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Home > THE GOLDEN LOOP

THE GOLDEN LOOP

On the road between the Argentinea Northeast and the Salar de Atacama in Chile, why not make a detour to the Lipez area? It is in this forsaken part of Bolivia that are hidden the most beautiful gems of the Altiplano: high-altitude lagunas, deserts, omnipresent volcanoes and let’s not forget the salar de Uyuni, the largest salt lake in the world.

This very unique tour alternates between treks and 4WD expedition. For seasoned open-space lovers.

Map

Itinerary

  • Day 1: Villazon - Tupiza
  • Day 2: Tupiza - Uyuni
  • Day 3: Uyuni - Jirira
  • Day 4: Jirira
  • Day 5: Jirira - Laguna Hedionda
  • Day 6: Laguna Hedionda - Laguna Verde
  • Day 7: Laguna Verde - Paso Hito Cajon - San Pedro de Atacama

TRAVEL BOOK

Day 1: Villazon - Tupiza

We meet our driver at the Argentinean – Bolivia border. Transfer to the pleasant town of Tupiza (3 hours on a dirt road).


Night at the Mitru hotel**.
Included : private transport, room & breakfast

Day 2: Tupiza - Uyuni

Start at 09:00am with the mountain bikes for a trip the South through a green valley to the site of El Angosto and to the Mirador of Entre Ríos (9 miles / flat). The San Juan del Oro and Tupiza Rivers meet just down below, both very colorful in different colors. We can also see from there the Tower rock. We will then visit the Quebrada Seca by 4WD with its rugged red mountains covered with cacti very particular to the area. Stop at the Canyon Duende, before arriving to Toroyoj (1½-mile by car) where we will taste the famous Tamales (food specialty made out of corn).
We will find our horses in the afternoon at the entrance of the canyon of Palmira, for a trek to the Puerta del Diablo, the Canyon of the Inca and the “Valle de los Machos”. These strange multi-colored geological formations with phallic shapes explain the origin of their name! Return to Tupiza by horse. Back to the 4WD we will drive to the Quebrada of Palala and to El Sillar, at an altitude of 3750 meters. After enjoying the view, we will drop of 800 m to Tupiza… by mountain bikes, of course!
Lunch included. Dinner not included.
Train Tupiza - Uyuni : 7.15pm - 1.15am

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

Day 3: Uyuni - Jirira

Today we will discover the world’s largest salt desert! At 09:00 a.m. we leave the hotel with our jeeps to the Salar de Uyuni (el. 3650 m.a.s.l.). After an half an hour ride, we will stop in the village of Colchani to visit its salt exploitation and salt hotel (the only one built on the Salar, closed since 2001). We will then ride 73 km on the salt desert (around an hour and a half) to reach the Island of Incahuasi. This surprising island lost in the middle of the salar offers an incredible view over the salt desert and the several volcanoes 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 will keep riding 46 km on the white desert (around half an hour) to reach its northern extremity. Here, at the foot of volcano Tunupa (el. 5432 m.a.s.l.) we will spend the night in the small village of Jirira. Before arriving, we will stop in the neighbor village of Coquesa, famous for its “chullpas”: mummies of the Chipaya culture.

Night at the Doña Lupe accommodation*.
Included : room & breakfast, dinner (no drinks)

Day 4: Jirira

Partial ascent - no technical difficulties - good physical condition required
We start the day early to climb up the volcano Tunupa, a colorful mountain located only few kilometers from the salar. Tunupa is the name of the pre-Inca god of volcanoes and thunderstorms. Our jeep will drop us off at the end of the track, above the village, at an elevation of 3850 m.a.s.l. We will then trek 3 to 4 hours to the mirador (el. 4700 m.a.s.l.). What an exceptional panorama! It almost seems like we are above the clouds or the sea, but it’s the world’s largest salt flat we are looking at! The summit (el. 5432 m.a.s.l.) cannot be attempted since the path is too dangerous. In the afternoon we will walk back to Jirira, where we spend a second night.
Trekking time: 4h - Elevation gain: +850m/-850m

Night at the Doña Lupe accommodation*.
Included : lunch (no drinks), dinner (no drinks), local guide, private transport, room & breakfast

Day 5: Jirira - Laguna Hedionda

This morning we will cross the Salar entirely from north to south (around 80 km) and drive 40 km more to the south to reach the village of San Juan (el. 3600 m.a.s.l.). This small village is famous for its surprising mummies of the “Lipez Lords” (1200 after J.C) and its interesting small museum. We will then cross the small Salar de Chiguana (el. 3650 m.a.s.l.), at the foot of volcano Tomasamil (el. 5900 m.a.s.l.) The track will then climb up to 4200 m.a.s.l. and 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. We will then drive along the Chilean border entering the scenic “Route of the Jewels”, which owes its name to all the lagoons along its way. We will border the Laguna Cañapa and Laguna Hedionda, home to three specific species of flamingoes and spend the night close to the Laguna Hedionda, at el. 4115 m.a.s.l. after driving around 255 km.

Night at the Los Flamencos hotel.
Included : dinner (no drinks), american breakfast , room

Day 6: Laguna Hedionda - Laguna Verde

This morning we will continue on the “Route of Jewels” bordering the Laguna Ch’arkota and Laguna Honda. We will then cross the Siloli Desert and discover its famous “Stone Tree”. After 70 km we will reach 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 spring. 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 of volcanoes. We will then jump back into the jeeps and ride along the Laguna Salada and the Dali Desert. Here the strong wind has created surprising rock formations that remind the paintings of the Spanish master. After driving around 225 km we will reach the Laguna Verde (el. 4350 m.a.s.l.) at the shore of which we will spend the night. Located right at the foot of volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5704 and 5960 m.a.s.l.) this lagoon gets a beautiful emerald color as soon as the wind picks up.

Night at the Alta Montaña accomodation (basic comfort).
Included : room

Day 7: Laguna Verde - Paso Hito Cajon - San Pedro de Atacama

Let’s go to Chile! The border post of Hito Cajón is only 20 km away. We will reach it before noon and our Chilean driver will await us to drive us to San Pedro de Atacama. The journey continues in Chile… ¡hasta luego Bolivia!

Transfer Paso Hito Cajon - San Pedro de Atacama.
Included : private transport

Hotel Mitru   Tupiza

Level : 3*
Included : room & breakfast

The Hotel Mitru was built in 1956. It offers comfort and amiliar, warm with a personalize service.

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.

Lodging Doña Lupe   Jirira

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

Doña Lupe is pleased to welcome you in her little hostal, situated at the northern part of the Uyuni's Salt Flat, at the bottom of the Tunupa volcano. The scenic view over the Salt Lake is simply incredible.The comfort is basic.Its rooms with private bathrooms and toilets, are not heated and the hot water is not always available.

Hotel Los Flamencos.   Laguna Hedionda

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

Hotel Los Flamencos is located on the shores of Laguna hedionda. This place gives you an extraordinary viewof the laguna. You can also observe flamingos, vicunas, and foxes in their natural habitat.

Hotel Albergue de Alta Montaña   Laguna Verde

Level : 1*
Included : room

This small shelter, located at the edge of the Laguna Blanca, offers a perfect alternative to spend a night before crossing the border to Chile or climb the Licancabur volcano. The comfort is basic. There is no heating nor hot water. The shelter propose dormitories with shared bathrooms and toilets.

Option : Driver accommodation

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