San Juan

Level : 1*
Included : room & breakfast, dinner (no drinks)

The Cabaña de Sal is a nice little hotel built with salt blocks coming from the salt flat lake. The rooms are comfortable with private bathroom and hot water. There is no heating in the rooms.

Option : Accommodation driver

Hotel Tambo Aymara   Uyuni

Level : 3*
Included : room & breakfast

Welcome to THE Ethno-Hotel of Uyuni with singles, twins and double rooms all with heating and private bathroom. The hotel has a restaurant, a charming Ethno-bar, a video library and a parking.

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