On this journey you’ll experience incredible, other-worldly landscapes juxtaposed to impactful community tourism activities. You’ll also stay in some of the nicest hotels in the region. Each vehicle is equipped with all necessary equipment to ensure that you have an enjoyable and comfortable experience from San Pedro de Atacama to Salar de Uyuni.
This semi-private experience (max. 4 people traveling together) takes you on an impressive off-road adventure, starting and ending in San Pedro de Atacama or Calama (it’s up to you!). You will experience the natural wonders of this stunning region.
On this journey you’ll experience incredible, other-worldly landscapes juxtaposed to impactful community tourism activities. You’ll also stay in some of the nicest hotels in the region. Each vehicle is equipped with all necessary equipment to ensure that you have an enjoyable and comfortable experience.
Please note that this tour only departs on Thursdays, and Saturdays.
You will be entering Bolivia on this tour and required to comply with their visa requirements on top of any visa requirements you may have to meet for Chile. You can see the latest requirements and cost of the visa for your country at this link. Visas can cost upwards of $160 USD and are not included in the price of this tour, so it is important to consider this in budgeting for your trip. The visa process can also vary in length so you may need to plan your trip including this tour further in advance than usual.
Day 1: San Pedro to Ojo de Perdiz
You’ll be picked up from your lodging in San Pedro between 07:00am – 07:30am and take a group transfer to the Bolivian border at Hito Cajon (we will provide further instructions of this service). Your local Bolivian driver will meet and greet you at the border, and commence the tour of the region. Not far from the border the first highlight – the turquoise shining “Laguna Verde” at the foot of the majestic volcano “Licancabur”. Afterwards you will travel through the Bolivian desert into the Valle de las Damas del Desierto, also known as the “Salvador Dali Desert”, a group of rock formations that has been uniquely shaped by wind and weather over centuries. Following this, a huge plain opens before you and the Salar de Chalviri – a dried-out salt plain – is in front of you. Here, the hot springs of Polques invite you to take a relaxing bath after the hardships of these first kilometers ride through the desert Bolivian hills. After this you will arrive to the geyser “Sol de Mañana”, a spectacle of hissing steam columns, located at almost 5,000 meters above sea level. As you continue northward, you’ll reach “Laguna Colorada” – the absolute highlight of this southern desert region. You’ll finish the day viewing the “Arbol de Piedra”, a stone figure created by erosion at the entrance of the Siloli desert. Overnight stay is in the Hotel Tayka del Desierto. (Meals – L, D).
Day 2: Ojo de Perdiz to Tahua
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll head off to visit the bouquet of colorful highland lagoons: Cañapa, Hedionda, Chiarkota, Honda and Ramaditas where you can spot a large number of flamingos or other birds of the region. Here you’ll have the opportunity to take amazing photos. On the shore of these lakes you will enjoy the view of the currently active Ollague volcano, whose peaks are often covered with snow caps in the desert sky. For lunch, you’ll stop in San Pedro de Quemes at the Hotel Tayka de Piedra. You will then shortly pass through the Pueblo Quemado and enter the main attraction of your trip: Salar de Uyuni. You’ll cross the salt lake from north to south, passing the Campanas islands enjoying “white” landscapes with salt crystals that manifest beautiful optical illusions. You will ultimately arrive in Tahua where your overnight stay will be in the Hotel Tayka de Sal. (Meals – B, L, D).
Day 3: Tahua to Salar de Uyuni
Today you’ll have the chance to experience the magical sunrise over the Salar de Uyuni. After an early morning, you’ll have a chance to return to the hotel to eat a nice breakfast, before continuing to explore the area. You will visit the Incahuasi Island, located in a salt lake, and completely covered by a forest of giant cacti. A short trail takes you across the island where you can admire the centuries-old cactus that rise up to 12 meters into the blue sky. From the peak of the island you have a 360 ° viewpoint of the entire salt flat. On the horizon, the volcano Tunupa hovers above. After an hour drive you will reach Coquesa, where you will climb up the flanks of the Tunupa volcano to explore the cave full of the mummies of Coquesa. After the visit to the museum in Chantani, you’ll head towards the east, where not far from the small salt-processing site of Colchani, you’ll find the salt mounds, which make for a very interesting landscape for photographs. You will visit one local family that runs a micro-enterprise. Upon your arrival in Uyuni, you will enjoy a short tour to the train cemetery. Afterward, you’ll continue on your journey having now experienced one of the truly amazing wonders of the world. Overnight stay is in Hotel Tambo Aymara in Uyuni. (Meals – B, L).
Day 4: Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama or Calama
Option 1 (Bus Transfer)
At 4am you’ll be transferred from the hotel in Uyuni to the bus station. The bus leaves at 5am and arrives in San Pedro at 4:30pm (Calama 6pm). These times are estimates, as there can periodically be delays of up to 2 hours at the border crossing. It is likely that you will arrive earlier, but we recommend setting your expectations to the above times.
Option 2 (Semi-Private Tour/Transfer)
You’ll be picked up from your hotel at 8 am in the morning to start your tour in the town of San Cristobal, located 2 hours from Uyuni. Here, you’ll visit a local church that is considered one of the oldest in the Bolivian Highlands. You’ll then pass through the village of Alota and visit the Katar lagoon, where you can enjoy a beautiful landscape and take your first pictures of the flamencos on this route. We will arrive at the Ciudad de Piedra where you can enjoy the thousands of geometric forms that the erosion of the wind has formed in this valley of rocks and we will head towards the town of Villamar. Passing through the beautiful landscapes of the Quetena bofedales we will reach the beautiful highland lagoons of Kalina and Collpa. Next we’ll pass through the salar of Chalviri where you’ll experience the unbelievable Green Lagoon. From this imposing landscape we head to the Bolivian border with Chile at Hito Cajón to take our private transfer to San Pedro de Atacama. Arrival at San Pedro de Atacama is at approx. 4:00PM. (Meals – B, L).
(Note that the tour generally follows the black lines, the blue route that goes through Ollague is only for when the Hito Cajon border is closed. This tour does not include drop-off in Calama.)
You can change money into Bolivian bolivianos in San Pedro de Atacama or in Uyuni on the trip. It is highly recommended that you change all the money you will need to use either in San Pedro or before you leave your country of departure. You cannot change money at the airport in Calama, and please note that in Santiago some ‘casas de cambio’ or money exchange places may not stock bolivianos.
In San Pedro, go to the street Toconao, south of Caracoles and you will find numerous casas de cambio which all have competitive exchange rates.
For your trip, here is a breakdown of expenses:
Uyuni is a very small town and is the last stop so do not to rely on changing money there because if you run out beforehand you will be very stuck. Additionally, you may need extra money for souvenirs or purchases on the road if you wish. You will be taken to a market just after the salt flats on the last day – it’s much better to buy souvenirs here than in Uyuni, as there is more variety and Uyuni does not have the same type of gifts.
In total, we recommend 350 Bolivianos per person, to allow for all the required fees plus some spending money.
It is recommended that you bring winter clothing and comfortable trekking shoes. Due to the high altitude and desert climate at night in San Pedro de Atacama, it can get rather cold and you will want to layer up. Accommodations do not have heat and mornings and nights could be brutal without proper clothing. As for trekking shoes, much of the ground is uneven, so it is best to have enclosed, stable footwear with good traction. While sneakers are sufficient, boots or more hiking-oriented shoes will help keep you from skidding on certain surfaces and provide you better protection overall. Terrain is quite varied, so your ankles will be quite thankful for the extra protection.
Altitude: Please note that parts of this excursion takes you to about 4,000 meters (over 13,000 feet) above sea level, so it will be important to remain hydrated, both leading up to the tour and throughout the tour. Water is not very easy to come by once on the tour, so be sure to pack plenty. It is also recommended to avoid alcoholic drinks the night before this trip, as well as the nights during the tour.
Symptoms of altitude sickness can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and drowsiness. None of these symptoms are very ideal when you want to be enjoying an awesome trip to Uyuni, so warnings about hydration and avoiding alcohol should be heeded closely to help mitigate the risk. It is also more difficult to breathe at higher altitudes. This tour is not physically demanding so you should not be affected for the most part, but this is still important to take note of.
If you commonly suffer from altitude sickness, we recommend taking this tour after spending a few days in Atacama in order to acclimate if that can be worked into your personal itinerary. This excursion is not recommended for people who suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. Pregnant women and children younger than 4 years old should not take this tour.
It should be noted that considering you will be traveling in two different countries, safety standards will vary. Bolivia is considered to be less safe than Chile, meaning you should take extra precautions. Being on a tour with others may help to mitigate some potential risks, but overall you should still maintain a higher degree of caution. You are unlikely to be a victim of violent crime in either country, but certainly be aware of your belongings as pickpocketing is common. Being out of major cities also reduces your chances of having any problems. The area isn’t wildly popular for Bolivians to live in, so you will likely be around as many travelers as locals. For more information on safety in Chile and Bolivia, please refer to our safety directory.
Another safety concern for some people traveling to Uyuni is the drivers on these tours, as there have been some horror stories about the drivers for tours to Uyuni that involved lack of safety equipment in cars and even drunk driving. We work closely with a tour operator we trust, and we have had our own staff on their tours with no such issues.
The time of year that you go to Uyuni won’t make necessarily make or break your trip, it’ll just depend on what you would like to see. The Altiplano region of Bolivia where Uyuni is located tends to have more of a wet season and a dry season as opposed to four strict seasons. Most people look for the more ideal traveling conditions overall, which are in the dry season between July and October. However, there are a good number of people who specifically seek out a visit to Uyuni in its wet season in hopes of seeing the stunning mirror effect of the water on the salt flat.
The wet season is also colder, but nights during the dry season aren’t particularly warm. During the dry season, Uyuni’s climate takes after that of the San Pedro de Atacama Desert in the sense that the days can be hot and sunny but the temperature can drop drastically with the sun. In either season, layers will be necessary. And in the case of the wet season, you’ll want those outer layers to be waterproof.
This San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni Tour leaves from San Pedro de Atacama and ends in Uyuni. However, the majority of this tour is spent seeing sights throughout Bolivia, not those of the San Pedro de Atacama Desert in Chile. The Atacama Desert is an absolute wonder to be seen though. If you are booking this tour, you are likely already planning to spend several days exploring there as well. If you haven’t considered such a plan, you really should look into the area and reconsider.
From stargazing in Moon Valley to sandboarding in Death Valley to a variety of wondrous landscapes including even more lagoons and salt flats, you will not want to miss out on such an amazing opportunity to discover the driest non-polar desert in the world. To find out some more information about San Pedro de Atacama and to see our tour options to experience it, click here.
After you book your experience, you will receive a confirmation email from us confirming that your payment went through. You will then be connected directly to the tour operator, in case you have any further questions. We are also happy to answer any questions about the tour, or travel in general in your country of destination.