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Global photo tours to breathtaking lands led by expert photographers

Bolivia: Altiplano Salt Flats, Volcanoes & Badlands – 14 Days

Bolivia: Altiplano Salt Flats, Volcanoes & Badlands – 14 Days

This adventurous 4×4 overland photo workshop is designed to get into the heart and soul of the Bolivian Altiplano, focusing on the wild south-western corner. Thus, we will be spending most of our time within the regions of the Salar de Uyuni and south, deep in the Sud Lipez region and then east towards the badlands of Tupiza.

These places will leave you breathless – not only due to the beauty, but the altitude as well. In order to acclimatize properly we will make our way south, gaining altitude slowly, while visiting surreal locations. The plan is to be at the places that are most spectacular during the best times of day for photographing the grand landscape and wildlife of this region.

The Altiplano is an amazing landscape and offers surprises to new and frequent visitors alike


 

 


 

The prime season is from early April to mid November (our dry season) when the roads are in good shape for travel after the rainy season (December-March). The months between May and August are cold as it is winter (with very rare snow) but offer the best climatic and travel conditions.

The Altiplano is a high, cold and dry region most of the year so prepare for cold temperatures at night and comfortable to chilly temperatures during the day.

The landscapes are so spectacular you will focus on making amazing photos of an awe-inspiring landscape that promises to deliver beautiful light, convoluted and rugged landforms, glacier-covered volcanoes and shimmering multi-colored lagoons full of pink flamingos.

The Altiplano is an amazing landscape and offers surprises to new and frequent visitors alike.

We have often experienced the most amazing sunsets on the Salar de Uyuni and Laguna Colorada!


 

The Salar de Uyuni in flood creates the perfect conditions for m

 


 

Tour Dates: October 20 – November 2, 2019  //  June 7-20, 2020 // July 12-25, 2020 // August 2-15, 2020 // September 6-19, 2020 // October 4-17, 2020 // June 6-19, 2021 // July 11-24, 2021 // August 15-28, 2021 // September 5-18, 2021 // October 3-16, 2021
Tour length: 14-days
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate and slightly challenging due to the altitude
Group Size Limit: 10
Tour Highlights: La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Altiplano, Salar de Uyuni, Lagunas Colorada & Verde, pink flamingos, volcanoes, vicunas, Tupiza, Sud Lipez
Prices are in $ US Dollars:
7-10 people: 5,250.00
4-6 people: 5,460.00
2-3 people: 6,295.00
1 person: 8,330.00
*International airfare is NOT included in the price.
Deposit:$ 500.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee)
Inclusions: Inclusions: all airport transfers, accommodations (as per the itinerary), meals as noted (B,L,D) , bi-lingual guides, private 4×4 vehicles with driver, our years of experience and local knowledge

 


Anyone can book a single spot on any tour at any time. These prices reflect the cost for one person, based on the total number of fully-paid people booked on a trip. If you have more people in your group and/or if the total number of people rises, the cost per person goes down. These prices are NOT based on a person or complete group bringing in a set amount of people on a tour. As more people book a spot on a tour the lower price is spread among all the participants. Thus we encourage you to include friends and family to join you so everyone gets a lower price.

Please note: We can run this trip at any time, so please let us know your date preferences and we will create a custom departure date for you and your group.


 

The small peaks of the Cumbre de Animas at sunset as seen from L

 


– ITINERARY –

Depart from home

Flights from the US to Bolivia normally depart late in the evening from Miami, arriving early the next morning. International airfare is NOT included in this itinerary.

For airline tickets, please contact our ticketing agent GEO Travel 1-800-938-7285.

 

Day 1:          Arrival in La Paz, Bolivia – AM City Tour – PM Andean Valleys

After breakfast we head to the center of town via the cable car system called Mi Teleferico…providing an aerial view of the city that will put into perspective how huge the canyon of La Paz really is!  We suggest you have a basic photo kit easily accessible so you can take photos along the way.  We will visit the open-air markets, and the colonial neighborhoods with great views of the city.  Lunch at a local restaurant.  At 2 PM we depart to see the high Andean valleys that surround the city returning just before sunset to your hotel.  Dinner is on your own tonight and we recommend a light dinner at the hotel. Avoid alcohol and caffeine tonight and drink plenty of water and mate de coca during the day.  Overnight in Hotel Mitru Sur (5*) (L)

 


 

Day 2:          La Paz – Lake Titicaca – Taraco Peninsula – La Paz

After breakfast we head to an island where few if any tourists go to see the Bolivia from generations past.  En route we will enjoy great views of the Cordillera Real above Lake Titicaca with typical agriculture and waterfowl along the shore.  Lunch on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  We will return to La Paz just before sunset.  Dinner at a local restaurant.  Overnight in Hotel Mitru Sur (5*).  (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 3:        La Paz – Sajama National Park

Today our destination is Sajama, Bolivia’s first National Park (est. 1945), named for the strato-volcano at 21,450 ft and is the centerpiece of this spectacular, high-altitude region abutting on Chile’s border.  Our drive from La Paz is on paved roads for approximately four hours.  Once at the park entrance we begin to see the details we came for – llamas and alpacas feeding on the vast plateau, surrounded by volcanoes and puna wetlands, cut by ice-cold rivers draining from the summit glaciers.  There are wild vicuñas (camelid), viscachas (a friendly mammal that is a cross between a large rabbit and squirrel), eagles, hawks and Suri (American Rhea) and if we are lucky, condors, all of which call this wind-swept region home.  We head to our hostel and check-in then head out after a brief rest before sunset at a small lagoon with perfect reflections of Sajama and the other volcanoes.  We return to our hostel and freshen-up before dinner.  Dinner and overnight at Hostal Sajama (2*). (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 4:          Sajama – Pumiri – Turco – Oruro – Jirira

We begin with a pre-sunrise departure to the lagoon for sunrise with reflections of Mt. Sajama.  We return for breakfast then depart southeast, towards the main paved road that will take us to Oruro. Lunch in Challapata. Continuing south we should arrive in the town of Salinas de Garci Mendoza on nice paved roads, after that we have a little over an hour on a dirt road until we arrive in the village of Jirira.  After our check-in, we head out for our first sunset shoot on the world’s largest salt flat – the Salar de Uyuni – over 4,000 square miles located at 12,000 ft above sea level!  It’s actually the same height as downtown La Paz!  We return after sunset to refresh before dinner.  Overnight at Hostal Doña Lupe (3*).  (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 5:          Jirira – Coquesa – Salar de Uyuni – Incahuasi island – Uyuni

After breakfast we head east, around the foot of Mt. Thunupa to the village of Coquesa where we will drive up the flanks of this volcano to see some mummies that are found in a cave nearby.  The view, 1000 ft higher, will give you a much better idea how incredibly massive is the Salar de Uyuni!  Afterwards, we enter the proper salt flats and head south, to the center of it to Incahuasi Island where we will have time for a walk to the top of the island before having lunch. We head east towards Colchani – the only exit in the southeast corner before we continue onto the town of Uyuni.  We exit via the village of Colchani and then head 30 minutes down the road to Uyuni.  We will check into our hotel and freshen up.  Dinner and overnight at Hotel Los Girasoles (4*). (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 6:          Uyuni – Lag. Chiar Khota – Desierto de Siloli – Ojo de Perdiz

We depart after an early breakfast and head southwest, towards the Sud Lipez region.  We take only dirt roads today that are reasonably maintained, but after that, the roads get rougher.  Our route takes us via a city of stone – a massive lava flow with strange and unique formations.  As we head south we begin the route of the lagoons, where a series of high-altitude lagoons dot our route on the western border of Chile and Bolivia – the home of pink flamingos and wild vicunas.  We enter the Siloli desert after a series of secluded canyons and emerge onto one of the most spectacular high-altitude deserts in all of South America.  This multi-colored pastel desert is where the magic of the Sud Lipez region begins.  Our hotel overlooks this desert and we will check-in the late afternoon, just before sunset. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Tayka del Desierto (4*).  (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 7:          Ojo de Perdiz – L. Colorada – Sol de Mañana – Laguna Verde – Polques – Quetena Chico

We want an early departure so we can catch the sunrise at Laguna Colorada while the flamingos are still waking up.  After Laguna Colorada we begin the slow climb to the highest pass on our route (15,800’) and to the boiling mud and steaming fumaroles at Sol de Mañana crater.  We drop into the Salar de Chalviri and the Polques Hot Springs for an early lunch.  We continue southwest via the Desierto de Dali and continue to Laguna Verde that sits below Mt. Llicancabur, a strato-volcano straddling the Bolivia-Chile border that rises to 19,410 ft.  We return towards Polques Hot Springs and continue to Quetena Chico.  Dinner and overnight at La Lamphaya Lodge Andino in Quetena Chico (3*).  (B,L,D)

 


 

140406_OjoDePerdiz_LagColorada_089

Day 8:          Quetena Chico – San Cristobal – San Pablo de Lipez

Today is a long day so we will need to depart soon after an early breakfast. You will see more of the spectacular landscape found in the Sud Lipez region full of multi-colored lagoons, salt flats, lava flows, Andean puna marshes, rocky canyons and sandy desert landscapes – always changing, never the same. Lunch en route. The canyons and pampas offer a never-ending kaleidoscope of colors and geographic wonders around every corner.  Continuing northeast to San Pablo de Lipez, we will cross a series of rivers before arriving in a perfect location for sunsets as the pampas, and rocky mountains catch the setting suns’ full effect. After checking-in we’ll have dinner at the hotel.  Overnight at Hotel Sumaj Jall’Pa in San Pablo de Lipez (2*). (B,L,D)


 

Storm clouds above the Sud Lipez Range in southwestern Bolivia.

Day 9:          San Pablo de Lipez – Tupiza

The drive climbs over a series of mountain ranges and goes into deep canyons before emerging into the open sky. The terrain changes all the time and we will see deep reds, yellows and greens all over the landscape as we motor east towards Tupiza, the only major town in the area.  Keep an eye out for condors as they are common here. The drive will keep us high above the rugged canyons for some time until we come to the edge of a cut in the geography and below us will be the town of Tupiza, surrounded by grey and red rock canyons and massively eroded badlands.  This truly is one of Bolivia’s most spectacular vistas and we should be arriving around sunset when these hills come alive with colors. After dropping a few thousand feet into the canyon we will enjoy Tupizas’ temperate climate.  After check-in and a break we get to enjoy Tupizas’ restaurant options.  Overnight at Hotel Mitru (3*). (B,L,D)

 


 

The multi-colored layers of eroded badlands catch the last rays

Day 10:          Tupiza Canyons and Badlands

In between AM & PM shooting sessions in the nearby badlands, this is a bit of a rest day, where you can get some laundry done or just relax.  We are open to any activity at any time.  Lunch and Dinner in Tupiza.  Overnight in Hotel Mitru (3*).  (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 11:          Tupiza – Atocha – Uyuni

We depart from the multi-layered canyons of Tupiza northwest towards Atocha and eventually to Uyuni. The route takes us over river valleys, undulating pampas covered in cactus and over passes that guard secrets to hidden valleys where farmers produce a great variety of food for the cities of Atocha, Potosi, Tupiza and Uyuni.  The scenery is quite subtle yet spectacular and we’ll have time to enjoy the details along the way when we stop for breaks.  We’ll arrive in time for lunch in Uyuni.  Afterwards we head to the train graveyard just outside of town.  This is where the behemoth steel locomotives came to die after the boom and bust cycle of the mines around the turn of the last century.  We have a few places where we can head to for sunset – either a nearby city of stone or onto the salt flats.  We head back to Uyuni for a quick refresh before heading out to dinner.  Overnight at Hotel Los Girasoles (4*). (B,L,D)

 


 

110503_Sucre_Potosi_108

Day 12:          Uyuni – Potosi – Hacienda Cayara

Our direction today is northeast to Potosi – the sky-high imperial colonial city that made the Spanish rich. The drive is a little over 3 hours on a new paved road and very impressive. The terrain and scenery along the way encompasses river canyons, rugged mountains and mining centers; still active after centuries of exploitation. The red earth and weeping willows are a beautiful contrast to the desert-like Altiplano we just left. In the late morning we will arrive in the world’s highest major city, Potosi that sits at 3,960m/12,989′ asl. and its’ height will take your breath away. We will have lunch in Potosi upon arrival. We will visit the Casa de la Moneda (The Spanish Mint) where we will get a lesson in the cultural complexity that is part of the Bolivian historical tapestry.  Afterwards we head down to a hidden valley and a colonial-era Hacienda named Cayara.  This is a living museum and working hacienda and a great place to re-live Bolivia’s colorful history and see how life in the Spanish colonial era was like. The hacienda sits well below Potosi and is about 45-minutes away Dinner and overnight at Hacienda Cayara (3*). (B,L,D)

 


 

The colonial-era Hacienda Cayara near Potosi, Bolivia is now a h

Day 13:          Cayara – Potosi – Cayara

Today we have lots of options….we can head deeper into the high Andean valleys and see the people work the land.  We could also head up to the city of Potosi to get deeper into the history of the colonial-era mines and Spanish domination of one of the most wealth-producing mountains in the world.  We could visit to a mine cooperative in the heart of the Cerro Rico in the morning. The visit will put in perspective the struggle these miners have in making a living underground using antiquated methods – not an easy life. After the sobering visit, we’ll have lunch in Potosi then head down and spend the rest of the afternoon at Hacienda Cayara which has plenty of it’s own history to share!  Dinner and overnight at Hostal Cayara (3*).  (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 14:          Cayara – Challapata – Oruro – La Paz

The drive to La Paz is long but pretty spectacular because it stays high in the mountains for the first half of the trip and it’s on a paved road all the way to La Paz, so it’s fast and comfortable. Along the way you will see multi-colored valleys, high peaks, green puna with llamas and alpacas grazing.  The closer we get to La Paz you will see the glacier-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real rising above the Altiplano.  The scenery is truly amazing and should provide plenty of visual appeal along the entire route.  We should arrive in La Paz in the late afternoon. Group dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate a wonderful and adventurous journey of the Bolivian highland region. Overnight at Hotel Mitru Sur (5*).  (B,L,D)

 


 

Day 15:           La Paz – Home

We will provide a complimentary shuttle to the airport so please coordinate with us to schedule your transfer time.  Most international flights from La Paz depart very early in the morning (between 2-5 AM) so please make sure we are clear on your departure times!


 

– End of our services –



Below is a map that shows the route (subject to change) for the 14 days visiting the length and breadth of the Altiplano.

Bolivia_Photo-14D_Crop_2015_Route SM

 



 

 

 

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Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.