Uyuni Salt Flat
Our journey will head from Salta city to Jujuy province, going across Humahuaca gorge and its little villages: Purmamarca, Tilcara, Uquía and Humahuaca to finally arrive in the Puna, where we will get to the border city of La Quiaca located in the northernmost of Argentina. Here, we will leave our vehicle and our Argentine driver in order to go through migration processes after crossing an international bridge that connect us with the Bolivian city of Villazón. A private-service taxi that will be waiting for us will take us to the city of Tupiza, just 1 hour away and on paved road. Once in Tupiza, we will check in at the hotel and you are free to walk around the city and have dinner on your own.
After breakfast, a Bolivian jeep will pick us up and guide us within the country for the next 5 days. We will leave the city of Tupiza on an unpaved road that will extend for the rest of the trip in Bolivia and we will start driving on a very picturesque road, getting to altitudes of approximately 4500m above sea level. We will go across the mining town of Atocha, where cooper, some silver and tin are still mined. The route path happens to meet the riverbed from time to time and the landscapes are really amazing.
The lunch will be on the truck guide/driver who will pull over somewhere by the road and will cook lunch himself right next to the truck.
We will finally get to the town of Uyuni after 6 hours’ driving and then, after crossing this place, 22 kms away, we will arrive at the salt flat border where there is a group of hotels made of salt to spend the night, have dinner and have a rest.
We will wake up in the morning with a very low temperature for sure, particularly in winter where the temperature drops to -20ºC. Since the Bolivian vehicle runs with gas, there is no problem with gas freezing. We will enjoy a good breakfast watching the sunrise in the great salar of Tunupa, better known as Uyuni salar. This is the biggest salt flat in the world, covering 11000 square kms surface.
We will go all over the salar tourist attractions such as Pescado island (Fish Island) or Incahuasi island, wrecking salt hotels, working people in the salt flat and the Tunupa volcano with its small town of Tahua settled on the base. We will eventually have finished with the whole visit in the salar and we will arrive in a nearby town called San Pedro de Quemes and stay at Hotel de Piedra, one of the hotel chains called Tayka. This is certainly the only option we have to stay at a comfortable place: double bedrooms with heating and en suite bathrooms; this is a real privilege after an intense day. We will have dinner and spend the night at Hotel de Piedra.
After breakfast, we will leave San Pedro de Quemes very early in the morning and we will have a special day ahead for wild fauna photography. We will go through a series of high plateau lagoons, also known as Ruta de Las Joyas Altiplánicas (Route of High Plateau Jewelry) where we will see lots of different species of parinas (flamingoes), geese, gallaretas (South American coots), Andean seagulls, ducks and other bird species that are combined with the sighting of vicunas, foxes, mountain chinchillas and suris or Andean ostriches. Each lagoon is a different sight, and of course, our guide/driver/cook will prepare us a good lunch somewhere with an amazing view. This is certainly a worthwhile photography day since we will be able to see volcanic fields, high altitude deserts and polychromatic landscapes. We will have dinner and spend the night at Hotel del Desierto, which is located very close to Siloli desert and it is another hotel of Tayka hotel chains.
This will be the longest day in this Andean journey. We will leave the hotel to keep tracing the desert footprints, visiting a geological formation called Árbol de la Piedra (Stone Tree) a few minutes away. We will soon arrive at Laguna Colorada with its amazing ochre color contrasting with the blue sky and pink flamingoes flying over the place.
Moving on, we will visit a geothermal field called Géysers del Sol del Mañana (Morning Sun Geysers), located at 5000m above sea level. Early in the morning, right when the sun begins to get warmer, we will see fumaroles coming out from the ground of up to 100m high. After the geysers, we will visit Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), located right at the foot of Licancabur volcano, border with Atacama Desert in Chile. This is another sight of nature; they look surreal, like landscape portraits.
Right after Laguna Verde, we will head to the town of San Pablo de Lípez, our final destination. There, we will stay at Hotel de los Volcanos, the last one of the Tayka hotel chains. This day will be around 12 hours’ journey; there is no other way to shorten it without visiting all the tourist attractions we will have been to.
This is the last day of our trip; it is hard to think about it because we are still in the middle of nowhere.
We will head our way to Tupiza going through the last big slopes, and our goodbye there will be our Bolivian guide offering us the last lunch of the journey in the city in order to take the private taxi back in an 1 hour trip, taking us to the border with Argentina: Villazón – La Quiaca. On the other side of the bridge will be our Argentine guide/driver and vehicle in order to drive us back to Salta city on paved road with an estimated arrival time of afternoon/evening.
Now, it will be possible to visit those historical towns in Humahuaca gorge that we could not visit before. If the light allows us, we will take a forest mountain road from Jujuy to Salta (95 kms), making a huge contrast after many days in deserts and salt flats.
This is the end of a trip that you will never forget and that few people have the opportunity to do.