'Touch the Sky: An Expedition through the Deserts of Chile and Bolivia'

What makes this trip special?

Adobe in the Desert

Adobe in the Desert

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is the main base for all your activities in the Atacama region. A few years ago the little town was just a few adobe houses, but it now bustles with visitors heading into the desert.

Salt Flats and Lagoons

Salt Flats and Lagoons

Salar de Atacama and Altiplanic Lagoons

10km south of San Pedro de Atacama lies this 3000 km2 area of salt pans. The plains are formed by streams from the high Andes that are unable to escape and evaporate leaving just these mineral deposits. On the Salar you will find lagoons that are home to dozens of flamingos that are attracted to the colourful waters.

City life beside the Andes

City life beside the Andes


Set against the backdrop of a long line of Andean peaks, Santiago is a colonial city, turned republican capital, turned modern metropolis. There's a lot to do, with good art galleries, unmissable museums, lovely parks, and a great range of shops, restaurants and hotels. Step outside the city and you are in some of Chile's most notable wine valleys.

Astrology in the Atacama

Astrology in the Atacama

Star gazing in San Pedro

The skies of Atacama are some of the clearest in Chile with very little light pollution making this the country's most popular astronomy spot. Guides will take you on a tour through the telescopes, and the already lunar surroundings of Atacama make this is a rather surreal experience.

High lakes biosphere reserve

High lakes biosphere reserve

Lauca National Park

Rich in wildlife, the Lauca National Park is home to over 150 different species of birds. At altitudes of between 3000m and 6000m this is typical Altiplano scenery, with a backdrop of conical volcanoes and stunning lakes.

The rugged south-west

The rugged south-west

Colourful lagoons and snow-capped volcanoes

Witness spectacular rock and cave formations, Daliesque desert landscapes where colours melt into one another and flamingoes flying over volcanic lagoons where minerals have coloured the waters shades of blue, green and red.

Volcanic colours

Volcanic colours

Tunupa Volcano

Tunupa is located in the northern side of the Uyuni salt flats and its startling colours include orange, russet and red. Walk up the to the viewpoint for unique photographic opportunities of the Salt Flats and Bolivia's unxplored south-west Altiplano.

The largest salt lake in the world

The largest salt lake in the world

The Uyuni Salt Flats

Traverse the stark white expanse of the vast Uyuni Salt Flats, with relief from the glare provided by a stop on a cactus-filled island.

Silent witnesses of Bolivia's mining heyday

Silent witnesses of Bolivia's mining heyday

Uyuni's train graveyard

Uyuni was founded as a railway junction to facilitate the mining trade links between Argentina and Chile. It was a symbol of cutting-edge progress at the end of the 19th Centuary but this progress was unsustained and trains now lay decaying outside the town of Uyuni.

Itinerary map for Bolivia 'Touch the Sky: An Expedition through the Deserts of Chile and Bolivia' holiday


  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 Santiago
  • 2 San Pedro de Atacama
  • 3 San Pedro de Atacama
  • 4 San Pedro de Atacama
  • 5 Ojo de Perdiz
  • 6 Ojo de Perdiz
  • 7 Uyuni
  • 8 Uyuni
  • 9 Tunupa
  • 10 Sajama
  • 11 Sajama
  • 12 Putre
  • 13 Arica
  • 14 Santiago
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Touch the Sky: An Expedition through the Deserts of Chile and Bolivia'


Arrive in Santiago

Upon arrival in Santiago you will be met and taken to your hotel for a stay of one night. Rest of the day at leisure.


Fly from Santiago to Calama, Moon Valley with an evening astronomical tour

Fly Santiago/Calama 06:30/08:40h In the morning arrive at Calama airport and transfer to San Pedro de Atacama (94 km) for a stay of four nights. In the late afternoon discover the clearest skies on earth on an astronomical tour to the SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations) observation centre. During the tour your will learn how to appreciate and understand the night sky and will have the chance to observe and identify phenomena such as Moon craters, Saturn’s rings, star clouds, galaxies and other wonders of the universe. The centre has the largest telescope park of any public observatory in South America, with powerful telescopes of up to 60cm in diameter, giving you an excellent opportunity to enjoy amazing views of the Southern sky and to learn to recognise its main stars and constellations. At the end of the tour there will be time to reflect on the experience over a warm drink before returning to San Pedro. Recommendations: Wear warm clothes. Note: the tour lasts approximately 3½ hours (2½ hours at the centre of which approx. 25 minutes using a telescope)


Atacama Salt Flats & Altiplanic lagoons

This morning you visit the Atacama Salt Flats, one of the world’s largest where you might spot up to three species of native pink flamingos at the Chaxa Lagoon. Then continue to an altitude of 4,300m to reach the fantastic scenery of the Meñiques and Miscanti lagoons. You pause for lunch in Socaire, a tiny desert settlement before continuing to Toconao where you visit its main square, a bell tower built in 1750 of cactus wood and the Church of San Lucas. In the afternoon (departures are usually at 16:00 in the Summer and 15:00 in the winter) visit the Moon Valley whose natural mineral sculptures, such as ‘Las Tres Marías’, are formed by wind erosion and resemble a lunar setting. Continue to Death Valley with its impressive salt formations before enjoying the sunset at Kari viewpoint, one of the highest points of the Salt Mountain Range. Return to your hotel in San Pedro. Total excursion travel distance 35 km / Duration 4 hours Recommendations: Wear comfortable shoes, light clothes and hat. Use sun block & sun glasses, drink plenty of mineral water, and take warmer clothes to wear after sunset.


Taito Geysers & Machuca Village

A pre-dawn departure this morning for you to head towards the Altiplano. You reach an altitude of 4,320m to visit the Tatio Geysers, one of the world’s most impressive geothermal fields. The extreme morning cold will provide the perfect conditions to watch the steamy phenomena of fumaroles and geysers reach up to 10m. Next you drive north of San Pedro de Atacama to the Puritama Gorge perched at an altitude of 3,500m. The Gorge is home to thermal springs, caused by the region’s high volcanic activity and whose pure waters are renowned for their medicinal & therapeutic value. Flowing amid the rocks of the Gorge, the waters form hot pools, usually around 30-35 °C). Bring your swimsuits so you can take a dip, the waters are said to stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems. There are walkways connecting the main pools and basic facilities such as bathrooms and changing rooms. On your return journey you pause in the wetlands of Putana wetlands which are home to great variety of birds inlcuding the Puna duck, the Giant Coot and the Andean Goose. You final visit is to the village of Machuca whose typical Altiplanic houses blend perfectly into their terracotta surrounding except for the its white adobe church with cobalt blue door. Pick up from San Pedro at 2pm and transfer to Bolivia. As you enter Bolivia you will stop at the Green Lagoon and on route to the Desert Hotel - Tayka del Desierto you will be able to see, from the distance, the "Dali rocks and the Stone tree. The Licancabur Volcano stands guard over the shimmering emerald-green Laguna Verde which changes with the movement of the sun. You will drive through the the hot springs of Polques.


Extra excursion


High Altitude Lagoons

From Ojo de Perdiz we will go to Laguna Colorada while watching three species of flamingos dance to welcome a new day; later we will discover the Geysers, Sol de Mañana. You will drive through various coloured lagoons, the Blanca, Hedionda, Chiarcota and Ramaditas lagoons were 3 different types of Flamingos may be spotted. You will return to the Desert Lodge where you will stay for a second night.


Drive to Uyuni via the train Graveyard

Today you will continue your tour through one of the world's most breathtaking landscapes. On route you will observe Volcano Ollague, Bolivia's only active volcano. After breakfast we will set out for the Valley of Rocks and look for animal shapes and faces before continuing on to San Cristobal passing through small villages, such as Culpina and Villamar. You will continue on the salt flats to Uyuni, and to your hotel in town. Uyuni was founded as a railway junction to facilitate trade links between Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. It was Bolivia’s main gateway to the outside world and the engineering involved was a symbol of cutting edge progress at the end of the 19th Century. Progress was never sustained and the trains have been abandoned as silent witnesses to Bolivia’s mining heyday. Now, after over 100 years, you can wander around, even board the remains of the carriages, as they slowly rust away. A photographer's/train enthusiast's dream! Before your guide drops you off at your hotel, you will stop off at the train graveyard.


Uyuni Salt Flat Tour

The Uyuni Salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) is the remnant of lakes that once covered Bolivia’s high lands (Altiplano). It is the largest salt pan in the world and is the world’s largest reserve of Lithium. This journey will take you to a truly isolated and surreal location where you will be surrounded by a glittering white landscape. It starts with a brief stop in a small settlement called Colchani where the local people bring the salt that they have dug from the salt flat, they weigh it and bag it for sale at an artisanal scale. After this stop you reach the salt flats where, depending on the season, you can see small pillars of loose excavated salt, piles of salt blocks used for building, dark water holes “eyes”, and usually in January and February the sky reflected across the entire vista. In the dry season, (usually late March-late November) you will be driven across the salt flats to visit either Fish Island (Isla del Pescado) or Inca House Island ('Isla Incahuasi' in Quechua) where you will see giant cacti and can find birds and vizcachas (giant rabbit-like rodents) that have made these islands their own. It is not permitted to drive this far when the salt flats are flooded.


Travel on to the Tunupa Volcano

Today you will have another day of travelling across the Bolivian Salt Flats. Eventually you will end up at the Tunupa Volcano, where you will stay for one night at the Tambo Coquesa Ecolodge in Tawa. Leave from the hotel for the Tunupa Volcano, Chantani Museum and the Coquesa Mummies, discover the salt flats and appreciate the scenery. If it is the rainy season we will provide you with boots so that you can discover the wonderful reflections on the salt flats. At midday walk to the Chillima lookout point and the ruins of Pucara. Return in the evening enjoying the sun set over the salt flats and the tapestry of stars in the night sky.

DAY 10

Drive north to Sajama

Today you will continue your journey north, and towards the Sajama National Park. You will stay in the Laka Uta Hostal in Sajama which is a small family run hostal in the park with basic rooms. After breakfast we continue our trip to the north crossing the salt flats of Coipasa and enjoying the region’s largest quinoa fields until we reach Sabaya. There are many archaeological sites along the way, the most important of which is in Sacabaya – burial towers from the post-Tiwanaku Carangas culture. This region is covered with saline wetlands and is home to herds of camelids. We will carry on to the paved road that takes us to the Sajama National Park and arrive at the Tomarapi Community Ecolodge at dusk at the bottom of Sajama, Bolivia’s highest mountain (6542 m.a.s.l).

DAY 11

Day in Sajama National Park

Today you will further explore the Sajama National Park. After a traditional breakfast in Tomarapi we will visit the Laguna Huayñakota, a protected area where you will be able to see a variety of Andean birds and fauna. Then we will go for a dip in the thermal waters and walk through native queñua forests to the geysers where we will have a packed lunch before walking to the village of Sajama where we will visit the church. On the way you will see alpacas, llamas and vicuñas. In the afternoon you can walk around the National Park. As it will be your 10th day at high altitude you might be confident to walk in the high altitude forest at the foothills of the Sajama exciting volcano. You may reach altitudes over 5 metres above sea level.

DAY 12

Drive through Lauca on into Chile and Putre.

Today you will continue your journey out of Bolivia and into Chile. You will be transfered to Tambo Quemado on the border and continue on to Putre. (there will be a change of drivers and guides), where you will stay for one night. As you enter Chile you will travel through the Lauca National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, where you find Chungará Lake, one of the world’s highest lakes. Sitting at an altitude of 4,570m, the lake is surrounded by Apus, or sacred mountains and the twin snow-capped volcanoes of Parinacota and Pomerape which rise elegantly into the sky. Also you will stop at the Laguna Cotacotani, formed of a collection of small interconnected lakes in a dark lava field. Time permitting you will also explore the Reserva nacional las Vicunas, you would have visited similar landscapes as you travel from Tahua up to the Sajama National Park. You will be able to see wild vicunas, green bofedales, abandoned Aymara Villages, groves of quenao - spindly.

DAY 13

Putre- Arica

After breakfast: Visit the pre-Inca fortress at Copaquilla and the Inca tambo in the village of Zapahuira. Descend from the Andes to the Azapa valley to stop at the small museum and to see several ancient geoglyphs of giant humans, llamas and an eagle. Arrive at the coastal city of Arica. On route to Arica you will descend from 4000 metres above sea level down to sea level. Arica is a costal town.

DAY 14

Fly to Santiago

At the agreed time you will be taken to the airport on time for your flight to Santiago for a stay of one night.

DAY 15

Santiago city tour

morning City tour of Santiago evening flight back to UK.

Guide prices for 'Touch the Sky: An Expedition through the Deserts of Chile and Bolivia'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
mix of tourist and mid-range hotels, shared touring in Chile and private touring in Bolivia 2 people sharing £5,585
Prices are per person and include:
  • excursions and local guides as described (shared touring in Chile, private touring in Bolivia)
  • all accommodation
  • all travel in Bolivia and Chile, including internal flights
  • meals as indicated (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • airport and departure taxes if these are not included in the flight ticket

Customer reviews for 'Touch the Sky: An Expedition through the Deserts of Chile and Bolivia'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.


Seasonal information for 'Touch the Sky: An Expedition through the Deserts of Chile and Bolivia'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 Santiago 30°C rainfall 1mm
2 San Pedro de Atacama 24°C rainfall 22mm
3 San Pedro de Atacama 24°C rainfall 22mm
4 San Pedro de Atacama 24°C rainfall 22mm
5 Ojo de Perdiz 15°C rainfall 25mm
6 Ojo de Perdiz 15°C rainfall 25mm
7 Uyuni 21°C rainfall 47mm
8 Uyuni 21°C rainfall 47mm
9 Tunupa 18°C rainfall 62mm
10 Sajama 11°C rainfall 111mm
11 Sajama 11°C rainfall 111mm
12 Putre 17°C rainfall 89mm
13 Arica 26°C rainfall 0mm
14 Santiago 30°C rainfall 1mm

Typical weather for January


Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Touch the Sky: An Expedition through the Deserts of Chile and Bolivia'

Days 2 - 3

Luna Salada

out on Salt Flat

Average rating 4.5 (6 ratings)

Located at the shores of the Uyuni Salt Flats this hotel is built almost exclusively from blocks of salt. There are 49 rooms, with private bathrooms and some are overlooking the Uyuni salt flats. There is a restaurant on site with a bar and lounge as well as a small shop and café. From the hotel it is possible to organise some tours, and hire bicycles.

Luna Salada
Lounge area
Day 5

Tayka del Desierto

Siloli Desert

Average rating 4.1 (8 ratings)

The accommodation is basic but comfortable, and located right in the Siloli desert. From the hotel restaurant, guests can enjoy a wonderful view of the majestic desert. The hotel runs on solar energy and has a heating system based on circulating hot water. All rooms have private bathrooms with hot water.

Tayka del Desierto
Dining area
Day 6

Hostal Naira

La Paz

Average rating 4.7 (7 ratings)

Located in a colorful, colonial-style building in the heart of La Paz. Near to the Basilica of San Francisco and a 5-minute walk from El Mercado de las Brujas, ('Witches' market').

Hostal La Naira contains 32 rooms, all including free wifi and cable TV. Room service is available.

Other aminities: international restaurant/café, pub, warm TV lounge and charm and delightful courtyard.


Hostal Naira