La Paz gives 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.. Elegant colonial architecture, political history in spades and the hilly neighbourhoods dotted with terracotta roofs – Sucre might be Bolivia’s most beautiful city.. Discover the Bolivian mining town of Potosi – once a hive of activity due to its nearby abundance of silver ore, and now a historical snapshot of small-town industry.. Take an unforgettable 4WD adventure across the Salar de Uyuni – some of the largest salt lakes in the world. Pass cactus islands, train cemeteries and mineral lakes teeming with flamingos.
Get exploring South America with Intrepid and Lonely Planet on a 15-day small-group experience that takes you deep into Bolivia and Argentina. Beginning in La Paz, journey from whimsical potion-filled markets through Sucre’s landscaped streets to the once-rich silver ore mines of Potosi. Take on the Bolivian desert as you embark on a 4WD adventure across the salt pans of Salar de Uyuni, winding up among the cactus-filled valleys of Bolivia’s wild west. Cross the border into Argentina to discover indigenous cultures in Tilcara, before spending a few days at leisure in the fiery capital of Buenos Aires. Local knowledge will lead the way, and plenty of freedom to explore will give you the power to see South America in your style.
Breakfast Included: 12 Lunches Included: 2 Dinner Included: 2
Welcome to Bolivia! Your Lonely Planet Experience begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, feel free to explore the side streets of La Paz, or alternatively, venture out of the city in search of crisp mountain air. You could 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 fascinating, 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.
Today, you’re free to discover La Paz at your own pace. 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, 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 local cultures and Spanish colonial architecture. You might like to visit the Museo de la Recoleta – a 400-year-old convent which 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 check out the extravagant interior of the Senora de la Merced.
Enjoy another free day to see the sights of Sucre. Resting in a mountainous valley and overflowing with white-washed buildings and well-preserved architecture, Sucre is not only Bolivia’s official 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-Inca path known as the Chataquila trek – which is mostly downhill and offers 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, with over 12,000 of them. There’s also a food culture in Sucre, so enjoy some delicious empanadas at a restaurant or a 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 silver ore-rich Cerro Rico (Rich Hill). The discovery and extraction of the silver led to a financial boom for the Spanish empire; however, the city’s riches quickly diminished and its citizens soon slipped into poverty once the silver dried up. A tour and brief history of Cerro Rico is definitely a highlight to consider here. 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 (driving time 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 of 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 pink flamingos. Make the most of your time on the salt flats, pose for some snaps and explore Inca Wasi – an island covered in cacti and coral-like structures.
Salar de Uyuni
Continue driving through the spectacular landscape of the Bolivian Salt Flats with another day to explore this natural phenomenon. Depending on the time of year, the reflections themselves are nothing short of extraordinary, and you and your travel pals can take some seriously cool images. Your local leaders will stage your poses to ensure you capture the best optical illusions. Tonight (weather depending), consider booking into a stargazing experience, where you’ll go spotting shooting stars deep in the Bolivian wilderness. The skies are so clear, and with no light or smoke pollution out here, the constellations will shine bright.
Venture out of Bolivia’s wilds and back to Uyuni town today. Once arrived and settled back into your accommodation, you’ll have a free day to check out the town or just simply relax and check out your photos after an action-packed couple of days in the desert. If you’re still up for adventure, be sure to ask your local leader for their recommendations on what to do here – there’s the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum as well as other mining towns that you may have bypassed on your way to the salt flats. After recharging your batteries (as well as your devices), why not head out to stock up on supplies and have a bite to eat with your travel group – keep it low-key tonight as you’ve got a full day worth of travel tomorrow.
Uyuni – Tilcara
Rise and shine and prepare for a long travel day as you cross the border into Argentina. Set off at 6 am from Uyuni town on a public bus to La Quiaca. Arriving around 1.30 pm, cross into Argentina by foot and then jump in a taxi to the bus station. You’ll have a chance to stop briefly for lunch with your group, before jumping on another bus to Tilcara, arriving at approximately 6 pm. Nothing is planned on arrival, but if you’re not too exhausted from today’s journey, perhaps head out for dinner – your group leader will be able to point you in the right direction for a feed.
Tilcara – Buenos Aires
Today is a free day to explore this dusty and enchanting town. Nestled in the mountain valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca, 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. 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 local street food favourites, like the traditional empanada. Keep in mind that tonight you’ll be taking a two-hour flight bound for Buenos Aires, so be sure to check in with your group leader who’ll provide all the details on where you need to be, and at what time, to catch your transfer to the airport.
Fiery Latin passion, European elegance and superb cuisine combine to make Buenos Aires one of the world's most enthralling cities. You’ve got the next few days to choose your own adventure – nibble on alfajores, wander San Telmo's cobblestone streets, talk football with Portenos (people from Buenos Aires) in a cafe or get a history lesson at the quirky Museo Evita. Alternatively, you might like to walk among the tombs at the La Recoleta Cemetery – the final resting place of Eva Peron – or check out some of the great museums in the Recoleta district. Visit the neighbourhood of La Boca, home to the colourful Caminito artists’ street and world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors. The hottest spot in town is Palermo's Plaza Serrano, so why not head out in the evening for a tango with the locals. There are so many things to see and do in Buenos Aires, it's simply a matter of trying to fit them all in.