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Some of the highlights included are:
- Visit the eerie and eroded salt mountains of the Valley of the Moon
- Stop at the red Laguna Colorada and pass through the Siloli Desert
- Visit the train cemetery, Fish Island and the salt flats of Uyuni
- Wander the witches market of La Paz
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- Guided tour of the Valley of the Moon
- Drive on the Salar de Uyuní salt flats
- Entry to Laguna Colorada National Park
- 11 nights in hotels, hostels & guesthouses, 2 nights on overnight buses
- Tucan Travel tour leader, English-speaking local guide(s) on included excursions
- 7 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
- Travel by taxi, on foot, 4WD
Need to know
- There is a maximum of 16 travellers with an average group size of 8-12.
- Punctuality is very important and throughout the tour your tour leader will give you the time to meet in reception.
- It is important to consult your doctor or travel clinic in good time before your tour departs to determine what vaccinations you require.
- It is essential that you be able to carry your bags over distances between bus and train stations and hotels, generally for up to 20 minutes.
- All countries have visa requirements that are subject to change at short notice.
- Travel insurance is compulsory for all tours.
The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. Pedro de Valdivia established the city in 1541 but not much remains of its original glory. At Santa Lucia Hill where the original fortress was constructed, there are excellent views of the city below. However, for even better photo opportunities, take a funicular railway to the top of San Cristobal where the Statue of the Virgin overlooks the capital and the distant Andes. At this very pleasant viewing area you'll find wine -tasting facilities and a couple of beautifully situated swimming pools. Santiago is a very clean modern city with fountains, parks and imposing buildings. In the Plaza Constitución at the Palacio de la Moneda you can see the changing of the guard on most days or you can take an optional excursion to the port of Valparaiso and the resort of Viña del Mar.
The drive north takes us to La Serena, a pleasant coastal town founded in 1544. The surrounding district is one of the most important astronomical centres on earth, with observatories dotted among the hills. While in La Serena you can laze around on the long beach, visit the interesting town or stroll to neighbouring Coquimbo along the bay. There is also an optional excursion to the Elqui Valley the home of Chilean Pisco. In the evening enjoy a barbeque and visit the nearby casino (optional). From La Serena we take an overnight bus to San Pedro de Atacama.
San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro de Atacama
We cross over the Tropic of Capricorn as we make our way to Calama in the heart of arid Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world (it hasn't rained for over 250 years). The modern town of Calama is a former staging post on the silver route from Potosí and now Chile's major copper mining base. A short drive further into the desert to San Pedro de Atacama, where the area is famous for its lunar landscapes, geysers, salt flats and hot springs. There is an excellent archaeological museum at San Pedro de Atacama, housing a good selection of ancient artefacts. Here we have the included visit to the eerie eroded salt mountains of the Valley of the Moon.
Travelling by 4WD vehicles we head up into the high Andes and come to Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), rich in lead, sulphur and calcium carbonate and shadowed by the cone of the Licancabur Volcano. We come upon a geyser basin with bubbling mud pots, hellish fumaroles and a thick aroma of sulphur fumes. We visit the volcanic zone ‘Sol de Mañana' (Morning Sun) followed by the Red Lagoon (Laguna Colorada), which is home to flamingos. Encounter spectacular landscapes with multicoloured volcanic rock formations in the Siloli Desert. Crossing into Bolivia we visit what is claimed to be the largest salt flat in the world, the brilliant white, vast Salar de Uyuní. We visit Fish Island (season dependent), which is shaped like a fish and is covered in giant cacti amid a flat, white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. We then come to Colchani, the main plant for the iodisation of salt and lastly make a visit to the vintage steam locomotives at the Train Cemetery before reaching Uyuní.
Potosí was established by the Spanish in 1545 soon after the discovery of a rich vein of silver in a nearby hill, the Cerro Rico (Rich Hill). It soon became the world's largest silver producer and silver from Potosí underwrote the Spanish economy, particularly the monarchy's extravagance, for over two centuries. Millions of indigenous South Americans, and later, African slaves, worked in the mines in appalling conditions. You have the option to visit the mines, stopping first at the miners market to buy gifts such as coca leaves, dynamite and cigarettes. In the mines we will experience the difficult conditions in which the miners work – including 50°C heat. We'll pass several of the shrines they have made to the “Tios”, which they hope will protect them while they are working in what they believe is the devil's territory. If you'd like to learn more about the historic silver industry you can take a tour of the Moneda, a museum exhibiting interesting artefacts from Potosí's history.
We travel by comfortable overnight bus through the beautiful landscapes of the Altiplano to La Paz. Built in a steep valley that protects the city from the harsh elements of the Altiplano, just about every building in La Paz is built on some sort of hill, so sightseeing will literally take your breath away! Our hotel is very centrally located and is just around the corner from the city's colourful indigenous street markets including the fascinating and suitably named "Witches Market'' where local women in traditional 'Cholita' dress sell strange paraphernalia said to ward off evil spirits. The main square, Plaza Murillo, is also within walking distance. The square still retains its colonial buildings including the Presidential Palace. La Paz is possibly the best place to experience a traditional peña show of Andean music and dance to local bands playing time-honoured instruments such as zampoñas (pipes) and charangos (the ukulele).
Depart La Paz
Depart La Paz
Services end today. However, if you lengthen your stay, you will have time to fully explore La Paz, or partake in some optional excursions that depart from the city. You might like to visit the Moon Valley with its strange rock formations shaped by the weather. Another fantastic excursion is to the emerald green area of Coroico, the gateway to the Bolivian jungle region and a great place to see sub -tropical vegetation and plants. En route you will cross a 5,000 metre high pass before descending to 1,300 metres on narrow mountain roads bordered by sheer drops. The excursion to Coroico can also be done by mountain bike, as it is downhill nearly all the way and very exhilarating, but not for the faint-hearted!