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.

Private Trip Pricing

  • 4 to 5 guests from $6,273 per person double occupancy
  • 6 to 7 guests from $5,189 per person double occupancy
  • 8 to 10 guests from $5,022 per person double occupancy

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.  Also, because of the remote nature of this trip, you are required to have a doctor’s note that certifying that you are fit to travel.

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 a traditional Bolivian restaurant known for its authentic culinary delights, 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. 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 a scenic view point.

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 a valley known for its lunar-like landscape. 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 out on the salt flat 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 an “island,” 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 sip Andean liquors.

After dinner, weather permitting, venture out into the inky blackness of the salt flat for a special star gazing session. 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 ancient ruins, remnants of the pre-Columbian era.

Then, it’s on to the depths of a canyon to marvel at its magnificent rock sculptures.

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

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

Come face-to-face with the past on the slopes of a volcano, where ancient mummies have been naturally preserved by the unique ecosystem.

Visit a local community to see how people live in this challenging environment.

Step into a bygone era at a local inhabitant’s personal 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, 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 to stroll among pots of bubbling grey, brown, and scarlet mud.

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

Visit a fiery red lagoon inhabited by a flock of pink flamingos.

Drive across the 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 thermal waters of a 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 children who contribute financially to their families by shining shoes around the city. They show you La Paz as only they know it.

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

Spend the night 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.

Reviews

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

Real Talk

We want to make sure that you are on a trip that’s right for you.

Altitude

This trip takes place at altitude levels of 12,000 feet and above. As a result, it is not a good choice if you have a heart condition, respiratory problem, or any other issue that high altitude could make worse. This is something we encourage you to discuss with your doctor if you aren’t sure.

Otherwise, you can take medication to mitigate the effects of altitude. We will recommend specific medication that we encourage you to discuss with your doctor.

We also travel with oxygen should you encounter an unexpected problem when we are in the remote areas of the salt flat and high desert.

Flights

At this time, flights coming from the US into La Paz arrive in the wee hours of the morning. We will be at the airport in La Paz to pick you up so that you don’t have to figure out how to get from the airport to your hotel. We have also arranged for you to have early access to your hotel room so that you can shower, rest, and unwind before our official welcome dinner that evening.

Hotels

The hotels in the salt flat and the high desert are clean, comfortable, and cute. However, as is true in all of South America, they do not have central heating. There are space heaters in the rooms. And the hotels provide a hot water bottle to warm your bed before you get in. That said, it can be especially difficult to get warm at altitude and the hotels can feel drafty. We will provide a detailed packing list so that you know what to bring to be comfortable.

In addition, the last hotel in the desert runs on solar power. This means that there is not sufficient electricity to use high-energy appliances like blow dryers.

It also means that you’ll want to get your shower for the next day as soon as we arrive at the hotel in the afternoon while the water is hot from the solar panels. If you wait till the morning, you’ll be in for a cold shower.

Travel by Jeep

Exploring the salt flat and the high desert is a little like going on an African safari. Although obviously, not in Africa. We will be traveling by Jeep to see interesting sites and participate in a variety of activities along the way. So, while we will be on the road all day, we will be spending more time out of the Jeep doing things than you would on a safari. After all, we don’t have to worry about being eaten by a hungry lion. However, the last day we spend much of the day on the road since the trip back to Uyuni from the Chilean border is a long way.

Remoteness

The whole idea of this trip is to truly get off the beaten path. In the salt flat and high desert, this means literally driving across the open salt flat and the open desert. There are no paved roads. So, while the ride is not terribly uncomfortable, it is also not like driving on a smooth highway, either.

Also, because we will be so remote cell phone service and Wi-Fi coverage can be spotty to non-existent. In fact, we travel with a satellite phone for any emergencies that might occur.

 

 

Early Mornings

Due to the timing of flights and some of the distances we will be traveling, this trip includes several early mornings. We will always have a steaming cup of hot coffee, hot chocolate, or hot tea for you and breakfast, even if it is to go or we stop on the road.

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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.