Discover an unearthly realm of unbridled adventure on this ten-night Atacama to Uyuni Salt Flats tour, a private and privileged pilgrimage of deep immersion along the ancient Incan Qhapaq Nan trail across the altiplano between Chile and Bolivia.
Exclusive, All-Inclusive Excursions
The ultimate in extreme exploration, this Salar De Uyuni tour from San Pedro De Atacama will take you on a remote yet culturally rich route through some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes and unique ecosystems imaginable, from the arid desert delights of Atacama to the spectacular saline scenery of the Uyuni Salt Flats.
You’ll have the exclusive comforts of your own vehicle, chauffeured by your very own private local driver, and escorted by your own encyclopaedic Explora guide to assist, inspire and enrich your journey every step of the way.
With their help, you’ll effectively choose your own path from a multitude of different daily explorations of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, so each day can be paced and tailored to your own particular interests, or how you’re feeling.
Along the way you’ll explore three different altitude zones, discovering first-hand their unique geographic, cultural and biospheric characteristics. Hike to breathtaking viewpoints with panoramic vistas of the altiplano and salt flats (which you can also cycle over), scale volcanoes, relax in hot springs, stargaze under clear Andean skies, and even spot puma tracks, all whilst unraveling the rich human history of the region.
Little Luxurious Lodges
Explora are renowned for their remarkable, sustainable South American lodges in some of the continent’s most remote and precious locations, and their Explora Atacama and Explora Uyuni lodges, where this expedition starts and ends, are no exception.
Explora Atacama has 50 rooms, indulgent spa facilities and its own observatory, and provides an oasis of calm for your opening days of acclimatization and exploration of the sand dunes, geysers, hot springs, and volcanoes of this desert domain. Explora Uyuni is the latest of their lodges, a minimalist mirage of scandi-style luxury amid the dreamlike salt-scape of the final destination of your tour.
En route to Explora Uyuni, you’ll stay in two beautiful, aptly-named “Mountain Homes” in Chituca – a former shepherding settlement steeped in history and surrounded by hidden villages, necropolises and petroglyphs – and Ramaditas – a remarkable region surrounded by flamingo-filled and vicuña-lined lagoons – both exquisite bases from which to explore their surrounds and recuperate from the days’ excursions.
The Mountain Homes have space for just 12 travelers in 6 rooms, and the Explore Uyuni lodge space for 16 in 8 rooms respectively, all with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a separate dining and lounge areas serving sublime indigenous cuisine from Bolivian Chef Mauricio Lópex (of famed Ancestral restaurant in La Paz), all made with locally sourced ingredients and accompanied by wines from the region.
Established in partnership with local families and designed by award-winning Chilean architect Max Núñez, these Mountain Homes and lodges have been painstakingly planned to avoid interference with, blend into, and highlight the landscapes around them, and have been carefully constructed so as to be reversible and leave no permanent footprint.
Altitude & Altiplano Safety
Your team have been traveling this route, exploring the furthermost reaches of the altiplano, and perfecting their portfolio of excursions for over 15 years, and know the region better than many of the locals you’ll meet along the way.
Such remote adventure is not without its dangers, but rest safe in the knowledge that they have all the necessary equipment and infrastructure to ensure your safety and that of the inhabitants and wildlife of the pristine landscapes you’ll discover.
Your guide has Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification as proof of their knowledge and skills to aid people in isolated areas, and the all-terrain vehicles are endowed with satellite communication and navigation systems, VHF radio, and oxygen – which may come in useful on a journey that for the most part fluctuates between 3,600 and 4,700 m.a.s.l. (although the itinerary has been carefully crafted to slowly adapt you to the altitude, starting from Atacama which lies at 2,400 m.a.s.l.).
From the driest desert on earth to its biggest salt flats, to experience this astonishing journey across the altiplano is sure to be one of the most remarkable adventures of your lifetime. Please note the season for this Atacama Desert and Uyuni tour is from mid-April to mid-December, and may also be done in reverse.
Itinerary & Prices
San Pedro De Atacama, Chile
We pick you up at the Calama airport and transfer you to the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama, located at 2,407 meters above sea level/ 7,897 feets above sea level. It is a 1-hour drive to the explora Atacama, where your arrival sparks an immersion in the essence of the remote. After your welcome, we introduce you to the region with an opening talk. Next, you and a guide decide together where and what you will be exploring in the next few days.
We do recommend you start off by exploring the oasis, the La Sal and Domeyko mountain ranges, the Atacama salt flat and the unparalleled canyons, landscapes and ecosystems. After that, adventuring yourself over the Altiplano’s 4,000 m.a.s.l/ 13,123 f.a.s.l. is an experience you will not regret. But above all, experiencing the Puritama hot springs with your own senses is a must.
This is the perfect start for the transforming journey ahead of you. Warm up body and mind by unravelling the many charms that astonishingly bloom in the Atacama desert.
Atacama Desert, Chile
Delve into the world’s driest desert and feel its inextricable aura in every landscape. The plan you and your guide have idealised together begins to unfold at your own pace in this private programme.
The activities range from light to difficulty levels, short to long durations, and multiple exploration methods: hiking, horseback, bike rides, drives and short walks, and even mountain climbing, for the adventurous-spirited. And remember: any weather makes a perfect day for exploring. But if the skies happen to be clear, dive into the fresh desert night sky in an astronomy session in the observatory in search of the Southern Cross, Orion and other constellations.
Atacama Desert, Chile
Depending on your tailored travel plan, you’ll participate in your chosen activities, discovering the lunar landscapes of Atacama. The desert hides striking geographic features: active geysers and white salt flats, multi-colored lagoons, thermal baths, volcanoes and dunes among many others, all waiting to be explored.
Perhaps you’ll hike along ancient shepherding routes, visit the vestiges of fascinating pre-Columbian civilizations, or climb the sinuous slopes of the Licancabur volcano as you become further acquainted with this strange and wonderful territory.
Crossing The Border To Bolivia
Time to get back on the move. As sunlight cracks the deep blue sky, we depart from San Pedro de Atacama early in the morning and leave behind the oasis – but all we have lived and learned these first few days remains with us for life.
We begin the trip through the Andes and reach the border at Hito Cajón, 47 km/ 29 miles away from our starting point. We are now in Bolivia. Along with an explora guide, we switch vehicles and carry on our journey through the captivating entrails of the Altiplano.
The exploration continues as we go. We visit the Sol de la Mañana geysers and a myriad of salt flats, wetlands and lagoons. The Colorada lagoon is the perfect spot to sight flamingos in their natural habitat, and also where we savour lunch as we gaze at the colours of the Altiplano vividly mingling.
We then proceed until we reach the mountain home at Ramaditas, where we watch the sun set into the horizon and finally rest for a new day. As we close our eyes, we can feel and listen to the vast silence, the lonely beauty of the territory we have just started to unearth.
Fresh exploration possibilities come to life with every inch of the Altiplano illuminated by the new morning. Ahead of you: a day full of discoveries.
Choose from hikes, overlands, and mountain climbs to unfold the beauty and spirit within the shimmering lagoons, vast valleys, bewildering salt flats and majestic rocky formations – some of them so grand we call “cathedrals” – surrounding the mountain home.
When night starts to fall, we return to the refuge and spend the evening at the heart of the Altiplano, connecting with nature and with ourselves.
From Ramaditas To Chituca
The wondrous landscapes are never-ending as we approach the Uyuni salt flat. In the morning, we set off to Chituca, where we will spend the next night –we get to walk through ancient mines and valleys on the way.
The Turquiri lagoon, with its great diversity of birds and rock formations, is the perfect setting for a restoring lunch, followed by the time to explore the region in greater depth: you may choose between hiking or alternating drives and short walks.
After the exploration is done, we continue the drive towards Chituca, where we will learn about the culture and lifestyle of local families.
Another new day in Chituca allures deeper exploration of this abundant region. You may delve into the wonders of the territory in a full-day exploration, or return for lunch at the mountain home.
Trail ancient routes, discover shepherds’ havens, sight the colours of quinoa plantations, decipher petroglyphs and pictoglyphs that depict Andean history, and even climb the mountains to presence the region’s active volcano.
At nightfall, the silence of the Altiplano fills the air as we wonder at the starry shimmering sky, which has served as a map for the people in the region for centuries and at which we will be able to have an exceptional look through astronomical binoculars.
From Chituca To Uyuni
After a fulfilling breakfast, we set off to one of the explorations of your choice. Explore the surroundings, roaming the cactus forest and the ancient agricultural terraces nearby. Or visit the village of San Pedro de Quemes, a former Spanish settlement with bewildering panoramic views of the Altiplano and the salt flat. We then continue our journey towards the Gruta de Las Galaxias, an astonishing cave with rare geological formations where you will discover and experience a fascinating part of Andean history.
Resuming our trip, 10,000 km2/ 3,861 mi2 of pure white majestically emerge out of thin air before us – we arrive at the Uyuni salt flat. This is the salt flat with the greatest area and the highest altitude on Earth, located at 3,665 m.a.s.l./ 12,024 f.a.s.l. We stop for lunch at the salt flat, where your next expedition sets off: an explorative hike at the Pescado Island or an overland journey to it. Once complete, we drive to the Uyuni lodge, settled on the slopes of the Tunupa volcano.
Take in the astounding view over the Uyuni salt flat from the comfort of our lodge, operated in partnership with local families. Your guide will help you decide the explorations you would like to go on. You can choose from hikes, overland trips, and bike rides.
Climbing the multi-hued slopes of the Tunupa Volcano up to 5,432 m.a.s.l/ 17,835 f.a.s.l., biking across a section of the salt flat, or cruising the slopes of the volcano and stopping by at villages along the way are a few of the possibilities. What you see here will remain imprinted in your heart, soul and fondest memory for the rest of your life.
Witnessing the sunrise, or indeed sunset and moonrise (“killa” in Quechua language), on the salt flat are nothing short of astonishing, as the amazing changes in light cover and transform the vast white ocean beneath your feet, and imbue the sky with reddish tones. If you are lucky enough to be present during a full moon, the sunset can be seen to the west while the moon rises to the east.
Between these remarkable events, learn about the agriculture and way of life of the region by visiting the extensive kinua (an Andean staple) plantations in south area of the volcano, and the ranches, schools and farming areas of the salt flat’s surrounding small villages.
Those who prefer to hike may walk across one of the salt flat’s largest islands, Isla Pescado, in the middle of the Uyuni Salt Flat for a unique 360-degree view of its vastness, or take to an abandoned section of the ancient Incan Qhapaq Ñan trail between two villages, surrounded by Andean wildlife such as llamas, vicuñas, sheep, and even foxes or pumas.
The last day of the Travesía. After a nourishing breakfast, we drive across the eastern area of the salt flat towards the Uyuni airport, recalling all we have lived for the past days as we gaze off into the rare beauty and enormity of this extraordinary place. A last glance. For now.