Bolivia: Salt flats and silver

Bolivia’s position in the Central Andes has made it one of the hubs of Andean civilizations for generations and its historical legacies continue to peek through into modernity. Lake Titicaca holds special cultural significance for the diverse peoples of the region while the burgeoning city of La Paz seems to cling to the spiritual relics of a forgotten past. Sucre and Potosi are infused with traces of the economic gravitas they once held in the Spanish colonies. But Bolivia is not just a land of historical and political intrigue; the iconic Salar de Uyuni is otherworldly in its ethereal splendor and Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve is not only visually spectacular, but filled with a fascinating mix of flora and fauna. Bolivia as a destination is simultaneously stunning and rustic, demanding a true spirit of adventure from travellers who are prepared to forgo elements of comfort for the remarkable rewards of traversing this country’s terrain. On this 10-day Bolivia: Salt flats and silver itinerary, experience the essence of this rich region.

Highlights
  • Take a cable car to El Alto to see the colorful Cholet buildings guided by the architect himself, Freddy Mamani
  • Marvel at the crystalline purity of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats
  • Cruise around the sublime Sun and Moon Islands in Lake Titicaca
Daily Summary

Day 1 La Paz Arrival in La Paz. Overnight at ATIX.

Day 2 La Paz City tour of La Paz, taking in the Witches’ Market, a cable car ride over the capital, and the Museum of Ethnography and Folklore. Table reservation at Ali Pacha. Choose from a selection of afternoon activities like a visit to Moon Valley or Salar Art Gallery. Overnight at ATIX.

Day 3 La Paz - Lake Titicaca Transfer to Copacabana on the edge of Lake Titicaca. Cruise to Sun Island and hike to Pilkocaina temple. Dinner and overnight at Ecolodge La Estancia.

Day 4 Lake Titicaca - La Paz Visit the Inca Grand Stairs and Sacred Fountain then have lunch and visit a handicraft market. Visit Moon Island before a transfer back to La Paz. Dinner at acclaimed restaurant Gustu. Overnight ATIX.

Day 5 La Paz – Sucre Fly to Sucre, Bolivias's most beautiful city. Explore the key sites. Overnight Hotel Parador Santa Maria La Real

Day 6 Sucre Enjoy a day trip out of Sucre to either Tarabuco Market & Hacienda Candelaria OR a traditional weaving village with an optional hike. Overnight at Hotel Parador Santa Maria La Real

Day 7 Sucre - Potosí - Uyuni Transfer to Potosi and enjoy a city tour including the Casa de la Moneda and the miners' market. Then transfer to Uyuni and overnight at Luna Salada Hotel

Day 8 Uyuni Explore the mesmerising salt flats of Uyuni for an excursion. Dinner at overnight at Luna Salada and evening stargazing.

Day 9 Small Lagoons Enjoy the surreal and photogenic landscapes including the valley of the rocks and small lagoons. Overnight at Malku Cueva

Day 10 Eduardo Avaroa Reserve - Uyuni - La Paz Discover the beautiful natural surroundings and geology including the Sol de Mañana Geysers and Dali Desert. Transfer to the airport for a local flight to La Paz. Departure via international flight.

  • Day 1

    La Paz

    International Arrival

    An English-speaking Aracari representative will greet you at your international arrival with a customized welcome pack, complete with a booklet of your trip itinerary and other useful information. You will then be whisked off to your hotel in La Paz and assisted with all check-in procedures.

  • Day 2

    La Paz

    La Paz City Highlights, Salart Gallery, Moon Valley OR Cholets tour

    The city of La Paz and its surroundings are rife with a living history where indigenous, colonial, and modern customs collide, all under the watch of the majestic Illimani mountain. Peruse the Witch's Market, where mysterious treasures await around every corner, ride the cable-car public transport system for panoramic views of the city and take in the historic centre. During the morning, take a short break for salteñas, a savoury Bolivian baked empanada. During your tour of La Paz, stop for a visit to the impressive Museum of Ethnography and Folklore which showcases regional particularities and unique characteristics of the many cultures of Bolivia.

    Enjoy lunch at Ali Pacha (table reservation), meaning Universe of Plants in the native Aymara language, this exciting new restaurant has a menu entirely based on plant products, with the aim of showcasing under-used produce and championing micro-producers from around Bolivia.

    In the afternoon you can choose your activity based on your interests, with Aracari offering a selection of La Paz highlights and exclusive experiences:

    Drive out of La Paz to the Moon Valley, a series of polychromatic clay formations created by the persistent wind and water erosion of the area's mountains. What remains are a maze of canyons and giant spires in a beautiful variety of hues from beige to tones of red and purple. It’s a serene setting, full of wonder and intrigue.

    Spend time in the Salar Galeria, featuring work by Gastón Ugalde, Bolivia’s most celebrated living artist. Ugalde is known internationally, considered a visual arts leader in the region and referred to by critics as the ‘Andean Warhol’. Salar Galeria is Ugalde’s La Paz gallery, showcasing his contemporary work as well as that of other carefully curated international artists represented by the gallery.

    Partake in a workshop with Mario Sarabia. Working in ceramics for over 35 years and from a family of artists, Mario looks to represent in his art, the soul of the mountains from which he personally digs up clay. His work features colourful patterns and depictions of llamas, birds, indigenous people and more.

    Take the cable car high above La Paz to the El Alto plateau (meaning ‘The Heights’ in Spanish), one of Bolivia’s fasting growing urban centers. Here you will understand the socio-economic story behind the colorful and flamboyant Cholets buildings found here, designed by famed architect Freddy Mamani. You will have the opportunity to see a selection of these buildings from the outside, and go into one.

    Visit popular local's spot and the first gourmet coffee shop in the center of the city of La Paz, Writer's Coffee. The Writer’s Coffee is located inside the Librería Gisbert on Calle Comercio, half a block from Plaza Murillo. The bookshop is one of the best in the city.

    Small, Craft Brewery Artesana was founded by four friends and produces beers made using Bolivian ingredients from the area of Chuquisaca, outside Sucre. A short visit to the brewery allows for an explanation of the production process and story behind the brewery. You’ll be taken through the three varieties of beer they produce and offered a sample of them all.

  • Day 3

    La Paz– Lake Titicaca

    Visit to Huarina or Tiwanaku & Transfer to Isla del Sol

    Leave the bustle of burgeoning La Paz this morning for the tranquillity of local lifestyles on Lake Titicaca. From La Paz you will drive to the village of Huarina, the first village on the shores of Lake Titicaca. En route you’ll visit a workshop where traditional totora reed boats are made by the younger generation of the Limachi family, who built the reed boat used by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdhal in his Kon-Tiki raft expedition across the Pacific Ocean.

    Alternatively, you can take another route to the lake, and from La Paz first head to Tiwanaku, an archaeological site named after one of the most important pre-Inca civilizations and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the local museum and the archaeological site including the Kalasasaya Temple, Sun Gate, Ponce and Fraile monoliths and the Akapana pyramid. You’ll have lunch at a local restaurant before continuing the journey to Copacabana.

    Known for its 16th-century Cathedral, Copacabana offers a fine example of Moorish-style architecture, it houses the statue of La Virgen de la Candelaria and has long been a pilgrimage site. From here, you’ll take a short boat transfer to Sun Island. Stop for a picnic lunch on the island shores (unless you came the Tiwanaku route), featuring traditional Apthapi, a local Aymara meal for travellers. Then you’ll have the option to hike to visit the Pilkocaina temple out to the southern tip of the island, before walking to your accommodation, where you’ll enjoy dinner before settling in for the night.

  • Day 4

    Lake Titicaca - La Paz

    Expert Guided Tour of the Sun & Moon Islands & Transfer from Isla del Sol to La Paz

    Enjoy an early breakfast and then a short hike to the village of Yumani, with scenic agricultural terraces along the way. Descend the “Grand Stairs” of over 200 steps built by the Incas, and visit the Sacred Fountain to taste the water believed to provide eternal youth and happiness. Afterwards, enjoy lunch on Sun Island.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, board a boat for your private transfer to Moon Island. The structures on this island were similarly built by pre-Incan civilizations and the Incas added to them. Here you will visit the notable Sacred Temple of the Virgins of the Sun, Iñak Uyu. Young women were housed on the island to keep an eternal sacred fire lit. Afterwards, return to La Paz, via Copacabana.

    Tonight enjoy dinner at leading restaurant Gustu (table reservation), from the founder of Denmark's acclaimed two-Michelin star restaurant, Noma.

  • Day 5

    La Paz – Sucre

    Sucre's City Tour

    Your guide will accompany you from your hotel to La Paz airport and assist you with the check-in procedures for your domestic flight to Sucre, Bolivia's most beautiful city. Spanish royalty and wealthy families involved with the silver mining in Potosí lived in Sucre. Today, Sucre shares capital city status with La Paz. Its gleaming white stucco buildings and preserved colonial architecture, green parks, and streets lined with cafes and restaurants make it a pleasant and historical city. Besides its aesthetic charm, Sucre has many cultural attractions to visit while strolling around the city. Enjoy a city tour, taking in La Recoleta, Museum Azur and the San Felipe Nery Church. There are many other sites that can be incorporated depending on your interests such as Simón Bolivar Park, the Anthropological and Modern Art Museum, local hat and chocolate factories (must be arranged in advance), and the quarry of Cal Orck’o, outside Sucre, home to dinosaur footprints.

  • Day 6

    Tarabuco & Candelaria OR Traditional weaving village & hike

    Day trip to explore some of the picturesque Andean villages outside of Sucre

    Tarabuco Market & Hacienda Candelaria | The market village of Tarabuco and the traditional Hacienda Candelaria, outside Sucre, both offer fascinating insight into traditional indigenous life in Bolivia. This morning your private vehicle and guide will collect you from your hotel, to head to the village of Tarabuco, known for its bustling market on Sundays. Here, artisans and weavers arrive early and set up stands to sell and barter their colorful crafts and produce until mid-afternoon.

    You’ll continue south-east for approximately 40 minutes by road to reach the town of Candelaria, known for producing quality woven textiles. Take a tour of 17th century colonial Hacienda Candelaria, where you will enjoy a typical Bolivia countryside lunch. You can also participate in a textile workshop, learning to spin and dye the wool and try your hand at the intricate weaving process. At the end of the visit you will be transferred back to Sucre, which takes approximately two and a half hours.

    OR

    Traditional weaving village with hike option Towards the northwest of Sucre lies the Cordillera de los Frailes mountain range, notable for its intense colors thanks to its mineral wealth. This area shelters the small weaving villages of Potolo and Maragua, home to the Jalq’a ethnic group. These Quechua-speaking native communities are known for their exquisite handmade textiles which detail llamas, vicuñas, eagles, frogs and imagery important to them. Visitors to either village are offered a glimpse into daily life in communities that have changed little over the years.

    There are three optional hikes before visiting the villages, including following an Inca Trail, another that visits rock paintings in caves of Puma Machay, and a third option which takes you to the crater of Maragua volcano, and is noteworthy for the dinosaur footprints embedded in the terrain. You’ll then visit Maragua village, where you can visit indigenous homes where women produce their exquisite textiles art. Afterwards, return to Sucre by road.

  • Day 7

    Sucre - Potosi

    Potosi Highlights

    Your guide and driver will meet you at your hotel this morning for the approximately three hour drive from Sucre to Potosí. Now a UNESCO World Heritage city, the city retains elements of its former grandeur. Today you will visit a few places of interest in the center of Potosí including the Casa de la Moneda (Royal Mint), filled with fascinating wooden machinery used to make coins for the Spanish colonies. You’ll also visit the local miners’ market and delve into functioning silver mine for a glimpse at the industry's past and present, with an insight into the challenging conditions miners still undergo to this day. After lunch at a local restaurant, head to the Convent of Santa Teresa, which, besides its aesthetic beauty, is a great representation of religious life during colonial times.

    By prior request, and with an additional cost, Aracari can arrange exclusive access to other historic sites in Potosi, such as a tour of the National Archives with the director, and a visit to the rooftop of the San Francisco Church. At the end of the day, you will transfer by road to Uyuni accompanied by your guide.

  • Day 8

    Salar de Uyuni

    Full day excursion to the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni

    The largest salt flat on Earth, Salar de Uyuni affords visitors with stunning scenery unmatched anywhere else in the world. Covering 12,000 square kilometers (4,633 square miles) of Bolivian Altiplano, the vast salt flats are an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon and highly photogenic at any time of year. In the dry season, surreal pentagons of bright white crystalline salt form, while in rainy season the salt flats see a layer of water develop which acts as a natural mirror, reflecting the sky for a fantastic, other-worldly visual display.

    In the dry season you’ll see the bubbling ojos del sal ‘eyes of the salt’ and can reach Incahuasi Island, notable for its giant cacti. A short walk here on a petrified coral path offers views, before enjoying a picnic lunch in the middle of the salt flats. In the rainy season, thanks to the layer of water covering the crystalline salt you cannot drive across the salt flats but rather enjoy the spectacular ethereal sight and photography opportunities produced by the salt flats when it has rained. You can also visit the mummies of K’aka. Your exact route will be adapted to the weather conditions and season at the time of your visit. To round off the day, admire sunset over the salt flats.

    Evening Stargazing (optional extra) The unobstructed expanse of the isolated salt flats makes night-time stargazing a truly spellbinding experience, as the full breadth and immensity of the night sky can be observed and appreciated.

  • Day 9

    Small Lagoons

    Enjoy the surreal and photogenic landscapes including the Valley of the Rocks, and small lagoons

    Following breakfast at your hotel, you’ll head south towards the town of San Cristobal, a colonial town that is now the world’s largest source of silver. If interested, you can stop to visit the church, featuring beautiful original frescos on the walls. Take a walk alongside the Alota River, home to much of the region’s birdlife. Enjoy the surreal and highly photogenic landscapes of this region, including the Valley of Rocks, with its unusual rock formations offering great photo opportunities. Enjoy a picnic lunch en route today. In the afternoon, visit the small lagoons of this area, including the Catal Lagoon and Black Lagoon, home to pink flamingos. End the day at Mallku Cueva, for dinner and to spend the night.

  • Day 10

    Eduardo Avaroa Reserve

    Enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings visiting Laguna Colorada, the Sol de Mañana Geysers and pass through the Dali Desert

    After breakfast, you’ll continue south with your private vehicle and guide, towards the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve. Today you will stop at the Laguna Colorada which displays various hues of red, depending on the light conditions. It is also the most important nesting site for three types of South American flamingoes. Continue to the Sol de Mañana Geysers, with intensely active fumaroles and volcanic craters filling with boiling lava. Afterwards, head to the Chalviri Lagoon, where you have the opportunity the take a dip in the natural hot springs.

    Finally, pass through Dali’s Desert and make your way to the Laguna Blanca then the Laguna Verde, which looks like a liquid emerald, varying between shades of turquoise and green. Along the way you’ll stop for a box lunch, and have many opportunities to enjoy and photograph the stunning scenery.

    At the end of the tour, you’ll transfer back to Uyuni, passing through Andean villages and the Valley of the Rocks.

    ALTERNATIVE Day 8-10:

    Upgrade to a Deluxe Airstream Camper. What better way to experience Uyuni than staying on the salt flats themselves? As an upgrade, Aracari can offer a special Salar de Uyuni experience, staying in a luxury camper, towed behind a jeep, right on the salar. The three-day program varies slightly from the outline above, but visits the same key attractions of the Salar de Uyuni area, including Incahuasi Island, Thunupa volcano, the village of Coquesa and more.

    Your own mobile “hotel” has bedding for two, private bathroom facilities with a hot shower, a sofa, heating, a mini-bar and even an iPod docking station with speakers. The camper is followed by another smaller supporting wagon carrying kitchen supplies and other necessities like an oxygen tank, radio and satellite phone, in case of emergencies. Delicious meals are prepared by a private chef and served under the stars on the vast white expanse. Following dinner and cocktails, your guide and chef vanish, leaving you to fully immerse in this beautiful destination.

Itinerary pricing as of 2017

Pricing Info - US$5,190

This is an example itinerary and can be entirely customized to suit you. Just get in touch and we’ll design your own tailor-made itinerary according to your interests, travel style and budget.

  • Based on two people travelling together in double or twin occupancy
  • Price is per person for the full 10-day itinerary
Pricing Alternatives - US$7,464
  • With the upgrade to the luxury airstream camper
What's Included?

This itinerary is based on two people travelling together in double or twin occupancy, excluding flights (international and domestic).

  • Includes all specified services in the itinerary description
  • All transfers and entrance fees
  • A welcome pack on arrival including: a pre-loaded cell phone to contact your travel consultant at any time, a printed booklet packed with insider tips alongside your detailed itinerary and up-to-date recommendations on dining and shopping
  • Hand-selected English-speaking guides
  • Specialist guides (where noted)
  • 24-hour support from our locally based team
  • 9 nights in a hand-picked and personally tested selection of Bolivia’s finest accommodation
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