From other-worldly landscapes to deep-rooted cultures – this all-encompassing tour will cover a lot of ground across two diverse destinations in just two weeks.. La Paz provides insight into the many sides of Bolivian culture. While young people flock to the city for its booming industry, traditionally dressed residents sell ancient potions at the Witches Market.. Enjoy free time to discover the elegant colonial architecture, political history and surrounding mountainscape of Sucre – Bolivia’s most beautiful city.. Take a three-day 4WD adventure across the rocky Atacama Desert and the largest salt lakes in the world, passing cactus islands, train cemeteries and mineral lakes teeming with flamingos.
Traverse the untouristed interior of South America on this Intrepid journey that veers well away from the beaten path. Beginning in Bolivia, journey from the potion-filled markets of La Paz, through the landscaped streets of Sucre and on to the once-rich silver ore mines of Potosi. Next, embark on a 4WD adventure across the rocky plains of the Atacama Desert and the vast salt pans of Salar de Uyuni, before winding up among the cactus filled valleys of Bolivia’s Wild West. Finally, adventure across the border to Argentina and discover the remnants of a flourishing indigenous culture in Tilcara, before re-engaging with civilisation in the fiery capital of Buenos Aires.
Breakfast Included: 12 Lunches Included: 2 Dinner Included: 2
Welcome to Bolivia! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, feel free to explore the nooks and side streets of La Paz or, alternatively, venture out of the city in search of crisp mountain air. Perhaps hop on a local bus out to the extraordinary landscape of Moon Valley – this maze of canyons and colossal clay spires, make for staggering views. Alternatively, why not take a cable car to the Mercado de Hechiceria (Witches Market)? Though we can’t guarantee the potions, incantations and voodoo dolls will work their magic, the experience is reliably fantastic, and the locals will be happy to tell you about their significance. After your meeting this evening, you might like to head out with your new travel buddies for a group dinner.
Your second day in La Paz is free to explore. Perhaps visit the Museo de la Coca, which isn’t too far from your hotel. This unusual museum delves into the history of the coca plant that grows in the region, a plant that’s played a huge role in the rise and fall of governments, has ended many lives, and was one of the original ingredients in one of the world’s favourite soft drinks! You may also like to check out the cuisine scene in La Paz on a food tour – taste fish fresh from Lake Titicaca as well as a variety of intense flavours on a chocolate stop. Late in the afternoon, leave La Paz on an overnight bus to Sucre (approximately 9-10 hours).
On arrival in Sucre, drop off your luggage at the hotel before heading out to explore in your own time. Bolivia’s World Heritage-listed capital is a hub of progressive culture and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta – this 400-year-old convent provides great views over the city and is home to a fascinating collection of sculptures and paintings. If you have time, head to the Plaza 25 de Mayo to rub shoulders with Sucre's affluent residents and investigate the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Enjoy a free day to explore Sucre at your own pace. Resting in a mountainous valley and overflowing with a wealth of white-washed buildings and well-preserved architecture, Sucre is not only Bolivia’s capital city, but also the most beautiful. Wander the pretty streets and snap photos of the quaint houses and medieval churches, or for something more active, hike along the pre-Incan path known as the Chataquila trek – mostly downhill, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding Andes. For something completely different, discover a prehistoric landscape and compare shoe sizes with a dinosaur at Cal Orcko, where footprints millions of years old have been preserved. This is the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world, over 12,000 of them! There’s also a proud food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or fresh juice at the Central Market.
This morning take a local bus to the colonial mining town of Potosi (approximately 3-4 hours), once the wealthiest city in the Americas thanks to its location at the base of Cerro Rico (Rich Hill) – a mountain containing a wealth of silver ore. The discovery and extraction of the silver produced a financial boom for the Spanish empire, however the city’s riches quickly diminished once the silver dried up and its citizens soon slipped into poverty. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico could be a highlight of your trip here, but due to safety concerns we strongly advise you not to enter the mines (please see ‘Special Information’ below). Another place of interest is the Santa Teresa Convent Museum where you can observe the art and treasures on display inside the convent’s original walls.
Today, leave Potosi behind and travel to the city of Uyuni (approximately 3-4 hours). This remote town sits on the edge of the high Altiplano, a wilderness area extending for hundreds of kilometres towards the border with Argentina and Chile. Apart from being a gateway to the Salt Flats, Uyuni also happens to sit above the world’s largest lithium reserve – about 100 million tons. While it won’t help you if you’ve arrived with a flat battery, Uyuni’s lithium, once extracted, could potentially provide enough fuel for the entire planet’s smart phones and electric cars for the next century. Enjoy free time on arrival – perhaps take the opportunity to rest up before you kick off your exciting excursion to Salar de Uyuni tomorrow.
Salar de Uyuni
Depart Uyuni this morning and venture out on a three-day 4WD excursion – be prepared for a busy few days ahead. The first stop will be Cementerio de Trenes (the Train Cemetery) for an eerie look at abandoned locomotives that have been engulfed by the desert. Then, continue on to the highlight of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni – the world’s largest salt flats. This vast desert-like landscape of blinding white salt and cactus-studded islands is the remains of a dried-up prehistoric lake. The desolate and dehydrated eco-system hosts very little wildlife, however it is home to an abundance of pink flamingos. Make the most of your time on the salt flats, pose for some snaps and explore Inca Wasi, an other-worldly island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.
Today will be spent driving through the spectacular landscape of the Andean (Atacama) Desert – an expansive plateau strewn with volcanoes and lakes. It’s also home to a vast quantity of quartz and copper, which is said to give its people positive energy and good vibes. Stop by Laguna Colorada, a blood-red lagoon brimming with hot-pink flamingos. Surrounded by the towering Andes, this rare natural wonder is a photographer’s dream – its shallow red waters contrasting against the crisp blue sky and snow-capped mountains. Keep an eye out for an abundance of wildlife such as llamas, flamingos, viscachas and foxes feasting in the nutrient-rich waters.
This morning we depart Uyuni and head to the tranquil town of Tupiza, one of Bolivia's best kept secrets and, according to legend, the site where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their end in one last shoot-out with the authorities. Spend time enjoying the dramatic Wild West landscape, from cactus-filled valleys to arid desert ravines and dramatic red rock canyons. If you feel like an adventure, why not hike to the peak of Cerro de la Cruz (an approximately 2-hour round trip), where you can soak up panoramic views of Tupiza and its breathtaking surrounds. The path is steep and rocky, so make sure you’re prepared with sturdy shoes and plenty of water, but the scenery is worth it. Alternatively, you might like to take the time to relax in this quaint town and get a good night’s rest before the early start tomorrow.
Tupiza / Tilcara
Rise and shine and prepare for a long travel day as you cross the border into Argentina. Witness rural life roll by as you travel by public bus to Villazon, on the Bolivian side of the border. From here, your leader will be on hand to assist with the crossing into Argentina, where you’ll stop for lunch in La Quiaca. After stretching your legs and refuelling with a good feed, take another public bus and continue the journey to Tilcara, where you’ll arrive at approximately 6 pm. There are no planned activities on arrival, so if you’re not tired from the journey perhaps head out for dinner with the group for your first taste of the town.
Today is a free day to explore this dusty and enchanting town. Nestled in the mountain valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca, a World Heritage site, Tilcara is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Argentina with an indigenous culture dating back more than 10,000 years – and the influx of tourists hasn’t stopped the age-old customs and rituals from flourishing. The contrast of modernity and tradition is ever-present here, from the arty urbanites who’ve arrived in search of a quieter existence, to the local farmers fulfilling their daily tasks as they have for centuries. You might like to marvel at the pre-Inca ruins at Pucara de Tilcara, or perhaps venture out of town and check out the colourful hills of Purmamarca. If you’re keen for an authentic lunch, visit the vibrant local market, Mercado Municipal de Tilcara, to try some empanadas (filled pastry) or locro (hearty stew) – lunch service here ends at 1.30 pm, so get in quick!
Enjoy another free day to explore the charming town of Tilcara before catching a late flight to Buenos Aires. If you don’t mind an early start, there are plenty of hiking options available. You might like to trek through rugged terrain and dusty canyons to El Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat) or take a short bus ride out of town and explore the striking landscape of Quebrada de las Senoritas (Gorge of the Ladies). Dust yourself off and rejoin the group as you’re transferred to the airport ready for a 2-hour flight to the vibrant Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, where you’ll spend the next few days soaking up the sensations of the city.