Highlights

  • Embark on an expedition of discovery from the seaside town of Arica in Chile to the barren remote highlands of Parque Nacional Lauca
  • Take a close up look at the Atacama Geoglyph, the largest anthropomorphic geoglyph in the world, carved on the desert some 2000 years ago.
  • Be among the lucky few to see endangered Vicuñas and Guanacos in the wild in the little visited Las Vicuñas National Park
  • Witness one of the most awe inspiring landcapes in the world: the Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt lake in the world
  • Traverse the surreal landscapes of the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve with its coloured lagoons teeming with flamingoes
  • Experience and solitude and the and vastness of the Moon Valley in the Atacama Desert as you explore it by Mountain bike
  • Observe the night sky in the Atacama Desert, one of the world's best spots for stargazing.

This journey  offers you the unique possibility of venturing to a region of South America that is little known to visitors. A region that combines wide open spaces, absolute solitude, magnificent landscapes and unique wildlife sightings. In this carefully curated journey we have hand picked your accommodation to ensure you stay at the best available properties throughout, and we have looked after every detail so that you have a worry free and exhilarating time while always feeling safe and looked after.

Accompanied by your expert driver and English speaking guide, with a perfectly equipped 4×4 vehicle for every 3 passengers, you will embark on a once in a lifetime journey that takes you from the coast of Northern Chile, across the Atacama desert — viewing deserted towns and ancient geoglyphs — across the desert into the surreal and mesmerizing landscapes of southwestern Bolivia and back to Atacama: this time to the charming town of San Pedro de Atacama where you will be spoilt for choice! This small town boasts some of the best spa hotels in the continent.

This is road trip like no other. And you won’t meet another soul.

Daily Summary 11 Days / 10 Nights

Day 1 Santiago Flight from Santiago to Iquique
Day 2 Iquique - Arica Transfer from airport to hotel (350km, 8hrs approx)
Day 3 Arica - Putre Transfer from airport to hotel (145km, 4hrs approx)
Day 4 Parinacota Full day excursion Lauca National Park (200km round trip, 8hrs approx)
Day 5 Parinacota - Cariquima Las Vicuñas National Park (246km, 6hrs approx)
Day 6 Cariquima - Uyuni Transfer to Uyuni (270km, 4 – 7 hrs depending on season)
Day 7 Uyuni Full Day Uyuni Salt Flat excursion (8hrs approx.)
Day 8 Uyuni Surreal landscapes & Small Lagoons
Day 9 Uyuni - Atacama The Eduardo Avaroa Reserve & Tranfer to Atacama (50km, 1hr approx)
Day 10 Atacama Moon Valley excursion & Pukará de Quitor ruins by mountain bike
Day 11 Atacama - Calama Transfer from San Pedro de Atacama to Calama airport (100km, 1.5hrs approx)
  • Day 1
    IquiqueView on map
    Domestic Arrival and Transfer to Hotel

    An Aracari representative will be expecting you from your domestic flight from Santiago, with a sign bearing your name. They will escort you to your hotel to assist you with check-in and will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

    Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this chic hotel is 11 minutes' walk from Cavancha Beach, and 4 km from the 19th-century Clock Tower. Bright, relaxed rooms with ocean views feature free Wi-Fi and flat-screen  Amenities include an airy restaurant and a bar, plus meeting and event space. A spa area with a hot tub, a sauna and a gym that offers massages. 

  • Day 2
    AtacamaView on map
    Humberstone

    Today we will cross the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world according to NASA studies. Our first stop will be at the ghost town of Humberstone, an abandoned mining town declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Here you will understand in a fantastic open museum, the importance of nitrate for the development of agriculture in the United States and Europe, 100 years ago.

    Next we will drive towards the Atacama Giant Geoglyph, the largest ancient anthropomorphic geoglyph in the world, assuming that its authors were representatives of the same indigenous cultures in the area, between 900 to 1,450 years AD. The figure was an early astronomical calendar for knowing where the moon would set; by knowing this the day, crop cycle, and season could be determined. The points on the top and side of the head would say what season it would be depending on their alignment with the moon, which was important in determining when the rainy season would come in the barren Atacama. 

    Before arriving to Arica, we will also visit Chiza and Tiliviche geoglyphs to see the extensive llama and human geoglyphs, believed to have been created as a guide for caravans descending from the mountains to the coast.

    1 night at Hotel Apacheta | Hotel Apacheta offers eco-friendly accommodation in Arica right next to Playa Feliz Beach, in between the beaches of El Laucho and La Lisera. A complimentary balanced breakfast consisting of local products is offered daily. All rooms at Hotel Apacheta feature a private bathroom, a safety-deposit box and a terrace providing panoramic sea views. El Buey, the biggest wave in South America, can be spotted from the room's terraces at the right moment. Hotel Apacheta has a room designed for disability access. Additionally, this property makes use of solar energy and utilizes noble materials in its construction.

  • Day 3
    Arica - PutreView on map
    Transfer from airport to hotel

    Meet at Hotel and depart towards Putre, visiting “San Miguel de Azapa” Archaeological Museum that keeps a very interesting collection of artifacts showing 12.000 years of human history, with Chinchorro Mummies, the oldest artificially preserved bodies ever found in the world. 

    Lunch at a typical local restaurant. 

    Next, we will drive towards the Lluta Canyon. On the slopes of this deep valley is possible to see several panels with Geogliphs (rock art of big dimensions). Climbing up the road and reaching the foot of The Andes range we will reach the “Quebrada de Cardones” Natural Monument. We will enjoy a short hike to observe the curious Candleholder cactus. 

    We will continue to Putre, on the way will be possible to appreciate the interesting geography from the Copaquilla viewpoint. Be amazed with deep canyons across the desert on the way to Putre.  

    Arrival to the hotel approx. at 4PM. Rest of the afternoon at leisure to walk around the town and acclimatize to the altitude (3500 meters above sea level). 

    Hotel Qantati Putre has 10 identical rooms set in a courtyard around the garden. The rooms have confortable size, private bathroom and central heating, those at the far end of the hotel have nice views down the valley. 

  • Day 4
    PutreView on map
    Lauca National Park

    After breakfast, depart towards the Lauca National Park. 

    The Lauca National Park has 137.883 hectares protected by its Reserve of the Biosphere status. 

    The park has different attractions like its fauna, topography and flora, found in precordillera 

    between 3200 and 3800 meters above sea level. 

    It has a typical fauna, with more than 100 bird species. Among the animals you can find there are alpacas, llamas, guanacos, vicuñas, pumas, tarucas, vizcachas, foxes, blanquillo, ñandus, puna partridges, huairavo, guallata, Chilean flamenco, the giant tagua, juarjal, puna and jergon duck, and condors. In the National Park it is possible to find amazing volcanoes that are 6,000 meters above sea level, like the Parinacota, Pomerape and Acotando Volcanoes. 

    Later, we will visit the small town of Parinacota to see its beautiful church with typical Andean colonial architecture, it remains almost all year closed and only opens for religious holidays that brings back for some days the descendants of the original inhabitants. 

    We will make stops depending on the fauna that we can observe on route. After this amazing day, we will return to our hotel in Putre. 

     

  • Day 5
    Putre - Surire - Isuga - CariquimaView on map
    “Las Vicuñas” National Reserve.

    Today after an early breakfast, we will continue our journey

    to “Las Vicuñas” National Reserve. Las Vicuñas National Reserve is a nature reserve located in 

    the Parinacota Province, Arica y Parinacota Region, Chile. The reserve lies immediately south of 

    Lauca National Park and in its southern portion is contiguous to Salar de Surire Natural Monument,

    all of which form Lauca Biosphere Reserve. 

    This Puna ecosystem preserves high-altitude wildlife, including Vicuñas, for which the reserve is named. 

    Much of the reserve consists of extensive Andean steppes cut by rivers and quebradas, being Lauca River the main one. Typical vegetation includes pajonal, tolar and llaretal formations. In some areas is possible to find specimen of Polylepis tarapacana. Vicunas could be seen close enough to make good pictures of them. 

    On our way to the Guallatire village, at the foothills of an active volcano and next to a creek where many llamas and alpacas walk freely. 

    Drive on a scenic cross-country road to Surire saltflat, where is possible to observe many flamingoes of three different south American species. On the banks of this ancient lake, almost dried, we will find the geothermal natural field of Polloquere. Enjoy a Picnic lunch and an optional bath at their hot springs. 

    Next, we will continue south, crossing a mountain pass at 15419 feet of altitude. We will arrive at Volcán Isluga National Park, where we will find more settlements of lama and alpaca herders. 

    The cultivation of quinoa and potatoes complements the economy of these communities. The villages of Enquelga and Isluga stands out for their agricultural activity and beautiful churches, respectively. The Isluga volcano, like Guallatire, elevates its smoke to the sky, evidence of its magmatic activity. 

    We will arrive at the town of Cariquima at 12400 feet to stay at a simple hostel run by an Aymara family.

    1 night at Cariquima Guest House | Overnight at a small and simple family-run hostel in the rural village of Cariquima.

  • Day 6
    CariquimaView on map
    Transfer to Colchani

    Breakfast at Hotel and transfer to the Chile-Bolivia border checkpoint. 

    After crossing the border and meeting your Bolivian guide and driver, you will begin your journey towards your hotel in Colchani taking in stunning landscapes and a first glimpse of the immense Salar de Uyuni. Depending on weather conditions, the journey will take between 4hrs (dry season) and 7hrs (wet season). 

    2 nights at at Luna Salada Hotel | Overlooking the vast expanse of the Salar de Uyuni sits Luna Salada Hotel, constructed entirely out of salt blocks and local materials. The hotel design takes into account lighting and maximizing on space in the rustic rooms.Luna Salada is comprised of thirty rooms, each equipped with standard amenities that include down feather pillows and king or twin beds, private bathrooms, hot water, hair dryer, central heating system and electric blankets for chilly evenings.Desks are made out of salt, and there is At Luna Salada guests are invited to curl up by the cozy fireplace, borrow a book from the library, play a game of table tennis in the game room or spend an evening stargazing. 

    Accommodation options
  • Day 7
    UyuniView on map
    Full day at the Salt Flat

    Salar de Uyuni  | Led by expert guide | 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. 

     

    During your exploration you will visit Colchani, a village on the edge of Salar de Uyuni where locals process salt and sell salt figurines and bottles and bags of authentic Salar de Uyuni table salt as souvenirs. There is also a ‘salt museum’ in this town, which is not only made from salt, but also features salt furniture and sculptures of animals. 

     

    From here you will enter the mesmerizing salt flats. In the dry season you’ll see the bubbling ojos del sal ‘eyes of the salt’ andcan 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. 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.

    Accommodation options
  • Day 8
    UyuniView on map
    Surreal Landscapes & Small Lagoons

    Surreal Landscapes & Small Lagoons | Led by expert guide | Following breakfast at your hotel, you’ll head south towards the town of Uyuni to meet up with your guide. Just outside of the town you will visit the eerie train cemetery, which has become an iconic site associated with the area. This is the fascinating resting place of freight trains that once passed through the area in the late 1800´s.

     

    From Uyuni, continue to 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 Laguna Hedionda, home to pink flamingos. End the day at Mallku Cueva, for dinner and to spend the night.

    Accommodation options
  • Day 9
    AtacamaView on map
    The Eduardo Avaroa Reserve

    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

     

    In the evening, meet your guide for a optional Astronomical star gazing experience. We will observe the beauty and solemnity of celestial bodies in a unique environment: in the middle of the driest desert of the world. The Atacama Desert has one of the most star-spangled skies in the world which can be observed thanks to the extraordinary diaphanousness of the desert air.

    Accommodation options
  • Day 10
    AtacamaView on map
    Moon Valley & Cycling to Pukara Quitor

    Today after breakfast, we will visit the one of San Pedro de Atacama´s highlight. The Moon Valley which is a wonderful place with colorful geology. Located in the Sierra Obate depression, 2550 meters above sea level, it has different visual attractions that turn it in an extraordinary place called "Moon Valley" because of its similar look to lunar soil. The Moon Valley is a perfect place to contemplate desertic nature, without flora, fauna and humidity.

    Next, we will return to San Pedro for lunch. 

    Cycling to Pukara Quitor | In the afternoon, our next excursion will be to Pukara Quitor using Mountain bikes. Pukará de Quitor is a pre-Columbian archaeological site in northern Chile. This stone fortress is located 3 km northwest of the town of San Pedro de Atacama, overlooking the valley of the river San Pedro. It was designated a national monument in 1982.

    Rest of the afternoon at leisure.

    Accommodation options
  • Day 11
    SantiagoView on map
    Flight to Santiago

    Today at a pre-arranged time, your Aracari guide and driver will meet you at your hotel and escort you to Calama's airport and assist you with check-in with your departing flight to Santiago.

Aracari specializes in tailormade travel. Here are just some of our further trip suggestions. Contact us for more bespoke ideas to inspire your travels.

Journey pricing as of 2022

Basic Pricing - US$8,000

This is a sample journey and can be tailored to your interests and travel style.

  • Based on two people travelling together in double or twin occupancy

What's Included?

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

  • Includes all specified services in the journey 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 journey 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
  • Price per person based on two people traveling
The Salt of the Earth
A Private Journey to Chile & Bolivia