Flooded Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) of Bolivia

Flooded Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) of Bolivia (February 23 – 29, 2020 )

There are few places in this world where we go to time and time again, year after year, and never get tired of it. That place is the Salar de Uyuni when it is flooded!

Tour length: 7-days

Group Size Limits: minimum 5, max 12 guests

Pricing is in $ 3,495 US dollars (International airfare is NOT included in price)

Deposit:$ 600.00/per person (this is non-refundable administrative fee)

To register, click here:  Register Now

Tour will be guided by: Sergio Ballivian and Denise Silva

RRPT is leading a tour to this amazing place in conjunction with Sergio Ballivian Photo Tours!

Images above by: Sergio Ballivian

Tour Highlights: La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Sajama National Park, flooded Salar de Uyuni, Altiplano, salt hotels, mummies, volcanoes, wild vicunas, (possibly pink flamingos)

There are few places in this world where we go to time and time again, year after year, and never get tired of it. 

That place is the Salar de Uyuni when it is flooded!

If there ever was a natural spectacle that merits an award, an applause or a bow from us, it is when the world’s largest salt flat floods for about four months every year. The rainy season in Bolivia is from December to March and that is when Bolivia gets their rain – and specifically the Bolivian highlands get their snow – which causes flooding on the Altiplano.

At 11,890′ above sea level (3,625m), the lowest spot on the Altiplano is at the Salar de Uyuni – known as the Salar de Thunupa to the natives who know the real story. Interestingly enough, that’s about the same height as downtown La Paz, which is approximately a 7-10 hour drive north from the town of Uyuni along the Altiplano – depending on the season and road conditions. This photo tour is all about making photos during the end of the rainy season, when the waters go down and it’s safe(r) to drive onto the salt flats. As you can imagine, salty water and electricity do not play nice together.  Grab your rubber boots and come to the flooded Salar de Uyuni!

We spend a day around La Paz to get sorted out and acclimatized before we head to Lake Titicaca for a day trip. We continue south to Sajama National Park for astounding views of a classic altiplano landscape.  We continue south via a northern route to the Uyuni Salt Flats to make amazing photos. The natural mirror that is created here is like being in another world – one in which you do not know which way is up. You can make perfect mirror reflections – with volcanoes and purple mountains at your horizon line – with an ocean of salty water flowing slowly across your feet.

If conditions permit, we will drive to an island…all water depth dependent…to see their cactus-covered flanks.  We spend nights in a few different hotels to access different points of view and perspectives.

The water-logged landscape around the edges yields a rainbow of colors that is open to interpretation and photos are everywhere, you just need to look around you. We recommended you come prepared to get wet and salty – that means rain gear and rubber boots, as well as warm clothes since the Altiplano can be both chilly and warm in the same day.

The sun certainly does come out and when it does it’s like being on a glacier – plenty warm and beautiful with mind-blowing landscapes in front of you. When the sun decides to set, get ready for a spectacle that is second to none, especially when there is water. We’ve had days where the sunrises were as spectacular as the sunsets and shot so much that we were totally exhausted at the end of the day.

Join us on the flooded Salar de Uyuni…you’ll have an experience you will never forget!

– ITINERARY –

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate due to the altitude

Day 1: Arrival in La Paz, Bolivia – City Tour

Day 1 / Sun / Feb 23:               Arrival in La Paz, Bolivia – City Tour

Arrive in La Paz early in the AM. The altitude at El Alto International Airport is 13,200 ft and is on the Altiplano, so it’s common to feel symptoms of light-headedness and possibly shortness of breath upon arrival. After doing immigration and then customs you’ll be met by us at the general passenger meeting point where you will board our private vehicle and head down into La Paz.  We will loose altitude quickly, and you’ll likely feel much better. We suggest you have a basic photo kit easily accessible so you can take photos along the way. The hotel is located in the Calacoto neighborhood at the lowest level of La Paz (approximately around 10,200’) where you will check in and rest, relax or sleep for the rest of the morning. Lunch at the hotel. At 2 PM we begin a 4-hour city tour of this fascinating city deep in the heart of the Andes; visiting the busy downtown, the open-air markets, and the colonial neighborhoods with great views of the city. Group dinner together to talk about the upcoming days. We recommend a light dinner (avoid alcohol and caffeine at night) and drink plenty of water and mate de coca (coca tea) during the day. Overnight at Hotel Mitru Sur (5*). (L,D)

Day 2: La Paz – Lake Titicaca – La Paz

To continue the acclimatization process and still see amazing things we head to Lake Titicaca on a day trip. After rising out of the canyon and crossing the mega-city of El Alto, we head west to the shores of Lake Titicaca to see it’s beautiful blue waters – the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 ft., and the birthplace of the Incas. We begin our journey back to La Paz in the afternoon crossing the Andes once again and be back at the hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner on your own tonight. Overnight at Hotel Mitru Sur (5*). (B,L)

Day 3: La Paz – Sajama National Park

Today our destination is Bolivia’s first National Park; Sajama, named for the strato-volcano that is the centerpiece of this spectacular, high-altitude region abutting on Chile’s border.  Our drive from La Paz is on paved roads for roughly 5 hours, mostly due west-southwest towards Chile.  Once at the park entrance we begin to see the details we came for – llamas and alpacas feeding on the vast plateau, surrounded by volcanoes and puna wetlands, cut by ice-cold rivers draining from the summit glaciers.  There are wild vicuñas (camelid), viscachas (friendly rodent that is a cross between a large rabbit and squirrel), condors, eagles, hawks and Suri (American Rhea) that call this wind-blown region home.  We head to our hostel and check-in then head out after a rest before sunset.  We have a few key locations where the best photos of the most classic views are made.  We return to our hostal in the village of Sajama and freshen-up before dinner.  Dinner and overnight at Hostal Tomarapi (3*) (B,L,D)

Day 4: Sajama National Park – Oruro – Salinas de Garci Mendoza – Jirira

After an early breakfast we head east, towards the main paved road that will take us to Patacamaya then south to Oruro. Lunch en route. Continuing south until we reach Salinas de Garci Mendoza – all on paved roads – by the early afternoon.  The last hour or so will be on a dirt road that circumvents Mt. Thunupa, the dominant volcano on the northern edge of the Salar de Uyuni.   Our destination is an Aymara family-run hostal called La Posada de Doña Lupe, a friend of ours that has provided food and shelter for us intrepid adventurers and photographers for the last 30 years.  We will check-in and freshen-up before heading out for our first sunset shoot on the world’s largest salt flat – the Salar de Uyuni!  We return after sunset to Jirira and rest before dinner.  Overnight at Dona Lupe’s Posada (3*) (B,L,D)

Day 5: Jirira – Salar de Uyuni – Jirira

Our first full day on the Salar de Uyuni!  We begin with a pre-sunrise wake-up and brief drive to the edge of the salt flat.  We will arrive at dark, before sunrise and have time to scout for the best location – looking specifically for water and textures that will be enhanced as the sun rises behind the Andes to the east of us.  As water levels fluctuate, we choose where may be the best part to get new photos, different angles and more spectacular backdrops.  We’re always looking and taking notes in order to come back for the perfect light at the best time of the day looking at the best sunrise or sunset options.  We return for lunch in Jirira and rest or to download photos before departing again into the salt flats before sunset. We finish another great day and return to Jirira have some free time to rest or download photos.  Dinner and rest.  Overnight at Dona Lupe’s Posada (3*) (B,L,D)

Day 6: Jirira – Salar de Uyuni – Jirira

We have many options today for making photos so we can stay on the mainland or dabble at the edges of the salt flat. It is always a great idea to get up before sunrise and head to the edge as the location here produces amazing photos looking towards the sunrise or to the west. Anywhere you point your lens should provide great images. Depending on water levels, we enter the salt flats via the villages of Jirira, Coquesa or Tahua, all of which sit below Thunupa Volcano so we can experience a little of what the flooded salar is like. Lunch in Jirira. We want to get up high on the volcano for one of the most spectacular views in the region for sunset so we drive up about a thousand feet onto the flanks of Mt. Thunupa. Our parking spot also happens to be a few minutes walk from mummies that are kept in a cave for people to come and visit them. It’s quite a day. We finish the day back in the village of Jirira and have time to freshen-up before dinner.  Overnight at Dona Lupe’s Posada (3*) (B,L,D)

Day 7: Jirira – Oruro – La Paz

The drive to La Paz will take a good part of the day but is pretty spectacular because it stays high in the mountains for the first half of the trip and it’s on a paved road all the way to La Paz so, it’s fast and comfortable. Along the way you will see multi-colored valleys, high peaks, green puna with llamas and alpacas grazing. The closer we get to La Paz you will see the glacier-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real rising above the Altiplano. The scenery is truly amazing and should provide plenty of visual appeal along the entire route. We should arrive in La Paz in the early evening. Group dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate a wonderful and adventurous journey of the Bolivian highland region. Overnight at Hotel Mitru Sur (5*). (B,L,D)

Day 8: La Paz – Home

We provide a complimentary shuttle service to the airport for those departing today.  Please let us know your schedule ahead of time so we can coordinate your airport transfer schedule.

– End of our services –

Included:

Airport pick-up in El Alto airport, transfer to hotel in La Paz, all hotel & hostel accommodations, all transport and gasoline in a private vehicle with a professional driver, all meals (as noted in the itinerary), all entry fees to national parks and protected areas, museums, etc., bottled water, snacks, 35+ years of tourism experience, a native-born bi-lingual professional photographer as your guide.

NOT included:

Personal expenses of any kind, liquor, laundry, telephone, e-mail, cel phone or wi-fi services, insurance for lost luggage, emergency evacuation, personal travel or health insurance or doctor visits. We of course would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic.

Trip Insurance:

All participants are strongly advised to purchase travel protection insurance. Travelinsurance.com offers many different options from various vendors and allows for product comparison.

Participant Information, Waiver, and Release – click here.

Healthy Packing List – click here.

 

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