Argentina, Chile, Bolivia

Salta, Atacama Desert & Uyuni Salt Flats 9 Days

Tour the worlds biggest salt flats, rainbow deserts, colonial cities & more

Salta, Atacama Desert & Uyuni Salt Flats 9 Days

Tour the worlds biggest salt flats, rainbow deserts, colonial cities & more

Salta (locally known as La Linda -The Beautiful, and one of the best preserved colonial cities) is the perfect base for your adventures in Argentina. Travel the stunning Cloud safari, and discover the local culture of traditional Andean towns. You will continue your trip at San Pedro De Atacama, a laid back oasis town on the edge of the driest place on earth. Finally you will arrive at the immense sea of salt in the South of Bolivia. This trip, created for true thrill seekers, will provide memories to last for years to come.

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Trip Itinerary

Day 1 – Start your Adventure in Salta, Argentina

Once you arrive in Salta, you will be driven to your hotel. This afternoon will be your opportunity to explore the city. Remember that la siesta (afternoon nap) is a cultural tradition for locals, this means that between 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm shops are typically closed.

Salta is known for its geographical diversity (red, green and brown tinted mountains) and a vast history. Between the colonial architecture, the lively cafés in the main plaza (great people watching spot), and the vibrant and authentic peñas (places where locals grab a table to watch their favorite folkloric singers and join in for some dancing after a wine), you will not lack for things to do today.

Day 2 – Humahuaca Gorge, Salta & Jujuy trips

You will be picked up early in the morning to start your adventure exploring the Humahuaca Gorg (UNESCO Heritage Site). Humahuaca Gorge is known for amazing natural monuments like the Seven Color Hill, the Pucará de Tilcara, and the Paleta del Pintor (Painter Palette) at Maimará village. We will then journey through the Yungas, the green-tinted jungle of the North, past all of these breathtaking natural monuments finally reaching the town of Humahuaca. You will be able to wander amongst colonial houses and streets, get a feel for the old-world serenity that still survives in this setting, and grab some lunch (not included) in one of the typical taverns; the humita (a traditional corn-based dish) is something you definitely must try!

In the afternoon, we’ll keep on traveling to get to the Uquía Church, where you’ll see some peculiar paintings of the colonial period, called Pinturas Cuzqueñas. We’ll then pass by the famous Tropic of Capricorn milestone and finally arrive in the city of San Salvador de Jujuy, the second largest capital of the Argentine North region, after Salta. We’ll visit the cathedral, the main square, and the presidential house of the Tacita de Plata, which means silver cup, a nickname the city of Jujuy was given because of its resemblance to the wealthy Cadiz in Spain.

At the end of the day, we’ll drive you back to your hotel in Salta. In your free time this evening feel free to walk Balcarce Street and choose the bar or peña that suits you the most!

Day 3 – Salta Argentina

This is your free day. This is your opportunity to discover this incredible city on your own. Salta has lots of architectural monuments to admire, which can help you learn a little bit about the history of the city. If you are in need of a recommendation, ours is to start your personal tour around the Colonial area of the city, where you can view structures like the grand Cathedral, a beautiful building painted in a creamy pretty pink color, San Francisco Church, where you’ll see the highest bell tower in South America, and the San Bernardo Convent, built in the XVII century. Another suggestion is to visit the Museum of High Mountain Archaeology, which was created to educate the whole world about the discovery of the “Niños del Llullaillaco”.

At night you have the opportunity to go enjoy the rhythms of Spanish guitars and criolla music in the peña Balderrama, a classic restaurant and bar where local artists and musicians are known to meet up. Try the locro, a juicy stew of meat, corn, and potatoes !

Day 4 – From Salta, travel to Chile - San Pedro de Atacama

In the morning we will take go to the bus station to board a public bus to San Pedro de Atacama, the gateway to the orange-tinted sands of the notoriously driest desert in the world.

You’ll cross the Andes Range through the “Paso de Jama”, one of the highest international passes in the world. The scenic route will take 12 hours, in which you’ll enjoy stunning Altiplano scenery. It is important to point out that today you are leaving Argentina and crossing an international border. Please, keep your passport handy!

Upon arrival at the bus station of San Pedro, you will make your way to your hotel. After checking in you will have the evening to enjoy eating a pastel de choclo (a corn base cake) at one of the cozy restaurants of Caracoles Street (the main road), or maybe buy some artesanías (handcraft souvenirs) at the market.

Please note: It is not allowed to take any fresh food, plants, seeds, etc. from Argentina to Chile. They are very strict, and fines can be high. If you are not sure if something is allowed or not, please declare it (they will provide you with a form) and they will inform you on whether you can carry it or not.

Day 5 – Atacama Tours: the Moon Valley

Todays adventure will start in the afternoon so that you have some time to rest after your long day yesterday. We will take you on a 4 hour adventure in the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley). Driving straight to the desert, we’ll start noticing mysterious forms of salt and clay as we get closer to the “Three Marias” area. These statues are the female guardians of this cosmic desert, so don’t forget to bow and make a wish to the desert gods.  The Atacama Desert is one of the world’s driest and most hostile zones.

After this, take the winding and hidden path of the Salt Caves, and discover the peculiar salt gemstones that have been formed over centuries from the lack of humidity and the altitude of this zone. The highlight of your adventure will appear at the sunset when all the colors of this incredible landscape change their palette, the Licancabur Volcano will turn pink.

After the excursion, you will be dropped off in downtown Atacama, and from there you can make your way back to your hotel on your own. You can also combine this tour with an optional mountain bike excursion (if you are interested in this please contact us for further details).

Day 6 – Atacama Tours: Tatio Geysers & Machuca

This morning, you will travel to where the crevices of the Earth exhale their millenary breath. At about 4:00 a.m., we’ll pick you up to take you 100 km (60 miles) away from San Pedro de Atacama into the Andes range to see the geothermal field of Geysers del Tatio (the highest in the world) this will take about 8 hours. Here, you’ll see 40 geysers and 70 hot springs (their waters can reach up to 85°C /185 °F). This is perfect opportunity to take photos, swim in the Tatio spring’s rich mineral waters, and enjoy a complete breakfast with this magnificent backdrop.

After returning we’ll visit the Machuca village, a little atacameño (from Atacama) town with barely 20 adobe houses and a traditional church that locals visit daily to ask the Virgin to give them water and to preserve roads so travelers can get to town and buy their enthralling handcrafts.

For travelers, this is the perfect opportunity to get closer to the inner mountainous culture of the region, and to try one of the best sopaipilla (a kind of fried tortilla). After visiting Machuca, we’ll drop you off in downtown Atacama. You can return to your hotel on your own or just enjoy your afternoon wandering around town.

Day 7 – Uyuni Tours: 4WD Adventure

Today you will start your 3 Day trip to the Uyuni Salt Flats. The journey to Uyuni is different than anything you might have seen before, there are shimmering salt flats stretching as far as the horizon goes, pink flamingos living in the highest lake on Earth, colossal volcanos, and multi-colored waters.

In the early morning we’ll pick you up from your hotel to start a 10 hour trip in which you’ll cross borders and have your first impressions of Bolivian landscapes.  We’ll pass through Chile and Bolivia immigration offices and, once on the Bolivian side and at 4400m (14,435 ft) above sea level, you will change to a 4WD jeep(with a maximum capacity of 6 people).

Today you will visit the National Park Eduardo Avaroa and see the Bolivian high plain, the Laguna Verde, and Laguna Blanca (Green and White Lagoons), all lying at the enormous feet of  Licancabur Volcano. The next stop will be the nicknamed ‘Dali Desert’ (or Valley), a part of of the Siloli Desert. People named this valley after some of the great painter’s masterpieces which picture similar landscapes: unexpectedly-shaped rocky formations isolated in a 4700 m.o.s.l (15,584 ft) sandy plain. What you must definitely look out for in Dali Desert is the Árbol de Piedra (Tree Stone), a volcanic rock formation which is a forbidding example of nature’s artwork.

You’ll be amazed by the thermal water pools, and the Sol de Mañana geysers, which are intermittent springs coming up at 194º F. The journey ends up at Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon, named after the red algae which grows beneath the waters), the main nesting center for more than 30,000 flamingos of 3 different species, as well as alpacas (kind of llamas) which graze nearby. These places are located at an average height of 4.500 meters (14,764 feet) above sea level and it is possible to spot endemic flora and fauna such as flamingos, vicuñas and other animals.

Day 8 – 4WD Adventure to Salt Hotel

Today you will have an 8 hour excursion to visit the Siloli Desert, surrounded by The Great Uyuni Salt Flats and some colorful lagoons. This will allow for you to keep on exploring the rock formations carved by wind erosion and hit the next circuit of colored high plain lagoons, Laguna Honda and Cañapa, with their brackish and gleaming waters. Take a moment to admire the particular vegetation of the coastline; its teal-colored waters where the great Caquena, Tapaquillcha y Cañapa volcanos echo their images. You’ll be able to see flamingos here, but remember that they are really sensitive animals, so please don’t feed them and try to take pictures from afar.

Then, we will continue to Chiguana Salt Flat, crossed by a train railway that is still in use, and to San Juan town, a one-street village where little more than its adobe church and graveyard are to be found. Nearby sits your special accommodation for the night, the Salt Hotel, in this hotel, most of the facilities are made of salt; salt tables, salt chairs, and salt couches. Enjoy a hot shower and a mineral-filled, restful sleep.

Day 9 – 4WD Adventure to Uyuni

We will visit the Great Uyuni Salt flats today! We’ll depart bright and early in the morning taking a general tour around the widest (6575 miles) and highest (11975 ft over the sea level) gleaming salt flats in the world. Get to grips with this open and endless space. A challenge you can try is to see if you see sky and soil will seem to merge in rainy season (November-March) when the endless brackish desert floods. But don’t worry, the salt always glistens during the dry season too, it does not matter the time of year, you’re sure to see a natural spectacle that’s hard to forget.

The adventure will continue towards Isla Incahuasi, the island amid salt flats, and the perfect place to catch a spectacular sunrise. Then it’s time to model for the famous perspective photos every traveler comes to get. It’s always a funny and creative moment for everyone, and a good souvenir to take back home.

We’ll continue on our way towards the eyes of the salt flats (two perfectly round pools) before heading to Colchani town, located at the limits of Uyuni Salt Flats,  this is where you can buy local handcrafts. The day will finish in a fabled place; a train cemetery. Covered in a train bodywork, this will be the best scenario for the last pictures of this adventurous journey. From here, you will head to the tranquil Bolivian Uyuni city, where you will arrive in the late afternoon.

Additional Trip Info

  • Transfers and tours mentioned in the itinerary
  • 3 night accommodation in a hotel (Salta), 3 night accommodation in a hotel (Atacama), 2 night accommodation in mountain huts during you 4×4 adventure (Bolivia)
  • Breakfast
  • Bilingual guide (English / Spanish)
  • During the 4×4 adventure, you will be accompanied by a Spanish speaking driver.
  • One way bus Salta / San Pedro de Atacama.
  • Meals according to itinerary: lunch (day 7), lunch and dinner (day 8)

  • International or domestic flights or buses.
  • National Park Entrance fees
  • Travel / Medical Insurance – World Nomads

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