Atacama to Uyuni | Overland Adventure
This spectacular Atacama to Uyuni overland journey combines two of the highlights of South America. In the process, Chile and Bolivia are linked by an adventure that crosses the border in the middle of nowhere.
This tour can be done in either direction and so this will depend on your next destination. Please ask us about the logistics of the places you want to visit. But for the sake of this program, we will assume you are starting in San Pedro de Atacama in the extreme North of Chile. You will have arrived here after visiting Santiago, maybe Patagonia, the Lake Chilean District, or perhaps after enjoying one of our Wine Tours.
Several days can be spent exploring the Atacama area and there are many great things to enjoy. So let us assume you have visited many of the canyons, salt lakes, geysers, and small villages. You have also done some stargazing and of course, continued to enjoy Chilean food and wine. Now you are ready to travel to Bolivia.
Day 1 | Cross the border into Bolivia
We will head off early from San Pedro and drive around 45 minutes into the surrounding volcanos until we arrive at the Bolivian border post of Hito Cajon. Crossing any overland border in Latin America is interesting and fun, if you don’t have to do it all the time that is!
After the formalities are completed you will join your Bolivian 4×4 vehicle and load your luggage for the offroad adventure to come. From the border, we will drive the short distance to Laguna Verde. After spending time at this green lake, surrounded by impressive nothingness its back into the vehicle for a drive through the Dali Desert landscapes.
Then it’s on to the hot natural springs in Polques where you can bathe if you wish. there is a place to change so why not take a dip in these lovely hot waters. After you have dried off and changed we will visit a geothermal field, the Sol de Mañana geysers, with the accompanying steam and bubbling. After this bubbly stop, we visit the Laguna Colorada, a multicolored salt lake where Flamingos are a common sight.
We then venture even deeper into this high-altitude wilderness, across the barren but beautiful Altiplano until we sight the iconic “Rock Tree”. A photo with this rock weathered into the shape of a tree is a classic, and there are many other natural rock sculptures along the way too. This evening sees us arrive at your hotel for tonight, the Tayka del Desierto. This hotel is literally in the middle of nowhere.
Google the location and select “Satelite View” to get a real idea of where you will be, the video below shows the hotel and some of the landscapes nearby. OK, it not fancy, but look where you are!
Day 2 | More high desert & salt hotel overnight
After breakfast you will board your 4×4 and head out with your guide into the high desert, we will drive for a few hours through stunning landscapes, stopping frequently at points of interest. The route will provide a number of volcano and high-altitude lake views. Flamingos should be spotted along the way, plus maybe some mammals such as rabbits, foxes, vicuña, and llamas.
Your day will then be spent soaking in views of colored lakes and lagoons, Hedionda Lagoon, for example, the unusual San Cristobal church. In the afternoon when we arrive in the Uyuni area we will make a visit to the eerie “train Cemetery”.
Uyuni is served by a railway and in the past had plans to increase its network, hence many engines were imported from the UK. The plans didn’t pan out and today the once magnificent machines sit rusting in their graveyard. A visit will not disappoint and the photo ops are superb.
We will arrange for you to stay in one of the salt hotels close to Colchani tonight. These hotels have been constructed from salt bricks for the most part, and have a charm and quirkiness you will love. The photos below give you a taste of what they are like.
Day 3 | The stunning Uyuni Salt Flats
It’s all about salt today on your Atacama to Uyuni expedition as we visit the largest salt flats in the world. Out into the white crust we go, heading to a tiny island covered in cacti right in the middle of the salt flats. You will be blown away by the “middle of nowhere feeling” while traveling in this incredible landscape. However, when you arrive at Incahuasi Island be prepared to see plenty of other people and a gaggle of vehicles. The spot is a popular one, you will see why.
We will refuel you with simple breakfasts, lunches, and dinners during your time with us on this overland adventure. Lunchtime might be a picnic along the route al fresco. Our schedule is somewhat flexible as you have the vehicle to yourselves and we will try to pick great spots to eat.
After spending time visiting any points of interest we see en route to the tiny settlement of Coquesa. So there will be stops to take photos, such as at the Ojos de Agua, or if we see any birds or animals en-route. In Coquesa we will visit the mummies in their lofty resting place and climb to a viewpoint for great vistas of the great expanse of salt and the imposing Tunupa volcano.
After the visits to the Coquesa area, your Atacama to Uyuni adventure draws to a close with the short drive to the town of Uyuni. The town itself is not much to write home about, apart from the train cemetery. This is where the airport is located for your 45-minute flight to La Paz and the quirky delights of the rest of Bolivia.