Bolivia Salt Flat Adventure

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  • From $4,892 in 2024
  • 9 days, 8 nights
  • July 12 - July 19, 2024
  • Min/Max Guests: 4/12

Highlights

Travel on a high-altitude adventure that takes you to the ends of the earth to experience an otherworldly landscape and a fascinating way of life. This is the perfect trip for seasoned travelers who have ticked popular destinations like Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands off their list, and are looking to go on a REAL adventure.

Begin your journey in the world’s highest city, La Paz, where magic can be found in the labyrinth of an authentic witch’s market and in the colorful folkloric dances that have survived since pre-Columbian times.

Explore the visually stunning Cholets of El Alto, where each one appears to outshine its neighbor with ever more vibrant hues.

Wander through the mysterious ruins of Tiwanaku and walk upon the ethereal Uyuni Salt Flats, a breathtaking expanse that blurs the line between earth and sky.

Dive into Bolivia’s natural canvas from the multi-hued Valley of the Moon to pink flamingos perched precariously on one leg in the fiery red Colored Lagoon.

Discover a train graveyard where locomotives whisper tales of bygone eras, and ancient mummies silently bear witness to the hardships of life on the salt flat.

Stargaze in one of the last places to see truly dark starry nights.

Visit local communities and witness their time-honored traditions of harvesting salt.

Shepherd llamas and navigate the high desert’s vast expanses, where every vista is a postcard picture waiting to be taken.

Stand amidst the surreal Morning Sun Geysers, listen to the soft bubbling of an ojo de agua, and feel the warm embrace of thermal waters.

Sleep in a hotel constructed entirely from salt… including the furniture!

Discover the “real” La Paz, guided by resilient street children who share their unique tales of dreams, hope, and places only they know.

Your once-in-a-lifetime adventure awaits. Are you ready?

Features

  • Real Adventure For Experienced TravelersBetween the high altitude, driving across the remote expanse of the salt flat and high desert and staying in a hotel that is literally off the electrical grid, Bolivia is a REAL adventure for experienced travelers. This means that you will feel challenged at certain points of the trip. But that challenge is worth it. Because overcoming challenges makes memories, and has the power to change your perspective and your life.
  • Emerging DestinationBolivia is considered to be an emerging destination. Which means it's not overrun with Instagrammers jockeying for position to take that perfect shot. This is especially true since we avoid high season. Instead, this adventure takes you where travel can do the most good, instead of contributing to problems of over tourism.
  • Safety FirstExploring Bolivia is a real adventure. Both the city of La Paz and the Uyuni Salt Flat are at high altitude. And once you are out on the salt flat, there are no roads, no gas stations, and only limited cell service. This is why we travel with a satellite phone and oxygen, and why all of our guides are certified by the Red Cross in first aid. We also talk at length with you before booking to ensure this trip is suitable for you. And, if you do book, we provide in depth guidance so you can be properly prepared.
  • Cultural BriefingBefore you set off, join us for an exclusive 1-hour cultural briefing session on Zoom, personally hosted by our company owner, Diane Valenti. Diane delves into the 10 dimensions that shape all cultures and illuminates how they play out in the vibrant tapestry of Bolivian culture. This deeper understanding enriches your experience by giving you a way to understand why things are done the way they are done and fosters a deeper connection when you interact with locals. As an added benefit, Diane offers an optional post-trip debrief session, providing the perfect opportunity to reflect on and discuss your experience and observations. Prepare to transform your travel experience with this unparalleled cultural insight.
  • Leave a TraceYes, you heard that right. We work with local tour guides, drivers, hotels, communities, and restaurants to ensure that your tourist dollars leave the local community better off. You also directly support a local community project focused on helping street children in La Paz.
  • Before-You-Go GuidanceOur company's founder, Diane Valenti, is no stranger to Bolivia. With her guidance on essential packing and setting realistic expectations, she ensures that you are as prepared as can be for your journey, reducing the chance of any unwanted surprises.
  • Expert, Bilingual Tour GuidesOur expert, bilingual guides not only share their knowledge of Bolivia, but also handle any unforeseen circumstances, allowing you to truly unwind.
  • Mesmerizing PhotosAmidst its stunning landscapes and the vibrant traditional attire of its people, Bolivia offers limitless opportunities to take one captivating photo after another. In fact, one of our guests even clinched a prestigious photography competition.
  • Hassle Free HolidayEase into a worry-free journey where we handle the details. Apart from your tour guides, tipping is covered, and nearly every meal is on us. No need to fret over constantly looking for ATMs – just relax and revel in the experience.
  • Out of the Ordinary ExperiencesBetween staying in a hotel constructed of salt, taking a tour of La Paz conducted by street children and seeing the stars in a place so remote there is no light pollution, you’ll come home with memories that you’ll relive for a lifetime and stories to tell that will leave your friends and family wanting more.

Included

  • Accommodation - double occupancy
  • Airport/hotel transfers
  • English speaking guides
  • Entrance fees for scheduled tours
  • Ground transportation
  • Meals specified by the itinerary
  • Packing list with eco-friendly personal care product recommendations
  • Tips for support staff other than your guides

Trip Notes

Your tour with Llama Expeditions starts when you meet our team at the airport in El Alto, Bolivia and ends when we drop you off at the airport in El Alto, Bolivia for your trip home. We will guide you on making these flight arrangements, as well as those to and from Uyuni, once you have booked this trip. The cost of all flights and your visa is not included.

You are required to have travel insurance to cover hospitalization, evacuation, flight delays, and cancellations.  Please plan for and consider personal spending money for extra snacks, drinks, or treasures you find along the way.

Map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in La Paz

Welcome to La Paz, the world’s highest city at 11,975 feet above sea level.

Our friendly team will be there to greet you at the airport and ensure a smooth early check-in process at your hotel.

Once you’re settled in, the choice is yours: unwind and recharge at the hotel or venture out and explore the neighborhood before we sweep you away to an enchanting dining experience at the Peña Huari restaurant.

Peña Huari is known for its authentic culinary delights and fascinating folkloric music and dance performances. As you dine, you’ll be immersed in the tradition and culture of Bolivia. And for those of you who are feeling spirited (and not too out of breath), there’s even an opportunity to join in – an invitation that can turn an ordinary evening into an extraordinary celebration.

Meals: Breakfast at your hotel and dinner
Hotel: La Casona (or similar)

 

Day 2: Explore Colorful Cholets & the Valley of the Moon

This morning step into the vibrant world of Freddy Mamani’s architectural marvels nestled in the heart of El Alto, a colorful suburb of La Paz. Mamani, a visionary architect, has left his indelible mark by crafting over a hundred Cholet buildings, with the majority gracing the streets of El Alto. His unique approach, known as neo-Andean architecture, challenges conventional norms.

Mamani’s creations are not just buildings; they are artistic masterpieces. Each Cholet begins with a monochrome canvas – a structure formed from a blend of concrete and brick. However, the real magic unfolds when Mamani and his skilled artisans meticulously create the intricate and awe-inspiring Andean patterns that adorn the façades. These colorful decorative elements are a vibrant tapestry that represents the rich cultural nuances of the Andean region.

But the beauty isn’t confined to the exterior, alone. As you step inside, you’ll find the same ornate magic, most notably in the one-of-a-kind ballroom. Here, you’ll experience an architectural fusion that seamlessly combines cultural significance with functionality. It’s a testament to the new generation that has not only embraced their heritage, but also possesses the financial means to build these extraordinary Cholets.

Next, make your way to the world’s most vibrant community housing project – the Wiphala condominium. The community was created in 2016 to provide dignified housing for low-income Bolivians. But rather than the dull, gray cement so typical of public housing projects, these buildings have been beautifully painted by Bolivia’s most celebrated artist – Roberto Mamani. Colorful pictures of Andean animals and people adorn the sides of each building, stretching 12 stories high to create the largest murals in Bolivia.

Stop for a brief snack at a café, where you taste a typical Bolivian cake made of local ingredients.

Then, enjoy a panoramic view of the city of La Paz from the scenic view point of Tejada Alpacoma.

After lunch, wander through the labyrinth of streets that make up the witch’s market. You can find medicinal plants, potions, powders, incense, amulets and talisman to ensure health, luck, beauty, and fertility. Have your fortune told in the dregs of coca leaves, if you dare.

Next, it’s off to the Valley of the Moon. Named for its lunar-like landscape, the Valley of the Moon is not actually a valley, but rather a maze of canyons and giant spires. One of its most breathtaking features is its varied colors, ranging from clear beige tones to reds and deep purples due to the mineral content of each spire. Several species of cactus grow here, including the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus.

Meals: Breakfast at your hotel, lunch and dinner
Hotel: La Casona (or similar)

Day 3: Discover the Ancient, Enigmatic Ruins of Tiwanaku

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Tiwanaku is an ancient archeological site located near the shores of Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world. There are indications that the site may have been inhabited as early as 1500 BC, but was most likely built between 300 and 1000 AD.

The ruins are made up of palaces, temples, and pyramids, as well as giant monoliths and stone figures. Over 28 centuries, the Tiwanakus created some of the most impressive stone monoliths in the world, engineered an ingenious irrigation system, and gained an advanced understanding of astronomy.

How Tiwanaku was built remains a mystery. For example, the site is strewn with enormous blocks of stone weighing up to 25 tons that no known pre-Colombian culture had the technology to transport.

Deepen your understanding of Tiwanaku culture with a visit to the onsite museum, where you’ll find instruments, weapons, utensils, and tools, as a well as a mummy found in the Putuni temple. The mummy was buried with its faced exposed so that its spirit could eat, chew coca, and drink chicha in the afterlife.

Meals: Breakfast at your hotel and lunch
Hotel: La Casona (or similar)

Day 4: Welcome to the Salt Flat

Touch down in Uyuni, the gateway to the mesmerizing Uyuni Salt Flats, one of Earth’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.

If you are hungry, you can stop for a more substantial breakfast and coffee in Uyuni. This meal is on your own.

Kick off your adventure at the train graveyard, where relics from the era of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lay weathering under the relentless sun. Hear the story of how these massive iron monoliths found their final resting place amid the vast salt expanses.

Venture to the salt-producing heart of Colchani to see how local families expertly process and package this vital mineral.

Journey across the dazzling expanse of the salt flat, pausing to capture surreal optical illusion photos.

Explore the island of Incahuasi, where giant cactus improbably dot the strange island-like bump of land in the middle of a seeming sea of salt.

Watch the sun set over the endless horizon as you taste Andean liquors.

After dinner, weather permitting, venture out into the inky blackness of the salt flat. Marvel at the brightness of the stars. Learn about the constellations in the southern hemisphere. Can you spot the Southern Cross?

Meals: Light breakfast provided by your hotel, picnic lunch, and dinner
Hotel: Tayka Salt Hotel (or similar)

Day 5: Journey Through the Salt Flat

Set off on a hike to the ancient Pucara de Chillima ruins, remnants of the pre-Columbian era.

Then, it’s on to the depths of Chiltaico Canyon, marveling at its magnificent rock sculptures.

Enjoy a picnic lunch set up in the middle of the salt flat.

Explore the depths of the Chiquini cave, where age-old stalactites and stalagmites narrate tales from millennia past.

Come face-to-face with the past on the slopes of the Thunapa Volcano in Coquesa, where ancient mummies have been naturally preserved by the unique ecosystem.

Visit the local community of Ayque to see how people live in this hostile environment.

Step into a bygone era at Don Santos’ museum, housing a curated collection of time-honored artifacts, including a mummy he stumbled upon during his explorations of this remote and strange area.

Meals: Breakfast provided by your hotel, picnic lunch, and dinner
Hotel: Tayka Stone Hotel (or similar)

 

Day 6: Explore the High Desert

Discover the Eduardo Avaroa National Park.

See Bolivia’s only active volcano, Ollague Volcano, which straddles the border with Chile, puffing clouds of steam in the distance.

Snap pictures of Andean flamingos at a string of small, picturesque lagoons, surrounded by snowy peaks.

Participate in shepherding a herd of llamas as you learn about the relationship between people and llamas in this remote corner of the world.

Enter the high desert, where you are truly off the beaten path.

Meals: Breakfast provided by your hotel, picnic lunch, and dinner
Hotel: Tayka Desert Hotel (or similar)

 

Day 7: Travel Through Otherworldly Landscapes

Rise early for a trip to the Morning Sun Geysers. Stroll among the pots of bubbling grey, brown, and scarlet mud.

Marvel at the remarkable shape of the Stone Tree along the way.

Visit the Colored Lagoon, which is a fiery red color and is inhabited by a flock of pink flamingos.

Drive across the Chalviri desert and salt plains. These plains are perfect for picture taking with their combination of snow white salt, earthy desert sand, and scattered blue lagoons.

Soak in the restorative waters of the Polque Hot Springs followed by a delicious picnic lunch.

Return to Uyuni, making stops to take pictures along the way.

Enjoy one last sunset on the salt flat before settling into a hotel constructed of salt for the night.

Meals: Breakfast provided by your hotel, picnic lunch, and dinner
Hotel: Cristal Samana Hotel (or similar)

Day 8: Discover The Other Side of La Paz on A Back Alley Tour

After a morning flight returns you to La Paz, take a very special tour co-guided by the boys and girls of Hormigon Armado. These children help their family by shining shoes around the city. They show you La Paz as only they know it.

Discover new neighborhoods and sites such as the Mercado Uruguay, a picturesque indigenous market that seems stuck in time, and Plaza Alonzo de Mendoza, where colonial and indigenous cultures collided.

Finish the day with a ride on the largest cable car system in the world across the expanse of La Paz.

Spend the night in La Casona before we transfer you to the airport in the morning for your flight home.

Meals: Breakfast provided by your hotel and dinner
Hotel: La Casona (or similar)

Day 9: Return Home

Today, you’ll bade Bolivia goodbye.

We’ll pick you up for your final trip through La Paz to the airport and onward to home.

All of the guides were incredible. Augusto, Ruben, and Patricia are the best guides I have ever worked with from any country. On a scale of 1-to-10, it was a 15! It was a life changing trip for me.

Mike Jensen

We loved the whole thing; so difficult to choose what was the best!

Marisa Bell

Before the trip, we were ambivalent about a guided tour, but found that the guides really smoothed the way for us to get to places quickly and focus on the most important sites and events. If you can get our guides for future groups, do so – they really made the trip great!

Ed and Judy Heffern

FAQs

Is Bolivia safe?

The following links offer information that will allow you to decide for yourself if Bolivia is safe.

The British website contains more information.

Should you choose to travel with us, please know that we take your safety seriously. In fact, we take many steps to help ensure your safety:

  • We start before you arrive. Llama Expeditions’ founder, Diane Valenti, personally walks through each itinerary with our team in Bolivia.
  • After you book, we provide detailed information to make sure that you are properly prepared for your trip.
  • When you arrive, we meet you at the airport, assist with the transfer to your hotel, and help you check in.
  • The hotel in La Paz is located in a neighborhood within easy walking distance of numerous dining choices.
  • Our guides are certified by the American Red Cross in first aid.
  • We travel with both a satellite phone and oxygen.

When is the best time to visit Bolivia?

High season is December through April. During high season, you can capture stunning images of the mirror effect as water collects on the salt flat.

However, traveling during high season comes with its own challenges.

  • There can be quite a bit of standing water on the salt flat, making driving impossible. So, you may not be able to participate in all the activities described in the itinerary.
  • Flights between La Paz and Uyuni may be delayed or canceled at the last minute due to inclement weather.

What is the weather like?

The weather depends on the location and the time of year. From April through October, the sun can be quite strong and the temperatures quite cold, especially at night. From December through April, it can be quite rainy.

We will send you a packing list to help ensure that you are prepared.

How concerned should I be about getting altitude sick?

Unfortunately, there is no way to know if you will suffer from altitude sickness. It is a genetic condition. So, getting in shape doesn’t help.

Also, remember you are flying into versus driving up to high altitude. This means that your body will have no time to acclimate on the way up. So, even if you have been fine at high altitude before or live at altitude, you may still get altitude sick.

That said, if you have respiratory or heart problems, this trip is not suitable for you.

The best way to manage high altitude is to ask your doctor to prescribe medication to help your body acclimate. We recommend that you start any medication before you arrive, as it may take a few days for it to start working.

How physically fit do I need to be?

While you don’t have to be super fit, you do need to be physically active.

You will be hiking, exploring a cave, traveling by Jeep, and generally moving around all day in a high altitude environment.

That said, being in great shape does not help you avoid getting altitude sick. This is because getting altitude sick is a factor of genetics, not physical fitness.

 

Are there age restrictions?

Llama Expeditions specializes in designing adventures for adults. Our adventures are not suitable for young children and teenagers.

Is there cell service?

There is cell service in both La Paz and Uyuni.

Once you get out onto the salt flat and into the high desert, though, cell phone coverage is spotty or nonexistent.

Is there Wi-Fi?

You can easily access Wi-Fi in La Paz and Uyuni.

Once you get out onto the salt flat and into the high desert, though, Wi-Fi access is spotty or nonexistent.

What are the hotels like?

The boutique hotel we work with in La Paz is located in a charming neighborhood within walking distance of numerous dining choices.

The hotels we work with in Uyuni are the best that the area has to offer. These hotels offer heat, hot showers, and electricity.

Tayka Desert Hotel, in particular, relies on solar power, though. So, heat, electricity, and hot water are limited to certain hours. And, there is not enough electricity to use high-energy appliances, like hair dryers. In fact, their use is prohibited. That said, we will help ensure you know what to do to get a hot shower and to stay warm.

Whenever possible, we work with Bolivian-owned hotels to ensure your tourist dollars remain in Bolivia and benefit Bolivians. All Takya hotels are owned by the local communities.

How much time will we be spending in the Jeep?

The Uyuni Salt Flat and Siloli Desert are vast. This means that you could be traveling up to 9 hours, with stops. During windy season in October and rainy season from December through April this could be longer, as we may need to find alternate routes.

Why are your trips more expensive than others I’ve seen for Uyuni?

Our trips are more expensive because:

  • We work with the best hotels in Uyuni. Guests on less expensive trips are often staying in hotels that have no heat and no showers (not even cold showers).
  • We include three delicious meals a day. Guests on less expensive trips are often eating the Bolivia equivalent of ramen – cold spaghetti.
  • We limit the number of guests to 3 to 4 per Jeep. Guests on less expensive trips are often squeezed 6 to a Jeep.
  • Our trip includes guides and drivers. Guests on less expensive trips often only have a Spanish-speaking driver.
  • We focus on safety. This means our Jeeps are well maintained. We travel with a satellite phone in case we run into a problem. We have oxygen in case someone gets altitude sick. And our guides are certified by the Red Cross in first aid and registered with the Bolivian tourism authority. Guests on less expensive trips are often working with companies that do not take these precautions.
  • We include more such as almost all meals and most tips, among other things, so you are not constantly worried about finding an ATM or having the right change.

How far in advance do I need to book this trip?

For this group trip, we have capped the group at 12. So, we recommend booking as soon as possible to ensure you can join us.

For private trips, we recommend booking 3 to 6 months (sooner during the high season of December through April) in advance of when you want to travel as there are few hotels on the salt flat.

How do I book this trip?

Just send us an email at hello@llamaexpeditions.com or submit the inquiry form on this page.

We’ll be in touch to discuss the details and dates, and to send you a link to pay your 25% per person deposit to reserve your place.

What documents do I need to travel to Bolivia?

US citizens need a passport with 6+ months of validity remaining to enter Bolivia. You need to have two blank pages available.

US citizens also need a Visa. You can get your Visa at the border when you arrive.

You will need the following:

  • Proof of a round-trip ticket
  • Copy of a credit card, both front and back, for proof of economic solvency
  • A yellow fever vaccine certificate
  • Completed Sworn Statement for Visa Application paperwork
  • $160 USD in exact change – bills should be new, clean, not torn, scrunched, or written on
  • Copy of your passport
  • Passport photo
  • Name and address of your hotel

Can I get a refund if I need to cancel?

As long as you cancel 90 days before the start of the trip (120 days before December 15th through April 30th), we will refund your deposit, less a 10% of the total trip cost administrative fee.

However, if you need to cancel any time after that, we won’t be able to issue a 90% refund because we have to pay for your trip in advance.

However, we’ll provide you with all the paperwork you need from us to help you with your travel insurance claim.

Depending on the coverage you purchased, you may be able to get a full or partial refund.

We strongly recommend that you buy travel insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason.

Can I change my travel dates?

Absolutely (assuming there is space on the date you want to go)!

But you must request a change 90 days before your departure date (120 days before December 15th through April 30th) for us to be able to accommodate you. This is because we have already paid suppliers such as hotels and transportation companies, and this payment is nonrefundable.

This is why we strongly recommend that you buy travel insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason as soon as you book your trip.

Can I change trips?

Of course (assuming there is space on the trip you want to join)!

But you must request a change 90 days before your departure date (120 days before December 15th through April 30th) for us to be able to accommodate you. This is because we have already paid suppliers such as hotels and transportation companies, and this payment is nonrefundable.

This is why we strongly recommend that you buy travel insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason as soon as you book your trip.

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Price
From$4,892

    PLEASE NOTE: We have capped the number of guests on this trip at 12. We encourage you to reserve your space before this trip sells out.