From San Pedro in Chile, we went on a 4 day jeep tour of the Bolivian altiplano organized by Colque tours. The scenery is stunning and quite unique; we would see small herds of Vicuna roaming in an arid high altitude landscape with no humans in sight, and then suddenly arrive at a brightly coloured lake containing thousands of flamingos. Most of the first two days was spent above 14000 feet and we occasionally crossed passes 15000 feet high. The time we spent in Bolivia was the highlight of our trip. The tour was very good value (US $95) and included everything except drinking water. Ray, Serene, and I were fortunate to travel in our jeep with Britta and Daniel, two German students studying in Santiago for the semester, and Doro, our driver.
Our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1 - Cross the Bolivian border at Paso Hito Cajones, stopping at Laguna Blanca for breakfast. We changed from a bus to the jeep at Laguna Blanca. From there, we visited the emerald Laguna Verde, the hot springs at Termas de Polques, the Sol de Manana geysers, before stopping at a refugio in the bright red Laguna Colorada. It was quite a sight to see thousands of pink flamingos nesting in the bright red laguna.
Day 2 - The first stop was to the Arbol de Piedra (the stone tree), then to Laguna Hedionda, through the Valle de Rocas, before stopping at Alota for lunch. After lunch, we went to Laguna Canapa, San Augustin, before stopping for the night at the Colque refugio in Chuvica. At Chuvica, we hiked 800 feet up to an overlook behind the refugio to see Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world (12000 square km).
Day 3 - We drove through the salar to Isla Pescado (also called Incahuasi) a rock island with giant cacti. In the jeep, the salar felt as smooth as asphalt, which was a welcome change from the dirt roads in the previous days. After Incahuasi, we drove across the salar to Uyuni where we spent a few hours before leaving to spend the night in Alota. We headed back to San Pedro the next day.