Andean flamingos, Atacama Desert

Bolivia & Chile's Atacama Desert

Nature & Wildlife
Land-Based Expeditions
Andean flamingos, Atacama Desert

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Bolivia & Chile's Atacama Desert

Join Inernational Expeditions' new Bolivia & Atacama Desert tour for an in-depth discovery of these fascinating countries! Landlocked in the high Andes, Bolivia is a simply breathtaking destination. Home to some of the oldest cultures in the New World, the largest lake on the continent, the most dramatic landscapes in Latin America, and a bevy of unique wildlife, Bolivia offers the adventurous traveler a multitude of natural and cultural wonders. On this comprehensive tour, visit La Paz, the world’s highest capital city; cruise along legendary Lake Titicaca; stroll through colonial Potosi and Sucre; and marvel at the glittering white expanse of the Uyuni Salt Flats. Continue to Chile’s Atacama Desert – a sparsely populated plateau extending from the Pacific to the high antiplano. Spend three days immersed in the beauty of Atacama, which boasts turquoise lakes, red plains, shifting dunes, stark volcanoes and one of the world’s largest saltpan — Salar de Atacama — a magnet for three species of flamingos: Andean, Chilean and James.

Daily Itinerary

Bolivia & Chile's Atacama Desert

  • Day
    1

    La Paz, Bolivia

    Arrive aboard your independent flights to La Paz, Bolivia—in the shadow of the majestic Mt. Illimani—and transfer to the Casa Grande Hotel, where you spend the next two nights.

  • Day
    2

    La Paz

    Enjoy a morning at leisure, taking time to adapt to the city’s altitude—11,942 feet above sea level. Enjoy an afternoon exploring the treasures of La Paz, discovering a living history of indigenous, colonial and modern wonders. Our afternoon tour includes stops at an underground temple, Indian Market, famed Bennett Monolith and even the witch doctor’s market. Soar over the city aboard Mi Teleférico, La Paz’s urban cable car system. After dinner at a local restaurant, return to our hotel. (B,D)

  • Day
    3

    Lake Titicaca

    After breakfast drive to Huatajata or Cocotoni and board our hydrofoil cruise to Moon Island. On this mystical Island are the ruins of the Iñak Uyu, Sun Virgins' Temple. Here the most beautiful maiden of the Incas where chosen to become the wives of the Inca nobles. The Virgins of the Sun were responsible of maintaining an eternal fire in devotion to their sun god, Viracocha. Continue to Sun Island. According to Andean mythology, Viracocha sent his son and daughter, Manco Kapac and Mama Ojllo, to Earth, where they found the Inca Empire. Visit Pilcocaina Sun Temple before checking out the local trails on llamas. Your afternoon is free to explore the nearby community and savor sunset over Lake Titicaca. Overnight at the Posada del Inca EcoLodge. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    4

    Sun Island / Copacabana / La Paz

    Climb 206 Inca steps to enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the lake and Andes. It is possible to drink water from a sacred fountain, believed to grant eternal youth and happiness. After lunch board a hydrofoil to Copacabana. Once sacred to the Incas, Copacabana is home to the revered statue of Bolivia’s patron saint — La Virgin de la Candelaria. While this small city is far less famous than the beach of the same name in Brazil, Rio’s famed beach was actually named after this town. Tossed in a storm, grateful Brazilian fisherman credited their rescue to the Virgin of Copacabana. Learn about the culture of building reed boats at Huatajata and the Andean Roots Eco-village before returning to La Paz and the Casa Grande Hotel. (B,L,D)

    Copacabana
  • Day
    5

    La Paz / Sucre

    Fly to Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital, and arguably one of the country’s most pleasant cities. Our afternoon tour includes an overview of colonial architecture as well as Liberty House, where the Bolivian declaration of independence was signed. At the ASUR Museum of Indigenous Art, discover the work being done by local anthropologists to maintain and strengthen the cultural integrity and economies of the Jalq’a and Tarabuco communities, by promoting high quality indigenous arts and textiles. Spend the next two nights at Parador Santa Maria la Real. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    6

    Sucre / Potolo

    Wind into the mountains west of Sucre to Potolo, home to the Quechua-speaking Jalq’a community. These welcoming people are renowned for their locally produced textiles and conical hats. Spend a day learning about their weaving techniques, which incorporate designs of local wildlife, including vicunas, llamas, eagles, condors and frogs. Return to Sucre this evening. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    7

    Sucre / Potosi / Uyuni

    Set out early this morning for Potosi. Once one of the richest cities in the world, Potosi boasts many beautifully-restored buildings, including several ornate religious buildings and colorful winding streets full of charming vendors. Silver put Potosi on the map in the mid-16th century and it quickly became the Americas’ largest city and the world’s largest source of the precious metal. The mines of Cerro Rico unfortunately found their infamy in their inhumane mining practices and have been operating, in various degrees of success, for over 400 years. Tour the mines, which are both fascinating and sobering, and have the opportunity to witness the current state of mining in South America. After savoring a relaxing lunch, visit the Casa de la Moneda (Royal Mint). Here, wooden machinery was used to transform silver from the mines into coins for Spain. Continue to Uyuni, where we spend the next two nights at Hotel de Sal Luna. (B,L,D)

    Potosi
  • Day
    8

    Uyuni Salt Flat

    Set out on a 4 x 4 excursion to discover the wonders of the high altiplano! Explore the Uyuni Salt Flat, or Salar, the largest salt pan in the world. In this landscape of snow-white crystals, deep blue sky and hot pink flamingoes, you can take perspective-defying pictures. Visit Incahuasi Island, or Fish Island, one of many “islands” in this pre-historic sea. Once the top of an ancient volcano, Incahuasi is formed of algae and fossils. Incahuasi is a unique ecosystem, which includes a stranded colony of the chinchilla-related viscacha and most impressively, enormous cacti, some more than 30 feet tall. Stop in the foothills of the Tunupa volcano to learn about the 3,000-year-old Coquesa mummies, a collection of bodies mummified by the arid, salty air. Throughout our day we’ll see salt processing and extraction plus watch for bubbling springs—called Ojos de Agua or “eyes of salt”—where water wells up under the salt crust. Return to Hotel de Sal Luna this evening. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    9

    Uyuni / Laguna Hedionda

    Continue our exploration of Bolivia’s westernmost highlands, with stops at the stunning lakes of Canapa, Chiar Kota, Honda and Hedionda. The shores of these glacial lakes are lined with three flamingo species—James, Andean and Chilean. Flamingos thrive here while feeding upon the lagoons’ algae, which would be poisonous to most other wildlife. The landscape is also dotted with llama, alpaca and possibly even vicuña. Continue to Los Flamencos EcoHotel, perched on the shores of Lake Hedionda. Savor a dinner prepared using traditional Bolivian techniques and organic products. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    10

    Abaroa National Reserve: Red Lagoon & Green Lagoon / San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

    Discover lagoons in a diverse array of colors, from the milky Laguna Blanca to the blood-red Laguna Colorada, "Red Lagoon,” and the green Laguna Verde, “Green Lagoon”—each getting their striking color from algae. This is the ideal place to photograph flamingos. Seeing them in such large numbers may lead you to believe they’re very numerous. But in fact James’s flamingoes were once believed to be extinct before being rediscovered in this area. At Sol de Mañana” Geysers, watch lava boil at the bottom of craters, while fumaroles spout water and super-heated steam high into the blue sky. Continue to across the Chilean border and check into the Desertica Lodge, our home for two nights. Our journey has been timed during the New Moon so you can enjoy stargazing during low-light. (B,L,D)

    Laguna Colorada
  • Day
    11

    Atacama

    Savor breakfast overlooking the geothermal field of fumaroles and giant cacti at El Tatio Geyser—world’s second highest geyser field. The steam and vapors are all the more impressive with the cold and the light of the early morning. At the geyser field, we also see thermal pools, mud fountains, colorful rock formations and endemic wildlife, including viscacha and nandues. Cap-off our morning taking in the enormous dunes, dramatic rock formations and stark lunar landscape of Moon Valley. The lagoons Miscanti and Miñiques—part of Los Flamencos National Reserve—act as mirrors, reflecting dramatic volcanic peaks. In addition to flamingos, watch for rare horned coot and even culpeo fox. Take advantage of another night to practice your astronomy skills. The Atacama’s remoteness, altitude, lack of light pollution and arid atmosphere make it one of Earth’s best places to stargaze. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    12

    Atacama / Santiago / Depart

    Spend a relaxing morning exploring the town of San Pedro de Atacama, which grew around a small oasis. Stroll through a sleepy plaza past the old church and stop by local craft workshops to learn about efforts to preserve traditional art. This afternoon, board your independent flight to Santiago and connect with your overnight flights. (B,L)

  • Day
    13

    Arrive Home

    Arrive in the US and connect with your flights home.

Accommodations

Casa Grande Hotel

Casa Grande Hotel

Luxury meets innovative sustainable design at Casa Grande Hotel, your accommodation for portions of IE’s Bolivia tour. Located in the heart of La Paz Bolivia’s South Zone, easily accessible from the commercial and financial centers, our hotel exudes urban sophistication. Each if the bright, fresh guestrooms and suites are uniquely designed to offer a blend of eclectic style, luxurious comfort and chic sophistication. Offering views of the mountains or La Paz cityscape, all accommodations offer contemporary furnishings, spa-style bathrooms with rain showers and complimentary Wi-Fi.

bolivia posada del inca eco lodge2

Posada del Inca Eco Lodge

The charming Posada del Inca Eco-Lodge is located at the top of the Sun Island and surrounded by pastoral sceneries and the majesty of the snowed peaks of the Andes. This is one of a few places on Earth where you can still breathe the authenticity of an unspoiled nature. This old restored hacienda has 20 rooms, all with modern facilities: electric blankets, private bath, hot water, individual heating and the most breathtaking panorama of the Sacred Lake Titicaca.

Parador Santa Maria la Real

Parador Santa Maria la Real

Set in a colonial style building dating back to the 18th century, Parador Santa Maria La Real offers stylish rooms with private balconies. Boasting four-poster beds, rooms at Parador Santa Maria La Real feature large windows and mini-bars, and some of them are located on the ancient subterranean halls. Free Wi-Fi is provided. Spa facilities include a sauna and a hot tub. Guests can request massage sessions or unwind in the charming terrace overlooking the patio, or on the picturesque lounge decorated with vaulted brick ceilings.

Hotel de Sal Luna

Hotel de Sal Luna

Featured in National Geographic, Hotel de Sal Luna Salada is entirely constructed from salt blocks, with sweeping panoramic views of Salar de Uyuni dotting the hotel. All of the rooms are built entirely out of salt, from the walls to the furniture, and even the floor. While staying here, Bolivia tour guests experience the tranquil atmosphere of our salt hotel, imbued with the energy of the Uyuni salt flats all around, and filled with Andean charm. Free WiFi is available in common areas.

Los Flamencos Eco Hotel

Los Flamencos EcoHotel

Perched along the shores of Laguna Hedionda, Los Flamencos EcoHotel is named after the resident pink flamingos which are found in this scenic lake. This fabulous vision along with the mountains of the Cordillera Real de los Andes that tower above the lodge create a magnificent natural setting. Enjoy a refreshing stay here with the natural spring waters from the lagoon used throughout the property. Savor a range of tasty national and international dishes which can be enjoyed as you take in the starry view from below the restaurant’s skylight.

Desertica Lodge

Desertica Lodge

Desertica is situated in an old Atacama family farm, surrounded by pepper trees, chañar trees (Chilean palo verde) and algarrobos or Carob trees. The 12 rooms feature fireplace or heating, large en-suite bathrooms with showers as well as organic, biodegradable amenities, hair dryer, robe and slippers.

From: $10,698 per person
Duration
13 Days, 12 Nights
Guest Capacity
18 Guests
Trip Type
Land

Trip Highlights

  • Enjoy spectacular stargazing, your stay in the Atacama is timed to coincide with the darkest nights of the month.
  • Visit the magnificent colonial cities of Potosi & Sucre, both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Discover the cosmic center of the Incan world—Lake Titicaca—and visit the Isla del Sol, the island where the Incan sun god emerged from the icy deep to create the universe.
  • Photograph a variety of stunning subjects from towering volcanoes & extraordinary landscapes to graceful colonial architecture & vibrant markets frequented by colorfully clad locals.
  • Stay in the Hotel De Sal Luna, this unique property is built almost entirely of salt and is situated on the edge of the Uyuni Salt Flat — a spectacular salt pan that stretches to the horizon in a glittering sea of crystals.
  • Explore the remote, otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama Desert, home to geysers, colorful thermal pools, bizarre rock formations, steaming fumaroles & the stark lunar-like vistas of Moon Valley.