Climbing Volcanoes of the South Lipez Desert
Perhaps Bolivia has no sea but competes away by the quality of its pics. Why not try the 4 most beautiful climbs volcanoes of the South Lipez?
This unique expedition combining trekking and climbing, takes us into the heart of the Altiplano, to discover its landscapes and its breathtaking volcanoes : you will start with the partial ascent of the Tunupa volcano (4700m) where you will have an extraordinary view of the Salar of Uyuni and then continue your expedition with the ascent of the Irruputuncu volcano (5000 m) and then just after climbing, you will make a relaxing stop at the hot springs.
You will drive through the lagoons before reaching the volcano Licancabur (5960m alt.). The ascent of this one is the most technical of the 4 volcanoes. Finally you will end your sportive expedition by climbing the Uturuncu volcano (6008m), the most accessible 6000m of Bolivia!
PROGRAMME DAY TO DAY
Uyuni - Jirira
Today we will discover the world’s largest salt desert! At 9 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 (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*.
Salar Sector Room.
Jirira - San Juan
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 drops 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.
We will walk back to Jirira in the afternoon and drive to the village of San Pedro de Quemez (el. 3600 m.a.sl.), where we will spend the night. This small village is known for its surprising mummies of the “Lipez Lords” (1200 after J.C) and its interesting small museum. To join it we will cross the Salar entirely from north to south (around 80 km) and drive 40 km more south.
Trekking time: 4h - Elevation gain: +850m/-850m
Night at La Cabaña de Sal hostel* (basic comfort).
Night at La Cabaña de Sal hostel* (basic comfort).
San Juan - Laguna Colorada
After leaving San Juan, we will cross the Salar de Chiguana. From there, the dirt road climbs from 3600 m to about 4200 m of altitude. We will pass just below the volcanoes Tomasamil (el. 5900 m.a.s.l.) and Ollague (still active), on the Chilean border. Stop at the mirador of the volcano Ollague, a still active volcano containing one of the world’s highest sulfur mines. Following the Chilean border to the south we will drive on the “Road of the jewels”: lagunas Cañapa, Hedionda, Ch’arkota, Honda, sanctuary for three Flamingoes species. The track continues through the superb scenery of the Siloli Desert and its famous “Stone Tree” where we can spot some viscachas, before arriving to the Laguna Colorada in the afternoon. The intense red-brick color of this lagoon is due to the light sensitive phytoplancton present in its water.
Night in Latitudes hostel (basic confort).
Laguna Colorada - Laguna Verde
Early morning departure for an excursion to the geysers Sol de Mañana (el. 4850 m.a.s.l.) a volcanic crater from with sulfuric fumes and heavy water. After breakfast in Polques we will drive around the Laguna Salada and across the Dali Desert (which indeed looks like one of his paintings). We will arrive to the Laguna Verde, at the base of the volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5960 m.a.s.l.) by midday and see there curious phenomenon of the wind changing the color of the Laguna Verde into a spectacular emerald color.
Free time in the afternoon with option to swim in the Hot Springs or to walk around the lagoons.
Night at the Alta Montaña accomodation (basic comfort).
Laguna Verde - Quetena
Night at the Doña Braulia accommodation (basic comfort).
Quetena - Villamar
Ascent with guide – no technical difficulty – good physical condition required.
Departure in the morning from the village of Quetena towards the hillsides of the active volcano Uturuncu (“jaguar” in Quechua). We follow one of the highest drivable tracks in the world, an old mining road, culminating at 5700 meters above sea level. Depending on the snow level, the vehicle can drop us off at about 5000 m.a.s.l. From there, we start our ascent by following the dirt track to its end. A last effort will take us to the summit.
It takes about 4 hours for the ascent to the summit of the most accessible 6000-meter peak in Bolivia. Plan 1 to 2 hours for the descent.
We reach the lagunas Blanca and Verde, at the foot of volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5960 m.a.s.l.) at the middle of the afternoon. Curious phenomenon: when the wind picks up, the waters of Laguna Verde change to a spectacular emerald color.
Night at Las Piedritas hostel* (basic comfort).
Villamar - Uyuni
Morning departure for our return to Uyuni (5 to 6 hours on a dirt road). On the way, we visit the Valley of Stones , Rio Grande, an area where abound vicuñas and ñandus (Ostrich family), the model village of Culpina K and the village of San Cristobal. Arrival in Uyuni in the late afternoon and visit the train cemetery on the outskirts of town.
Cold lunch (included).
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.