4WD expedition from San Pedro de Atacama
Enjoy the jewels of South Lipez in 6 days of expedition in 4x4 and complete autonomy.
This great desert offers perhaps the most beautiful landscapes of South America, be it the multicolored lagoons or the Uyuni salt desert. For lovers of the great outdoors.
Note that this inhospitable region offers the traveler only rustic living conditions: dust, rare water, cool night.
PROGRAMME DAY TO DAY
Paso Hito Cajon - Laguna Colorada
We meet our Bolivian driver at the border post of Hito Cajón, entry gate to the South Lipez area. Today we will ride around 100 km in our private jeep, across spectacular landscapes, crossing altitudes between 4200 and 4750 m.a.sl.
Late in the morning, we will reach the Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde, at the foot of volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5704 and 5960 m.a.s.l.). We will then cross the Dali Desert (4750 m.a.s.l.). Here the strong wind has created surprising rock formations that reminds the paintings of the Spanish master. Riding along the Laguna Salada, we will reach 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 of volcanoes. We will then jump back into the jeeps to reach the geysers Sol de Mañana (4850 m.a.s.l.), a volcanic crater with sulphur springs and boiling mud. Last stop today: the Laguna Colorada (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 spend the night close to this lagoon.
Night in Latitudes hostel (basic confort).
Laguna Colorada - San Juan
Today we continue enjoying the landscapes of the Sur Lipez area… 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).
San Juan - Uyuni
Today we will live 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 the only salt hotel buil on the Salar (closed since 2001).
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.
Uyuni - Villamar
Before we go back to the Sur Lipez we will visit the train cemetery on the outskirts of Uyuni. Here a collection of old rusted train engines remind the glorious mining past of the region. We will then ride south and make different stops on the road to visit villages, in particular the model urbanization of Culpina K. Here the population has decided to waive working in mines and organized to ensure that the whole community can live from the culture of quinoa and from community based tourism. We will have lunch in the village of San Cristobal, where we can visit a beautiful colonial church if we are lucky (it is not always open). We will then cross the region of Rio Grande to reach the village of Villamar (4022 m.a.s.l.) at the end of the afternoon. Distance covered today in our private jeep: 190 km.
Night at Las Piedritas hostel* (basic comfort).
Villamar - Paso Hito Cajon
Today we head south back to Chile! Enjoy a last morning of Sur Lipez landscapes… We drive 165 km to reach the border post of Hito Cajón at the beginning of the afternoon. Here your Chilean driver awaits you to drive you to San Pedro de Atacama. Before arriving, we will cross the beautiful landscapes we discovered the first day of our Bolivian journey: Polques thermal springs, Dali Desert, Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde…