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The best of the Altiplano in 15 days: Argentina, Bolivia and Chile

Did you know that Argentina, Bolivia and Chile share an area with beautiful landscapes of canyons, lagoons, salt pans and geysers? We invite you to discover the strengths of these 3 countries in 15 days. This journey begins and ends in Buenos Aires, where we can enjoy the cuisine and culture of tango. In Argentina, we know the region of Salta and follow in the footsteps of the famous Cloud Train. We also visit several villages of pre-Inca cultures. In Bolivia, we spend a sporting day mountain biking and horse riding in the region of Tupiza and we also spend a whole day on the largest salt desert in the world: the Salar de Uyuni (3,650 m). We cross in two days the region of Southern Lipez with a high altitude (3600-4750 m) where we admire many lagoons and beautiful landscapes: the desert of Siloli, the famous stone tree and geysers Sol de Mañana. In Chile, we spend two nights in the pleasant city of San Pedro de Atacama and visit the geysers of Tatio and the Valley of the Moon.

15 Days

MAP

PROGRAMME DAY TO DAY

Argentina

DAY
1

International Aiport Ezeiza - Buenos Aires - City Tour Buenos Aires

Welcoming at Ezeiza International Airport and transfer to Buenos Aires in a private vehicle.
Transfer with an English-speaking guide.
Visit Buenos Aires (half day, walking tour).

Buenos Aires, a cosmopolitan city with European features, is among the 10 most active cities in the world. City of arts, cultures, theaters, traditions ... The variety satisfies the most demanding visitor.

You visit the 9 de Julio Avenue, the widest in the world, dominated by the Obelisk, a symbol of Buenos Aires. You will pass the Colon Theatre, one of the jewels of the Argentine architecture. Then you arrive to the famous or central Plaza de Mayo, next to buildings such as the Casa Rosada or Casa de Gobierno, the Cabildo and the Cathedral.

You end your day with the picturesque neighborhood of La Boca, and specifically the alley El Caminito, the spot for painters, tango dancers and singers.

Return to your hotel after the visit.
Night at the Tango de Mayo Hotel in standard room.

DAY
2

Domestic flight Buenos Aires* - Salta.

*National o international airport depending on time schedule and availability.

DAY
2

Buenos Aires - National Airport - Salta Airport - Salta - City Tour Salta

Transfer from the hotel to the Buenos Aires Domestic Airport in a private vehicle.
Welcoming at Salta's Airport and transfer to the hotel in private vehicle.
Half day (morning or afternoon) dedicated to the visit of the city with an english speaking guide in a private vehicle.

Salta is the capital city of the province of the same name and it is located at 1,187 masl, at the foot of Mount San Bernardo. The city was founded on April 16th 1582 by Hernando de Lerma. Both colonial-style houses and modern buildings coexist harmoniously.

Out of all the historical buildings, you visit the cathedral, built in the nineteenth century, the San Bernardo convent and the Cabildo, which houses the picturesque historical museum of the northern region of Argentina.

Visit to the very recent and interesting MAAM museum (Museo Archeologia de Alta Montaña or High Mountain Archaeological Museum) which exhibits several mummies discovered at an altitude of over 6,000 meters.

Note: MAAM closed on mondays.
Night at the Delvino Boutique Hotel in standard room.
Night at Delvino hotel in superior room.

DAY
3

Salta - Cachi

Departure to Cachi, located at 2200masl, at 157km from Salta.

We drive through spectacular landscapes such as those offered by the Piedra del Molino mountain pass at 3,600 meters, the Quebrada de Escoipe, a deep gorge where the green of the woods contrasts with the ochre of the soil on the bare mountains of “Cuesta del Obispo” and Los Cardones National Park composed of stark expanses scattered with candelabrum-shaped cacti…

Cachi is a tranquil Andean native village featuring low-whitewashed houses and the San José Church with its sculpted roof of cactus-wood dating back to the eighteenth century. We visit the small archaeological museum which has a wonderful collection of pre-Inca and Inca ceramics, especially those pertaining to the Santa María culture.

We head to La Paya Ruins. It is an important site, with many ring walls, circular stone tombs and the place known as the Casa Morada del Inca, a separate building from the rest, apparently built as a transit station in the Inca Trail.

We return to Cachi and spend the night in a hotel.
Meals not included.
Night at the El Cortijo Boutique Hotel in standard room.
Night at El Cortijo hotel in superior Room.

DAY
4

Cachi - Cafayate

Departure by private vehicle to reach the small town of Molinos, dating from 1659; there is a church, probably erected in the late eighteenth century, by the last royal governor of Salta, Don Nicolás Severo of Isasmendi, buried there. Around this chapel, is where the town of Molinos grew.

You cross the majestic "Quebrada de las Flechas" surrounded by a mysterious moonscape. White dunes announce the nearness of Cafayate, the largest city in the valley of Calchaquies, whose economy relies on the wine industry. Wine tasting in the evening.

Night in Cafayate.
Night at the Vinas De Cafayate Wine Resort in standard room (Mountain view).

DAY
5

Cafayate - Salta

This morning, we travel to Salta through the “Quebrada de las Conchas” which undoubtedly offers the visitor one of the most spectacular landscapes in the Northwest of Argentina, with its imposing semi-desert mountains featuring multi-colored rock formations sculpted by erosion. A century-old sight conceived by nature for our benefit!

Night at a hotel in Salta.
Meals open.

Note: a 191km (119mi) trip lasting approximately 2h20 minutes.
Night at the Delvino Boutique Hotel in standard room.
Night at Delvino hotel in superior room.

DAY
6

Salta - Tilcara - Purmamarca

We ride in a private vehicle along the railway tracks of the famous “Tren de las Nubes” and head first for Salinas Grandes and then for Purmamarca.

We leave Salta (1,200masl) and after a 166km (104mi) ride, we arrive in San Antonio de los Cobres at 3,774masl. But first we stop and visit Santa Rosa de Tastil (3,200masl), the pre-Inca site which dates back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries AD (a half-hour walk, approximately).

Later, we stop in San Antonio de los Cobres. Surrounded by mountains with virtually no vegetation, this wind swept village and its low buildings give an impression of remoteness. We visit the small museum dedicated to the highest railway-track in the world. Countless pictures describe its construction in the 1930s: what a saga!

As we follow our road, we reach a vast white expanse of land which contrasts against the pure blue of the sky. We are now in the very midst of one of the largest salt deserts in Argentina (1,200 sq. km), Salinas Grandes.

As we drive along a winding dirt track for a few miles, we reach the Lipán Mountain Pass, located at 4,170masl and later the last stop of the day’s tour: Purmamarca, “the Holy Land” in Aymara language. This little town is renowned for its seven-colored mountain, “Cerro de los Siete Colores”, a mineral rainbow.

Night in Purmamarca.
Meals open.

Note 1: a 347km (216mi) trip with some delicate mountain tracks lasting approximately 6h30 min.
Note 2: during the rainy season, between November and March, the access to the Salinas Grandes might become virtually impossible.
Night at the Casa de Adobe Hotel Spa in standard room.

DAY
7

Tilcara - La Quiaca

A quiet day-start to enjoy the "Cerro de los 7 colores" and the village of Purmamarca.

Departure by private vehicle to hit the Andean road, arriving after twenty kilometres to Pucará Tilcara, a pre-Hispanic Omaguaca village founded over 900 years ago. We visit the village and the remarkable collection housed in its museum including mummies, funeral vases, jewellery and other objects found in archaeological sites in the Northwest of Argentina.

We continue north to Humahuaca, located at 2940masl, one of the most important trade centres in times of the Vice Regency of Peru.

We pass through Abra Pampa and reach finally La Quiaca, next to the Argentine – Bolivian border.

Night in La Quiaca.
Meals not included.

233 km – 3 hours

Bolivia

DAY
7

Villazon - Tupiza

We meet our 4WD at the Argentinean – Bolivia border. Transfer to the pleasant town of Tupiza (3 hours on a dirt road).
Night at the Mitru hotel**.

DAY
8

Tupiza - Uyuni

Now we have to return to the Altiplano. We head north to cross the entire Colcha Pampa, where only ghosts seem to be accompanying us. (6 to 7-hour on dirt tracks).
Night at the Tambo Aymara hotel***.

DAY
9

Uyuni - Jirira

With guide – No technical difficulty – Good physical condition required
7:30 a.m. departure for Jirira, a small Aymara village to the North of the Salar, at the foot of volcano Tunupa. Our vehicle drops us off at the end of a dirt road above the village. We continue on foot to the Mirador at and altitude of 4700 meters from where the view over the Salar is magnificent. The summit (el. 5400 m.a.s.l.) can’t be reach from this side because the ascent becomes too dangerous after the Mirador (due to the presence of unstable cliffs). Return to Jirira at the end of the day.
Cold lunch. All included. Lodging at Doña Lupe and Don Carlos (basic comfort).
Hiking time: 7h; Elevation gain: +850m / -850m
Night at the Doña Lupe accommodation*.
Salar Sector Room.

DAY
10

Jirira - San Juan

Visit of Coquesa in the morning, a little village at the limit of the Salar, famous for its Chipayas mummies. We will then start the long crossing of the salar north to south, with a stop in the middle of the Salar on Incahuasi Island. This volcanic island is covered with stromatolites (fossilized bacteria representing the first traces of life on earth) and giant cacti. In the afternoon, we will head south towards the village of San Juan (3/4h), were are kept the famous mummies of the “Lipez Lords” (1200 A.D.) as well as a small museum.
Night at La Cabaña de Sal hostel* (basic comfort).

DAY
11

San Juan - Laguna Colorada

After leaving San Juan, we cross the Salar de Chiguana. From there, the dirt road climbs from 3600 m to about 4200 m of altitude. We pass at the foot of volcanoes Tomasamil (el. 5900 m.a.s.l.) and Ollague (still active), on the Chilean border. We stop at the mirador of volcano Ollague, still active and sheltering one of the world’s highest sulfur mines. We then skirt the Chilean border going south following the “Road of the jewels”: lagunas Cañapa, Hedionda, Ch’arkota, Honda, sanctuary to three varieties of Flamingoes. The track continues on through the beautiful scenery of the Siloli Desert and its famous “Stone Tree” where we can sometimes spot viscachas, before arriving, in the afternoon, at Laguna Colorada. This laguna owes its intense red-brick color to the light sensitive phytoplancton present in its water.
Cold lunch. All included. Night in shelter (basic comfort).
Night in Latitudes hostel (basic confort).

DAY
12

Laguna Colorada - Paso Hito Cajon

We depart very early in the morning for an excursion to the Sol de Mañana Geysers `(el. 4850 m.a.s.l.) a volcanic crater from which escape sulfuric fumes and heavy water. We then stop for breakfast in Polques before skirting Laguna Salada and crossing the Dali Desert (named after the scenery reminiscent of one of his paintings). We reach Laguna Verde, at the foot of volcanoes Juriques and Licancabur (el. 5960 m.a.s.l.) before noon, to witness a curious phenomenon: the wind picks up and the waters of Laguna Verde change to a spectacular emerald color.
We cross the Bolivian border in Hito Cajon in the early hours of the afternoon and after an hour long descent we reach San Pedro de Atacama (Chilean border), a refreshing oasis in the middle of the scorching Atacama desert.
Cold lunch (included). Dinner open.

Chile

DAY
12

Paso Hito Cajon - San Pedro de Atacama

Your driver meets you at the border post of Hito Cajon. A steep road up the Altiplano takes you the village of San Pedro de Atacama. 

Note, in case of bad weather conditions, the border post can close for security reasons. To continue your journey, it will be necessary to reach the border post of Ollague - 300 kilometers more (190 miles - approximately 3h) generating additional costs.
Night at the Takha Takha Hotel in a superior room **.

DAY
13

El Tatio Geysers - San Pedro de Atacama


Your guide picks you up at dawn so you can watch the sunrise over the Tatio Geysers. This is the best time of the day to observe the fumaroles, those violent jets of burning steam.

You enjoy a buffet breakfast made on site by our team. Then you can swim in the hot water pools of the Tatio. After that you go towards the Putana River’s bofedal, a great place to observe the Altiplano animals: birds, pink flamingos, vicunas…

You retake the road in direction to Machuca to discover another splendid Altiplano landscape, and if you wish you can go visit its little village, a bit “too touristic” for some. An easy walk in the Gautín area will help you stretch your legs while observing giant cactus.

Return to San Pedro in the late morning.

Altitude max. 4300m
Night at the Takha Takha Hotel in a superior room **.

DAY
14

Moon valley - San Pedro de Atacama - Calama Airport - Santiago de Chile - Valparaiso


Your driver takes you from the hotel in San Pedro to Calama airport.
Domestic flight from Santiago to Calama (around 2h, flight indicated in option).
Your driver welcomes you at Santiago airport and drives you to Valparaíso.
Night at Ibis** hotel in standard room.

DAY
15

Valparaiso - Santiago de Chile

Half day tour of Valparaiso and its old neighbourhoods, Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. This town is made of many hills crowned with picturesque houses and warehouses, steep narrow streets, lifts and street artists. You will discover this special atmosphere this place has. Seize the opportunity to have lunch in a typical seafood restaurant. Visit of La Sebastiana, one of Pablo Neruda's houses.
By foot and in public transport.
La Sebastiana is closed on Mondays.

Your driver picks you up at your hotel in Valparaíso to Santiago airport.
From Santiago airport, it is time to say goodbye to Chile, the head full of incredible memories and wonderful landscapes...

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