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Journey to Atacama Chile & Bolivia | Where to Stay & What to See in Atacama, Chile & Bolivia | ICONIC LIFE

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Journey to Atacama Chile & Bolivia | Where to Stay & What to See in Atacama, Chile & Bolivia

Things to do in Bolivia, Salt Flat Hero

Explora Uyuni lodge, Bolivia

It is magical to explore where few have been. This journey explores uniquely stunning and remote destinations, including luxury lodges recently opened in Bolivia.

It is best to fly into Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city. Things to do in Chile include visiting the spectacular sites of the Plaza de Armas, and the grand heart of the city’s old colonial core with two neoclassical landmarks. In the bohemian Bellavista part of the city, visit Casa Museo La Chascona, the former home of famed poet Pablo Neruda and his wife Matilde, as portrayed in the 1995 film “Il Postino.” 

Include a visit to The Museum of Memory and Human Rights if you are looking for things to do in Chile. It focuses attention thoughtfully on the human rights violations committed by the Chilean state between 1973 and 1990.  

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Things to do in Atacama

Nayara Alto Atacama, Chile

ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE

After leaving Santiago, the first adventure chapter of this journey is the 300-mile Travesia (“long journey” or “crossing”) that begins in Atacama, Chile and takes you to Uyuni, Bolivia.

You will fly from Santiago to Calama (CJC) and take a 1.5 hour drive to the San Pedro de Atacama, the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile. Atacama is the highest altitude and driest nonpolar desert in the world. There are excellent lodges providing top quality accommodations, meals, and exceptional guides to help you explore.  

Surprisingly, you will see oases burst to life in fertile river valleys and on the semi-arid plateaus as well as the planet’s tallest volcano, highest geysers, oldest mummies, and clearest skies. Excursions bring you to explore flamingo filled lagoons, llama and vicuna filled plains, multi-hued hot springs, geysers, and panoramas of 6,000-meter-plus peaks. With all these stunning sights, You won’t be bored or wondering what to do in Atacama.

Things to do in Atacama

Atacama Chile, Explora

Thanks to Atacama’s remote location, high altitude and lack of rain and light pollution, the desert’s night skies are among the darkest and clearest on earth. If you are interested in stargazing, this is the ultimate thing to do in Atacama. As a result, Atacama is one of the best places on the planet for stargazing.

Things to do in Atacama, Stargazing

Nayara Alto Atacama, Chile

A highlight is a visit to the Tatio geyser field, the third largest geothermal area of its kind in the world, at a staggering height of 14,170 ft above sea level. Here, geysers erupt every minute or so, engulfing all those nearby in thick, warm steam.  

TRAVESÍA ATACAMA TO UYUNI

Leaving Atacama, your Travesia takes you to western Bolivia. You won’t be wondering what to do in Bolivia with this overland journey. It takes you through one of the most remote regions of South America, the Altiplano of Bolivia. It is the most extensive area of high plateau outside of Tibet. Here, you will experience surreal landscapes and colors.

Things to do in Atacama

Atacama, Chile. Photo credit: Explora Atacama

At its peak in the 15th century, this Travesia was part of a nomadic journey called Qhapaq Ñan, an ancient Incan trail that extends more than 18,600 miles. Today, your Travesia will shine a light on the beauty of the region and provide glimpses into the lives and culture of the indigenous Aymara people. 

An exceptional company that has pioneered luxury eco-adventure travel in South America is Explora. The Explora Travesía Atacama to Uyuni route takes travelers from their Explora Atacama lodge in Chile to their 2 new Explora mountain lodges, Explora Ramaditas (4 guest rooms) and Explora Chituca (4 guest rooms). Staying at each of these lodges for 1 or 2 nights en route to Explora Uyuni lodge is perfect. It divides up the driving time and allows for wonderful exploration. Sites include Colorada lagoon, Turquiri lagoon, Pescado Island, and the caves of Gruta de Las Galaxias. Your last stop on the Travesia is the Uyuni Salt Flat and the Explora Uyuni (6 guest rooms) is perched ideally on a cliff with stunning views of the salt flat. If you stay at the Explora, you won’t ever find yourself wondering about things to do in Atacama. 

Things to do in Atacama salt flat

Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia

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As of March 2023, Explora Ramaditas, Explora Chituca and Explora Uyuni lodges began welcoming guests and they are the #1 luxury choice here. Remote, isolated, and surrounded by nature, Explora Ramaditas, Chituca and Uyuni are your sublime luxury sanctuaries. For me, after exploring by day, it was magical to be cozy and relaxed in my room made of natural, beautiful materials with a fantastic king size bed, sumptuous sheets, blankets, and duvet looking out onto breathtaking nature with the perfect heating, a hot shower, great service, expert guides, and fine cuisine. 

After staying at Explora Uyuni, a fun option for a night is to be on the salt flat in an Airstream trailer with comfortable, simple interiors and to step out onto the salt. In addition, as an alternative to the overland Travesia journey and with a focus on visiting the Uyuni Salt Flat, there are easy, non-stop 1-hour flights between Uyuni and La Paz, Bolivia.

BOLIVIA’S UYUNI SALT FLAT

Things to do in Atacama salt flat air stream

Uyuni Salt Flat Campers

Upon reaching Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flat, you will be surrounded by one of the most remarkable landscapes in the world. It is a vista of white salt that extends to the horizon, covered by quilted, polygonal patterns of salt and some magical rock formations. The salt is white and seemingly endless, with no roads and few signs of man. It is more than 4,000 square miles in size, which is about the size of the country of Jamaica! The salt crust ranges from 9 to 30 feet thick, amounting to about 10 billion tons of salt. It was created by the evaporation of prehistoric lakes. Then, salt deposits leached from the surrounding mountains and, with no outlet to the sea, were deposited here, the lowest point on the Altiplano plateau. It is tranquil and mesmerizing.

POTOSÍ AND SUCRE, BOLIVIA

The next chapter of my adventure took me on a journey to discover some of the wonders and history and things to do in Bolivia. From Uyuni, I traveled overland with my expert guide on a long and pleasant day trip to Potosí and ending in Sucre, Bolivia. Potosí became an “Imperial City” in 1572 and prospered following the discovery of its silver mines. Sucre is the capital of Bolivia. It was founded by the Spanish in the first half of the 16th century and has several many well-preserved 16th-century buildings. 

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA

Next, I flew to the administrative capital of Bolivia, La Paz, with several stylish hotels. La Paz is worth exploring and is your air hub for travel within Bolivia. Highlights in La Paz were my eight course tasting menu at Gustu (founded by Noma co-founder Claus Meyer in 2012), dinner at Ancestral, and visiting the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) with its surreal moon-like landscape. 

BEYOND LA PAZ IN BOLIVIA

Additional great, less explored destinations in Bolivia include Lake Titicaca (Moon Island and Sun Island), Santa Cruz, the Samaipata ruins, the Maragua Crater and Mashi Refuge in Madidi National Park.

LIMA, PERU

For international flights home, Lima, Peru is a good air hub with many non-stop flights worldwide. Lima is back and busy with a vibrant food scene ranked among the top foodie destinations in the world. Lima’s Central Restaurante is ranked #1 in the world in the 2023 World’s 50 Best list. After traveling in Bolivia, Lima felt cosmopolitan and chic with several fine hotels, excellent museums, fun bars and cafes and outstanding restaurants. Beyond Lima, recommended Peruvian destinations include Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines, Arequipa, Caral, Kuelap, Huacachina, Islas Ballestas and thousands of miles of the Amazon rainforest.

Things to do in Chile lake Titicaca

Posada del Inca Ecolodge on Sun Island. Photo Credit: David Rubin

SAMPLE ITINERARY

A “Best of the Best” recommended itinerary:  

(1) 2 nights in Santiago, Chile at Hotel Magnolia, Singular Santiago, Ritz Carlton Santiago, Mandarin Oriental Santiago, W Santiago, or Hyatt Centric (great value)

(2) 3 – 5 nights in San Pedro de Atacama (Atacama Desert), Chile at Nayara Alto Atacama, Tierra Atacama, Explora Atacama or Hotel Cumbres Atacama (great value)

(3) 1 – 2 nights in the Altiplano, Bolivia at Explora Ramaditas 

(4) 1 – 2 nights in the Altiplano, Bolivia at Explora Chituca

(5) 3 – 5 nights in Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flat), Bolivia at Explora Uyuni, Hotel De Sal Luna Salada, Hotel Palacio de Sal or Airstream trailers (on the salt, simple interiors)

(6) 1 – 3 nights in Sucre, Bolivia at ON Hotel, Parador Santa María La Real, Mi Pueblo Samary Hotel, or nearby at Sky Hacienda

(7) 2 – 3 nights La Paz, Bolivia at Casa Grande, Atix Hotel, or MET Hotel

(8) 2 – 4 nights Lake Titicaca on Sun Island, Bolivia at Posada del Inca Eco-Lodge or Ecolodge La Estancia

(9) 2 – 4 nights Santa Cruz, Bolivia at Los Tajibos, Alfonsina Hotel, Hotel Osho, or Hampton by Hilton

(10) 2 – 4 nights Lima, Peru at B Hotel, Belmond Miraflores Park, JW Marriott, AC Hotel

Things to do in Chile

THE GIFT OF GIVING

Things to do in Chile

Posada del Inca Ecolodge on Sun Island

You can help combat child poverty in Bolivia.  Through the Alalay Foundation, consider sponsoring a child or making a donation.
The mission of the Alalay Foundation is to help change economic and social poverty conditions in high risk children, young people and families, through prevention and protection plans. During the past 23 years, Alalay has helped 22,000 children. Currently, Alalay supports 9 children’s homes and 11 care programs in the Bolivian cities of La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.  Alalay defends all children’s rights according to the principles promoted by the United Nations Children Rights Convention.
Alalay Foundation: http://www.fundacionalalay.org/en/

TO PLAN AND BOOK YOUR TRAVEL

To book your business and leisure travels worldwide, call on David Rubin and his team at DavidTravel.  In 1996, David moved from a successful law practice, followed a deep passion for travel, and launched his travel company. For more than a decade, David has been on both the Travel + Leisure Magazine “A-List” and the Conde Nast Traveler Magazine “Specialist List” of the best travel advisors in the world. DavidTravel delivers unparalleled style, attention to detail, and insider access uniquely responding to each client’s goals, budget, interests, and dreams.
DavidTravel
www.DavidTravel.com
Request@DavidTravel.com

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