Bolivia - tours for people who don't like tours since 1984

Uyuni Bolivia

Uyuni, Bolivia - Salt Flats and Sud Lípez [part 2]

 

South of the Salt Flats of Salar de Uyuni...

South of the Salar de Uyuni are the native settlements of San Pedro de Quemez and San Juan, the main ports of entry to the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve of Andean Flora and Fauna. The people inhabiting this part of the world generally subsist by cultivating quinoa, potatoes, fava beans, and oats, as well as raising sheep and varieties of the llama/alpaca family. Natural resources include magnesium and copper in San Agustin, marble in Soniquera... All these places are known for their fossil beds and cultural vestiges such as the chullpas.

Chiguana is the military post along the train tracks that lead to Chile, but it is also a salt flat, smaller in extension, of course than the Salar de Uyuni. We must cross this salt flat to enter the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve.

The major point of reference in the region is the volcano Ollagüe (5,780 meters above sea level. To avoid getting lost we must keep close to this landmark. The voyage continues to the two peaks of Tomasamil (5,890 meters) and Caquella (5,947 meters) in the western cordillera of the Andes. Decorating the area are a series of lagoons or water mirrors, vestiges of lakes from antiquity that dried out, now fed by rivers emanating from melting snows and in a few cases from natural springs.

Cañapa Lagoon (4,140 m) is characterized by its sulfur deposits. At the edge of Pabellón Mountain is the Hedionda Lagoon (hedionda means “smelly”) at 4,110m, which, like the latter, is a natural breeding ground for bird life. The area surrounding the Honda Lagoon (honda means “deep” although it is only 20 cm deep) has different levels of ancient marshes among the acidic lava beds from the nearby Tapaquillcha Mountain. Other lagoons like Chiar Khota (4,115 m) and Ramaditas (4,120 m) are found in the same region.

We have now arrived in a zone of lagoons and flatlands of multicolored sands. This is the entrance to the Reserve.

 
...and into the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa (Sud Lípez)

This fantastic region displays an entire palette of terracotas. Reds, oranges, ochres, bronzes, browns, and beiges appear at every curve of the road, vying with each other for the attention of the traveler. Here and there a shiny lagoon softens the landscape, reflecting every other color in creation: yellows, greens, blues, blood reds.

Now covering a territory of 714,000 hectares, this reserve was created in 1973 and extended in 1981. The Reserve is located in a region with irregular terrain between 4,000 and 6,000 meters above sea level, with extensive flatlands and mesas, flanked on the west by a chain of volcanoes (the Cordillera Occidental) and on the east by a range of hills with deep ridges.

The Reserve’s vegetation is characterized by the dominant presence of graminaceous pasturelands referred to as paja brava, which on some of the flatlands and hillsides are found in semicircular forms. At the more humid sites are local growth called tholares and in some of the rocky ravines, between 3,700 and 4,300 m are the endangered keñua woodlands (Polylepis tarapacana) occasionally in combination with the cushiony yareta (Azorella compacta) in danger of extinction.

The fauna is characterized by the presence of endemic species well adapted to the extreme conditions of the region, some of them in danger of extinction. The most dominant mammals of the region are the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), the llama (Lama glama) and the guanaco (Lama guanicoe). Andean foxes (Canis culpaeus), armadillos or quirquinchos (Chaetophractus nationi), viscacha (Lagidium viscacia), condors (Vultur gryphus) and even pumas (Felis concolor) are occasionally spotted as well.

Don't attempt to get there with anything less than a robust four-wheel-drive.

Unique expeditions, exclusive hotels and tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

Depending on weather conditions and other local factors, our tour may continue south via Chiguana (rail station and military post) to Laguna Hedionda. Or from Uyuni we may also head south, crossing the Río Grande to Mina San Cristobal and Alota, a military checkpoint five hours away, with a number of basic alojamientos. Then on through collections of eroded rocks surrounded by snowcapped mountains (including the active Volcán Ollagüe) to Laguna Hedionda in another two hours.

Laguna Hedionda (literally, Stinking Lake due to the sulphur) is popular with flamingoes which are mainly white as the algae which creates the pink color are not so numerous in this lake.

click here to openVegetation and Wildlife at the Lagunas

Laguna Hedionda is not the only lagoon in this area. Others include Cañapa, Chiar Khota, Honda, Ramaditas... The lagunas Colarada and Verde are situated in the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa, created in 1973 and extended in 1981 to protect flamingoes (Chilean, Andean and James), vicuñas and the ostrich-like suri.

Vegetation to look out for includes thola (which after the wet season has an edible root called sicha), yareta grass (which looks like a green pillow, but feels like a rock), quinoa plants (which produce the high altitude Andean grain) and the keñua bush/tree which grows at altitudes up to 5,000 m.

There are 80 species of birds in the area (64% of those found in the entire Altiplano). Other notables include the Andean condor, horned coot (soca cornuda), Andean goose (huallata) and the Andean hillstar (jurunkuta), which lives up to altitudes of 4,500 m.

The birdlife is best seen during the southern summer which is November-January; many birds migrate to avoid the cold winter, June-August, but some always remain. Animals (rarely seen) include pumas (gato andino), Andean foxes (zorro andino) and the rabbit-like viscacha.


Flamigoes

All of South American species of flamingoes
live in Southwest Bolivia

Depending on who you ask, there are five or six species of flamingoes in the world. Of these, three (i.e. all of South American species) live in the southwestern corner of Bolivia:
- Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis),
- Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus),
- James's Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi).

• The Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis is the most widespread of the South American flamingoes. It is distinguished from all other flamingoes by its grey legs with pink knees and feet. It is of intermediate size between the larger Andean Flamingo and the smaller James's Flamingo. Height: c. 100 cm. Local name: flamenco chileno. Medium-sized flamingo. Pale roseate body plumage with darker roseate streaks. Proximal half of bill whiteish, distal half black. Pale yellow eyes, and grey legs with pink knees and feet.

IUCN Red List category: Near Threatened
Population size: 200,000 (mature individuals, total estimates)
Population trend: decreasing

Andean Flamingos are larger, have a patch of red near their eyes, yellow legs and more black visible in their primaries when standing. James's Flamingos are smaller, have a patch of red near their eyes, orange legs and a yellow and black bill.

• The Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus is the largest South American flamingo and is found on the high Andean plateaus of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.

UCN Red List category: Vulnerable
Population size: 34,000 (mature individuals, total estimates)
Population trend: decreasing

It is distinguised from all other flamingoes by its yellow legs, pink-violet plumage and large amount of black visible when perching. It is most closely related to the James's Flamingo, and the two are the only members of the genus Phoenicoparrus. Height: 102-110 cm. Local name: parina grande ('big parina'). Large flamingo. Pale pink body with brighter upperparts, deep vinaceous-pink lower neck, breast and wing-coverts. Large, black, triangular patch of primaries visible when perched. Pale yellow and black bill. Yellow legs. Three forward-pointing toes, no hind toe (hallux). Immature grayish with bold streaks in the upperparts.

James's Flamingos are paler, have orange legs and less black visible when perched. Chilean Flamingos have grey legs with pink knees and feet, and also have less black visible when perched.

• The James's Flamingo Phoenicoparrus jamesi, also known as the Puna Flamingo, is the smallest of all three and is found on the high Andean plateaus of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
It is the palest of the South American flamingoes and is distinguished from all other flamingoes by its orange legs, yellow bill and red skin near the eyes. It is most closely related to the Andean Flamingo, and the two are the only members of the genus Phoenicoparrus.

UCN Red List category: Near Threatened
Population size: 100,000 (mature individuals, total estimates)
Population trend: decreasing

The James's Flamingo was named for Henry Berkeley James, an English naturalist, who funded expeditions to Chile to collect specimens of birds, butterflies and moths. One expedition collected a specimen of a new flamingo, which Philip Sclater described in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society (1886) and named James's Flamingo.
Height: 90-92 cm. Local name: parina chica ('small parina'). A small, pale pink flamingo. Bright carmine streaks around neck and on back. Bill is bright yellow with black tip (less than one third of bill). Bright red skin around eye. Orange legs. Three forward-pointing toes, no hind toe (hallux). Immature is grayish with narrow streaks on upperparts.

Chilean Flamingos are pinker, with paler and longer bills. Andean Flamingos are larger, more violet in colour, show more black in wings and bill, and have yellow legs.

 

Continuing south, the piles of light colored gravel are calilche (a sedimentary rock formed by a hardened deposit of calcium carbonate mineral), which is heated up on yareta grass fires to extract sulphur. The route climbs up through a red-brown rock and sand landscape to reach the Siloli desert at 4,600 metres before dropping down to enter the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa (REA) and then the bizarre Arbol de Piedra (Rock Tree), an improbably balanced piece of wind-eroded rock. It continues down and south to reach Laguna Colorada in around three hours from Laguna Hedionda.

An uncomfortably cold and early start on the next day gets you to the Sol de Mañana 50 m-high steam geyser for dawn. Do not step over this. Putting your hand in may seem a good idea until there’s a change in geothermal activity and you will have the flesh removed from your hand by boiling, high-pressure steam. There are boiling mud holes and a strong stench of sulphur which, when combined with the 4,800 m altitude, can make some people feel ill. Borax processors use the heat of the geysers to make acid and there is a geothermal electricity generation project.

We then continue to the 30ºC thermal waters of Termas de Polques or Polques hot springs (4,400 m) at the edge of Laguna Chalviri, 30 minutes from the geysers. It’s a pleasant spot and may be the first (and last) chance for a wash. (Bring your bathing suit if you want to enjoy the hot springs.)

We carry on for an hour or so through the barren, surreal landscape of the Pampa de Chalviri and Salvador Dalí Desert (Valle de Dalí) at 4,800 m, via a pass at 5,000 m, to the wind-lashed jade waters of Laguna Verde (Green Lake) at 4,468 m, the southernmost point of the tour, unless you wish to continue across the Chilean border to San Pedro de Atacama, the nearest town from here. It covers 17 sq km and is at the foot of Volcán Llicancahur (5,916 m) which is on the border between Bolivia and Chile.

Volcán Llicancahur or Licancabur (from the extinct Llikan-antay language: llican = people, cahur = mountain) is a highly symmetrical stratovolcano. It is located just southwest of Laguna Verde and is the obligatory stopping point on your way to Chile (see below). The volcano dominates the landscape of the Salar de Atacama area.

click here to openReserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa

The southwesternmost corner of Bolivia is covered by the Reserva de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa (REA), a 7,147 sq-km wildlife reserve, ranging between 4,000m and 6,000m in altitude, which encompasses some of the most startling scenery in Bolivia. Like the Salar de Uyuni, the desolate landscapes of this remote region possess a surreal, otherworldly beauty. This is a land of glacial salt lakes whose icy waters are stained bright red or emerald green by microorganisms or mineral deposits; of snowcapped volcanic peaks and frozen, high-altitude deserts; of rock outcrops scoured by the unremitting wind into strange, Dalí-esque formations.

As the name of the reserve suggests, this unforgiving environment supports a wide range of rare Andean wildlife, including many species that are rarely seen elsewhere. The algae-rich salt lakes support large colonies of all three South American species of flamingo, including the world's largest population of the rare James flamingo, one of the eighty different bird species found in the reserve. You're almost certain to see large herds of vicuña grazing on the scant vegetation of the high, semi-desert grasslands. Rabbit-like viscachas and even the elusive Andean fox are also frequently spotted.

Laguna Colorada (Red Lake), 4,278 m high and 60 sq-km, gets its name from the effect of wind and sun on the micro-organisms that live in it. The shores of the lake are encrusted with borax, used for soap and acid, which provides an arctic-white counterpoint to the flaming red waters. Up to midday, though, the lake is pretty normal colored.

The pink algae provide food for the rare James flamingoes, along with the more common Chilean and Andean flamingoes, which breed and live here and also gives them their pink color. Some 40 other bird species can also be seen here. The lake is less than one metre deep but the mud is very soft. Flamingoes can walk across it, but tourists – not even the skinny ones – can’t. Nights are extremely cold here during the southern winter. The REA, which has its headquarters at the lake, recorded the record low of minus 30ºC in 1996.


Sleeping There are a couple of places to stay at Laguna Colorada (very simple shelters, including the REA refugio, a clean and comfy 34-bed refuge) or within a couple hours drive (simple but comfortable mountain lodges, slightly more upscale). Be conservative with water – there is not much of it about.


The high-altitude, volcanic, arid terrain at the border of Bolivia and Chile has been described as the best Earth-based analogue for conditions on Mars billions of years ago—a time when scientists think it is possible that its surface harbored icy lakes and rivers.

Among the most interesting sites are the lakes—the one at the base of the Llicancahur volcano itself and the one in the caldera of the volcano.

Located at the foot of Llicancahur (also spelled Licancabur) Laguna Verde or Green Lagoon is a greenish-emerald blue colored lake that sits at an altitude of 4,468 m (14,658 ft) above sea level. Its water color is caused by sediments, containing lead, sulfur, arsenic, magnesium, copper and calcium carbonates. The water temperature must drop well below freezing before ice can form and has been seen still liquid at -20° Celsius (-4°F).

Behind the lagoon rises the steep-sided, almost perfectly symmetrical cone of Volcan Llicancahur that reaches about 5,916 meters (19,409 feet) above sea level. This stratovolcano dates back to the Holocene and contains one of the world's highest lakes in its 400-m-wide summit crater. The crater rim is said to have once sheltered an ancient Inca crypt where sacrifices were made.

Located immediately to the south east of Llicancahur the Pleistocene Juriques volcano (5,704 m / 18,714 ft) is capped by a 1.5-km-wide summit crater.

The shallow freshwater Llicancahur summit lake is about 90 m by 70 m wide and despite the altitude, has a measured temperature of 6°C! Actually, because of the volcanic warmth the lake never freezes completely despite nightly temperatures up to minus 30°C. The lake also hosts a planktonic fauna of considerable interest to biologists. The organisms found here –precondition for life– might help scientists determine the point at which extreme becomes too extreme for life; their fate may reveal clues about what could have happened to any life that might once have been present on other planets.

Don't hesitate to ask us for a climb up Llicancahur. The volcano can be climbed easily on one day; however, be aware that although it presents no technical difficulties, the wind, temperature, altitude and volcanic pumice underfoot may be too much for most travelers.

Beware! – Do not attempt the climb alone and most of all do not wander on the Chilean side: the whole area south of Llicancahur is hostilely paved with war mines — the Chilean government buried 122.000 of them here during the seventies in order to prevent Bolivia from regaining the territories lost during the War of the Pacific (1879-1884).

 

Back to Uyuni... Regular tours then start the 400 km plus journey back to Uyuni. There are a number of options for routes back, including optional overnights at local community-run lodges or simple but comfortable guest houses – we firmly believe that the minimum three-day tour does not do justice to the extraordinary environment of the region, and an extra night (or more) is advisable but this is up to you…

It is possible to go through the village of Quetena, Laguna Celeste and the bofedales (wet grassy areas popular with wildlife), or the bizarre and impressive Valle de las Rocas near Alota. All the eastern routes give views of huge glaciated mountains including Uturuncu, at 6,020 m, the highest in the area and the only one to exceed 6,000 m.

... or Crossing into Chile It is possible to get dropped off at Hito Cajón and cross into Chile, but you must have previously got a Bolivian exit stamp from immigration in Uyuni. Transport is scarce to San Pedro de Atacama which is a waterless and cold 35 km or so away. Death through hypothermia is a possibility if there is no transport. This is why at Fremen Tours, we always arrange to be picked up on the Chilean side and taken to San Pedro.

click here to openCrossing into Chile

From Laguna Verde it is a short 7 km south to Hito Cajón border crossing, and another 45 km to San Pedro de Atacama.

Do not underestimate the dangers of getting stuck without transport or lodging at this altitude on the Chile/Bolivia border. Do not travel alone.

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama (San Pedro for short) is situated 2,443 metres above sea level, some 100 km (60 mi) southeast of Calama and the Chuquicamata copper mine, overlooking the Licancabur volcano.

American native cultures inhabited this area well before the arrival of the Incas and the Spaniards. The San Pedro River allowed the people to turn the land into a cultivable oasis which is still used today. Do not miss the Museo Arqueológico of Padre Gustave Paige – a fascinating repository of artefacts, well organized to trace the development of prehispanic Atacameño society.

The local climate is extremely dry and mild, with daytime temperatures between 25-30°C (77-86°F) in summer (December-February) and 18-25°C (64-77°F) in winter (June-August). Nighttime temperatures routinely drop below zero and can reach as low as –10°C (14°F) in winter.

If doing the tour in reverse (i.e. from San Pedro towards Uyuni) you may want to acclimatize to the altitude and not go anywhere past San Pedro de Atacama for a couple of days as you will later visit places that are largely above the 4,000 metres high.

San Pedro lies on the main paved road to/from Argentina over the Paso de Jama, 160 km from the town.

There are daily flights to Santiago from Calama (100 km NW of San Pedro).

Atacama Desert

Coming from Bolivia, San Pedro de Atacama is the main entrance to the Salar de Atacama. Although ridiculously small (only 300,000 ha) when compared to the Salar de Uyuni, it is still the third largest expanse of salt flats in the world. Atacama desert is also known as the driest place on earth.

This area is part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamencos. There are scenic villages nearby such as Toconao (37 km S of San Pedro), Camar and Socaire (100 km SE), as well as a number of natural and cultural attractions: Geysers del Tatio (120 km N), Valle de la Luna (12 km W), pre-Inca fortress of Pukará de Quitor (3 km N) and Tulor (12 km SW)... Ask us for details here.

From there you may want to return to Uyuni or carry on to Tupiza in Bolivia, or continue the tour along the Pacific coast and return to Bolivia via Iquique and Arica (via Putre, Parque Nacional Lauca and Parque Nacional Sajama en route to La Paz). Many trip options are available to combine the far north of Chile and Bolivia but most are in private.


 

click here to openTupiza and South to Argentina

Tupiza, capital of the Sud Chichas province in Potosí Department, is 200 km southeast of Uyuni. It is a very pleasant place to visit and enjoys a mild climate. Tupiza lies in the narrow, fertile valley of the Río Tupiza, a beautiful and dramatic desert landscape of red, brown, gray, green and violet hills. Beautiful sunsets over the valley can be seen from the hillsides. The town is a center of the silver, tin, lead, and bismuth mining industries.

A tale of two outlaws – An interesting historical footnote is that in 1908, the payroll of one large mining company in Tupiza was held up by the famous US bandits Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid soon killed in nearby San Vicente. Don´t forget to ask your local Tupiza guide about details or follow the trail…

Interesting excursions in the surroundings include the picturesque waterfall of El Cañon, its bizarre rock formations and huge pinnacles which seem to defy gravity. North of Tupiza, the Quebrada de Palala is a tributary of the Río Tupiza in the wet season, but in the dry season it is used as a route into the wilderness. The gravel road goes up the steep slopes to reach El Sillar, a saddle between two mountains. Here you´ll see the “Stone Forest”, a superb area of eroded pinnacles of rock. To the south of town and Río San Rafael is Quebrada Seca, another area of spectacular scenery.

From there you may want to catch the train back north to Uyuni, transfer to Potosí by bus or one of our private vehicles or carry on south towards Argentina.

Crossing into Argentina at Villazón/La Quiaca

Villazón is a dusty frontier town tucked away at the southernmost edge of Potosí Department.It lies along the Río Villazón which separates it from the Argentine town of La Quiaca. It has little of interest for the visitor other than the fact that Villazón/La Quiaca is the main crossing point to&from Argentina. From there you may want to continue towards San Salvador de Jujuy and Salta.

 

 


Why you should book this tour with us

There is an enormous difference between an affordable tour and a cheap tours, let alone a "super cheap" bargain. And guess what... we offer the affordable ones, not the scams.

Beware when choosing the cheapest Uyuni tour!

Be aware that organization of tours from Uyuni is on the whole appalling (although the staggering scenery makes it worth the effort anyway).

There are many tour companies in Uyuni that offer incredibly cheap tours. This is fine as long as you know what you are getting into. Know that these “super-cheap” tours will place you on an overcrowded, often dirty and degraded jeep loaded with other tourists (mainly backpackers who travel on a shoestring) and you are likely to spend more time fixing flat tires and dealing with mechanical issues than you will at the sights you actually wanted to see. Be sure to ask questions about what type of tour you will be getting (get prices in writing so you don't get surprises later; ask if there are any additional charges applicable, etc.).

click here to openWhen tour packages are too cheap to be true

Beware of travel companies in Uyuni that use discount store wording such as "deep discounted." Unfortunately for the Responsible Tourism Industry, most companies in Uyuni charge unbelievably low prices that just can't be sustainable. These outfits are great if you're looking for something "cheap" as in "poor quality."

Often these irresponsible businesses base their markets on the one-time Uyuni traveler. In other words, there is no need to offer a quality service since most clients will never return, so they focus on quantity and herd as many people through their doors as possible.

In addition, they are typically very disorganized, and the staff is poorly paid and disgruntled. As a result, the high rate of turnover leaves you in the care of inexperienced fill-in staff. These businesses often advertise that they offer everything imaginable for your trip. They invariably end up doing everything for you — but almost nothing is done well.

“prices are subject to change without notice” !!!

When shopping for tour packages and the offer is too good to be true, it most certainly is.

Tour packages comprise of several components, mainly, ground transfers, accommodation, admission to attractions, guide fees and so on. Thus, if you should come across travel agents who charge unbelievable prices, make sure you ask the agent about the tour components. Then decide for yourself if this is the right package for you.

If you are not convinced or comfortable with the offer, it is best not to focus on the price and look for packages that best suit your needs.

Not all trips are created equal

As the saying goes, “the bitterness of a poorly organized trip remains long after the sweetness of the cheap price is forgotten”. In particular, beware of hidden costs and assess the overall quality of your tour, accommodation and so on when you check out other tour companies that have (much) lower prices than ours, because you may end up with unexpected expenses later.

As far as we are concerned, please note that our policy implies that you receive a written contract which states a full day-by-day itinerary, a full meal-by-meal menu*, what is included in the price and what is not.

(*) Vegetarians and special diets are welcome at Fremen tours Bolivia. However, unless you provide us with complete restriction information vegetarians should be prepared for an egg-based diet.

 

Operations Trip prices at travel agencies in Uyuni are based on a six-person group, sometimes seven. If there are fewer than six you each pay more, there is no discount for having seven people and it is even less comfortable. At Fremen Tours Bolivia we work with a very small number of selected partners in Uyuni.

We also arrange tailor made expeditions, based on customers' requirements — see our tours for people who don't like tours. In any case, we NEVER contract the cheaper tours in Uyuni (you'll easily understand why when you get there, or ask us for details here).

NB At Fremen Tours Bolivia, accommodation is ALWAYS included. And not only do we provide lodging for our clients, but as opposed to a majority of local ground operators in Uyuni (who work on a –very– cheap budget), drivers are also taken care of. Yes! We believe our personnel is a –very– important part of the success of your adventure and deserves to be treated accordingly and most of all, respectfully. We urge you to complain loudly and report to us (in written, please, as we need specific information to be able to act) in case any hotel would let your driver and/or guide sleep in the car. Believe us, this happens!

click here to openStandard vs Private Tours

Undoubtedly, private tours are much more expensive than the regular "seat-in-car" expeditions. You may think that since the gorgeous landscapes are basically the same, a cheaper tour is equally worth it. However experience (and remember we've been in business since 1984) has taught us that people are more likely to be disappointed with the Standard tours than with the Private expeditions. In the end, being (or not) in control is a key factor of decision for many, and the superior quality of the premium version makes it worth the effort.

Therefore statistically, a majority of our tours are done in private, including better accommodation and food, more comfort (e.g. legroom) while traveling, experienced local guides and customized tours that put you in control with unmatched value and outstanding experience. Of course prices depend on the size of the group or the destination and nature of the tour.

Both options (and more) right up front

Except for the Standard Uyuni tour (i.e. Option #2 – Popular Salar & Lagoons of our Essential Uyuni programs), all tours with Fremen Tours Bolivia will be just you and your traveling companions, with private transportation — no crowded 4WD and no forced sightseeing stops.

At Fremen Tours Bolivia, we offer you both the less expensive version (i.e. Standard tours – yet without sacrificing quality) and the more expensive version (i.e. Premium expeditions – in private, fully customizable) right up front. Then the choice is yours.

In any case, we always sell quality travel and are scrupulous with our prices and information. We will not offer you a cheap price only to add on hidden costs such as guides, entrance fees and accommodation later, nor will we cut out quality in order to save a dollar. Shop around. Is this the same commitment you receive elsewhere? At Fremen Tours, 95% of our business comes from referrals and professional, discerning tour operators worldwide. Their loyalty is our reward.

 

Large areas of the surface are covered by water during the rainy season between December and April, but even then it's rarely to a depth of more than 1 metre, and usually much less.

click here to openImportant notes about the wet season

Plane delays are frequent during the wet season, and it is not uncommon that a 12-hour journey takes 18 hours due to the roads being washed away by floods and whole loads of buses get stuck in the mud somewhere between Uyuni and Oruro...

We do not work in hazardous conditions. Therefore we will not send our jeeps out to cross the Salar when it has reverted to a wet lake because certain areas are inaccessible, the salt water destroys the engines and it is hazardous to personal safety. Fortunately, there are other ways to enjoy the salt flats during the wet season for a totally different (but equally spectacular) travel experience.

How to choose betwen dry and wet seasons

It is definitely a matter of personal preference. We operate year round and know many travelers who have done the tour in dry and wet seasons and actually preferred the wet season. Ask us for details here.

In very extreme conditions tours can get cancelled but this is very uncommon.

However, no matter how carefully we plan our operations depending on the local situation, the inherent characteristics of the place and unpredictable weather in this part of the world may force us to change part of the itinerary and modify activities (sometimes in a matter of hours, and even when you are already there!). Remember this place is not like a walk in the park!

Access can be restricted for security reasons regardless of the time of year, though this occurs more frequently during the wet season.

 

Given its remoteness, we urge you to visit the Salar de Uyuni ONLY on an organized tour. Similarly, the Sud Lípez area (and Reserva Eduardo Avaroa) is difficult to visit independently. With a population of only a few hundred people living in isolated llama-herding settlements and mining camps, this remote wilderness has no real roads.

Even if you have your own 4WD complete with supplies and navigational aids, you should be extremely cautious about venturing onto the Salar. It's easy to get lost in the uniform white landscape, while the hard crust on the surface can give way under the weight of vehicles. Do not rely on your GPS exclusively.

Even compared to the rest of the Altiplano, the Salar de Uyuni can be extremely cold, particularly during the dry season from June to August. You may want to take a sleeping bag to supplement the blankets which are usually available in the refuges, a warm hat, gloves, a windproof jacket and several layers of clothing including a fleece or woollen jumper and, ideally, thermal underwear. You should also take sun block and sunglasses to counter the fierce glare — snow blindness is a real possibility here.

 

Uyuni is located in the south-western part of Bolivia.

Uyuni

Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.

Join us on a discovery of a lifetime in Uyuni.

Check our selected excursions in this area:

ESSENTIAL UYUNI — 4 days

Uyuni - Salt Flats & Sud Lípez
{ short bolivia excursion - fully customizable }

The following packages also include this area
among other destinations.

BOLIVIA CROSSING — 8 days

From Peru to La Paz via Lake Titicaca / Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez / to Northern Chile or Argentina
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA EXPLORER — 15 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / Sud Lípez / La Paz / Lake Titicaca
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

BOLIVIA SPECIAL DEPARTURES — 13 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / La Paz
{ special itinerary - small group travel }

Feel free to customize any travel package according to your own personal interests and the specific activities you expect...

Join us on one of our Natural History Tours or a Cultural Exploration into the heart of South America. Our programs are offered throughout the year, on a (very) small group basis and mostly in private.

You may also want to make an enquiry or design your own program of activities in this area.

Plan A Trip

Not the Bolivia Trip you're looking for?

Go back to our Trip Selection Page or design your own special itinerary using our Bolivia Travel Planner.

Bolivia Group Tour & Fixed Departures

Call us to help you plan the best active, outdoor exploration to meet your interests, time, budget and abilities. You will be accompanied by expert local guides specializing in each region.

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Speak to a member of our team. We'll answer your questions, provide advice, help you book your Bolivia Trip, and most of all we'll help you customize your tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

You may also check other Special Interest Travel and unusual tours or expeditions around Bolivia, including:

• La Paz, Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca
• Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez Red & Green Lagoons
• Colonial Cities of Sucre and Potosí
• Central, Inter-Andean Valleys of Cochabamba
• Santa Cruz - the Lowlands & Jesuit Missions
• Bolivian Rainforests & Amazon Basin
• Cuzco & Machu Picchu Extensions

Fremen Tours Bolivia - Destination Management Company

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