North Argentina - Atacama Desert - Uyuni Salt Flats
Upon arrival, we’ll meet at the airport and we’ll drive you to your hotel. Take the rest of the afternoon to explore the city. Bear in mind that this is a stress-free hub: la siesta (mid-day nap) is kind of a religious ritual for locals, which means that between 1 pm and 5 pm shops are usually closed.
Salta is the selected jumping-off point for travelers seeking to explore the North of Argentina. From here, you can visit the most outstanding natural wonders of the area: the Humahuaca Gorge, and the Seven Colors Hill located in Jujuy, a bordering province which is also famous worldwide.
What to do on your first day touring Salta?
Salta has it all: the geographical diversity (red, green and brown-tinted mountains) and the vast history—it is in these time-honored lands that men fought for the freedom of Argentina. Make the most of your time in the city and:
We’ll pick you up early in the morning to begin your 13-hour trip exploring the Humahuaca Gorge, declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. Humahuaca Gorge is home to a bunch of amazing natural monuments like the Seven Color Hill, the Pucará de Tilcara (a ramshackled yet well-restored native fortress), and the Paleta del Pintor (Painter Palette) at Maimará village, an impressive multi-colored mountain range. Our adventurous path will then lead us through the Yungas, the green-tinted jungle of the North, past all of these breathtaking natural monuments until ultimately reaching the picturesque town of Humahuaca. 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 little Uquía Church, where you’ll see some peculiar paintings of the colonial period, called Pinturas Cuzqueñas. For the potential astrologists, we’ll pass by the famous Tropic of Capricorn milestone and finally arrive in the city of San Salvador de Jujuy, the second big 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 (silver cup), as history nicknamed the city of Jujuy 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. If you feel like having a particularly nice evening, walk Balcarce Street and choose the bar or peña that suits you the most!
This is your day at leisure, and your opportunity to discover this incredible city at your own pace, one of the highlights when you travel to South America. Salta has lots of architectural monuments to admire, which can help you learn a little bit about the history of the city. Our recommendation for this day 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.
What other activities we recommend in Salta?
Time to keep moving! Early in the morning, we’ll take you 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.
This road trip will definitely rouse your adventurous spirit. You’ll cross the Andes Range through the “Paso de Jama”, one of the highest international passes in the world, and ride 200 km away (125 miles) until finally arriving in San Pedro de Atacama. The scenic route we take will be 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. Enjoy the evening eating a pastel de choclo (a korn base cake) at one of the cozy restaurants of Caracoles Street (the main road), or maybe buy some artesanías (handcraft souvenirs) at the market. Be bold in this secluded corner of the globe, and mingle with locals in the unpaved roads.
Important! 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.
San Pedro de Atacama is also one of the best places to stargaze in the whole world. With this altitude you’ll see the clearest skies ever. Be sure not to waste the opportunity and get out there to chase some starlight!
¡Buen día Atacama! It’s your first morning in this magical place. We know that yesterday you had a long trip, so take your time to enjoy the morning and rest, because in the afternoon, we’ll get active again.
Today we’ll take you on a 4-hour adventure in the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), an out-of-this-world place. 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, and thus, one of the natural highlights of your travel to South America.
After this first encounter, 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 forbidding Licancabur Volcano will turn pink while the valley awaits the rise of its lunar mother.
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. Just ask your Say Hueque travel advisor and we’ll guide you through
This morning, you will travel to where the crevices of the Earth exhale their millenary breath. At about 4 a.m., we’ll pick you up to take you 100 km (60 miles) away from San Pedro de Atacama into the Andes range in an 8 hour trip to see the geothermal field of Geysers del Tatio (the highest in the world). Here, you’ll see 40 geysers and 70 hot springs fighting the super low temperatures of the first morning hours (their waters can reach up to 85°C /185 °F). Take the most impressive photos, swim in the Tatio spring’s rich mineral waters, and enjoy a complete breakfast with this magnificent backdrop.
Upon returning we’ll visit the quaint Machuca village (at 4000 m.o.s.l), 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. Though they used to survive working as llama shepherds, nowadays they count on foreign visitors to improve their quality of life.
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.
Few people are prepared to really live an adventure. In this 3-day travel itinerary to Uyuni Salt Flats you will live more than one, and discover South America in an unique way! The journey to Uyuni is different than anything you might have seen before. Why? There are a couple reasons; 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—did you get the bigger picture?
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 jaw-dropping Bolivian landscapes. We’ll pass through Chile and Bolivia immigration offices and, once on the Bolivian side and at 14,435 feet above sea level, you will change to a 4WD jeep with a maximum capacity of 6 people.
During the first day you’ll 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. If you thought nature was already surrealistic in Bolivia, get prepared to blow away all of your expectations in your South America journey.
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 feet) 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 (or “foreigners soup” as locals call it), 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.
Things to take into account:
Welcome to the second day of your adventure in your trip through South America! You will enjoy a 8-hour excursion to visit the Siloli Desert, surrounded by The Great Uyuni Salt Flats and some colorful lagoons.
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, and this is not just a symbolic name. 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.
Today we’ll take on the highlight of the trip: the Great Uyuni Salt flats. We’ll depart bright and early in the morning to start our 6 hour outing. First, we’ll take a general tour around the widest (6575 miles) and highest (11975 feet over the sea level) gleaming salt flats in the world. Get to grips with this open and endless space. Challenge your eyes: 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—No matter the time of year, you’re sure to see a natural spectacle that’s hard to forget.
The expedition 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, where you can buy local handcraft. The day will finish in a fabled place; a train cemetery. Covered in a bunch of abandoned 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.
FLIGHTS NEEDEDFOR THIS ITINERARY
No flights needed for this trip. Trip starts in Salta and finishes in Uyuni.
Flights in South America cost approximately $100 to $250 USD per segment (destination). We offer special rates on flights for this tailor-made itinerary.
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