To get from Chile to Bolivia by land there is only one way: 3 long days driving through the desert in a 4×4 jeep; no roads, no trails, no towns, zero signs and relying only on a driver/mechanic/guide who finds his way between the dunes, rocks, lagunas and mountains. An absolutely AMAZING experience that we highly recommend!
We started the first day very early and boarded a mini-van which brought us from San Pedro de Atacama to the customs at the Bolivian border at more than 4000m altitude (consisting literally of a hut, one guy inside with his stamp and a few dozen Alpacas grazing around). After having our passports stamped we switched from the van to a 4×4 jeep and met our fellow companions who would travel to Uyuni with us.
On the first day we visited breath-taking lagunas (laguna blanca, laguna verde, laguna colorada), volcanos, geysers, hot springs and much more. At around 5pm we arrived at our “refugio” for the night, a very very very basic house at 4200m altitude; no heating, no hot water and shared dormitorios but we received a hot meal and a bed under a roof! Despite the headaches because of the altitude we had a great night.
The second day we left the refugio very early and raced through the the magnificent landscapes of the Siloli desert and its famous “Arbol de Piedra” (Stone Tree). We then followed the “Route of the Jewels”: lagunas Honda, Ch’arkota, Hedionda and Canapa, a sanctuary to 3 different types of flamingos. We finally arrived to our next “refugio” in the village of San Juan, a small hotel with sand floors!
The third day started with a 2-hour ride under the extreme heat from San Juan to the Salar de Uyuni. When we arrived at the Salar de Uyuni, its immensity was overwhelming: 12 500 km2 of immaculate white plains stretching as far as you can see; almost half the size of Belgium! After taking some classic Uyuni pictures we visited a train cemetery and (after running out of fuel on our way to Uyuni town) finally made it out of the desert alive and kicking.
- We do not recommend a specific Tour Operator for the trek as they all offer exactly the same tour and exactly the same activities (so just pick the cheapest one!)