The ultimate Andes road trip, from Chile to Bolivia

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andes-road-trip

Title: The Extraordinary Andes Road Trip: From Chile to Bolivia

Note: The following text is a rewritten version of the original article.


Embarking on a remarkable journey from Chile to Bolivia, we leave the lush trees behind as we ascend to Bolivia’s Altiplano. This high-altitude plateau challenges life itself, where survival demands extreme adaptations to thrive amidst the dryness and ferocious winds, 4,250 meters above sea level. In this surreal realm, the landscape seems like an artist’s palette, with mountains painted tie-dyed, psychedelic, and rainbowed – akin to technicolor dream coats.

Our adventure is part of La Travesía, meaning ‘the crossing’ in Spanish, a new tour by Explora, linking two of South America’s most peculiar landscapes – Chile’s Atacama, the world’s driest nonpolar desert, and Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat. The remote 325-mile road trip takes us through the high desert, navigating rugged terrain with our 4×4 vehicle, carrying essential supplies for this off-road expedition.

Starting in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile’s desert tourism capital, we reminisce about the past and the backpacker journey, which now pales in comparison to the comfort and luxury provided by Explora. Our guide, Micaela Díaz, leads the way, avoiding the conventional tourist routes to create a unique experience for us.

The journey takes us through breathtaking landscapes, including the Salvador Dalí Desert, with its strange and captivating allure. We make stops at new lodges built by Explora, blending harmoniously with the environment while offering excellent views of the Altiplano.

The diversity of the wildlife in this harsh environment fascinates us. Flamingos grace the shores of Laguna Blanca, while herds of vicuñas roam the terrain, demonstrating their resilience despite the challenging conditions. As we venture further, we encounter rare Andean mountain cats and other extraordinary creatures that have adapted to this hostile environment.

Finally, we arrive at the enigmatic Salar de Uyuni, an otherworldly expanse of white salt crust that seems to stretch to infinity. The landscape is both mesmerizing and unforgiving. Surrounded by the void, we explore the salt flat, marveling at the sunsets, which paint the scene with a kaleidoscope of colors.

Our journey concludes on Isla del Pescado, an island teeming with towering cacti. From the summit, we absorb the vast whiteness of the salt flat below, feeling a sense of wonder and surrealism in this extraordinary realm.

The adventure, crafted by Explora, has transformed the classic crossing from Chile to Bolivia into a luxurious and unforgettable experience, allowing us to witness the exceptional beauty and resilience of nature in one of the most captivating regions of South America.

This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK), with the support of Journey Latin America.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about andes-road-trip

What is the Andes road trip from Chile to Bolivia?

The Andes road trip from Chile to Bolivia is an extraordinary adventure tour known as “La Travesía,” organized by travel company Explora. It connects two of South America’s most bizarre landscapes: Chile’s Atacama, the world’s driest nonpolar desert, and Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. This remote road trip covers approximately 325 miles, offering travelers a unique and off-road experience through the high desert.

How does life adapt to survive in the high-altitude plateau?

Life in the high-altitude plateau of Bolivia’s Altiplano has undergone extreme adaptations to survive the dryness and ferocious winds found at 4,250 meters above sea level. Vegetation, such as trees, cannot thrive in this environment due to the lack of water and the relentless winds. The wildlife in the region, such as flamingos and vicuñas, have evolved to endure the challenging conditions.

What is the landscape like during the Andes road trip?

The landscape during the Andes road trip is awe-inspiring and surreal. The mountains appear tie-dyed, psychedelic, and rainbowed, resembling technicolor dream coats. The Salvador Dalí Desert, with its strange and captivating allure, is one of the early stops on the journey. The final leg of the tour takes travelers to Salar de Uyuni, a vast expanse of white salt crust that creates an otherworldly and unique environment.

How is the Andes road trip organized?

The Andes road trip is organized by Explora, a travel company. They offer a luxurious and comfortable experience for travelers during the 325-mile journey. The road trip is conducted using 4×4 vehicles, allowing travelers to navigate through the high desert and remote terrain. Along the route, Explora has built three new lodges, providing essential rest stops and offering superb views of the Altiplano.

What wildlife encounters can be expected during the journey?

During the journey, travelers can expect to encounter a diverse range of wildlife, despite the harsh conditions. Flamingos gather along the shores of Laguna Blanca, and herds of vicuñas roam the terrain. The region is also home to rare Andean mountain cats and other creatures that have adapted to survive in this hostile environment.

How is the Salar de Uyuni experience?

The Salar de Uyuni experience is surreal and mesmerizing. The salt flat’s vast expanse creates an impression of a mist-covered valley, with the mountaintops resembling islands. Sunsets are a remarkable event, with elongated shadows stretching across the white ground, creating a kaleidoscope of colors. The final lodge is located near the salt flat, providing excellent views of this extraordinary landscape.

What makes this Andes road trip unique?

This Andes road trip is unique due to its combination of extreme landscapes and off-road adventure. Explora’s careful planning ensures that travelers experience the journey away from conventional tourist routes, allowing for a more exclusive and intimate exploration of the region. The luxury lodges and exceptional views add to the unparalleled experience of this remote road trip.

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4 comments

TravelBug86 July 21, 2023 - 1:20 pm

omg! i tots wanna go on dis road trip, it’s like, mind-blowing! da landscapes must be soooo cool with tie-dyed mountains n all. and to see dem flamingos and vicuñas in such a crazy environment, woah!

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NatGeoExplorer July 21, 2023 - 2:45 pm

gotta say, national geographic traveller always brings us da best journeys! dis andes adventure with explora seems so unique n luxurious. da lodges blendin’ in wit nature sounds awesome, plus, da salt flat at salar de uyuni is like a blank canvas of wonder!

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Wanderer21 July 22, 2023 - 12:51 am

oh wow, dis andes road trip from chile to bolivia sounds like an epic adventure! i luv how they’re linkin’ two crazy landscapes like chile’s atacama and bolivia’s salar de uyuni. da harsh conditions up there must’ve made the wildlife evolve in crazy ways!

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AdventurousSoul July 22, 2023 - 1:14 am

dis andes road trip is a dream come true! i wanna feel da thrill of an off-road expedition, seein’ vicuñas and flamingos roam around, and watchin’ sunset at salar de uyuni, ohhh yea! gonna check out explora and journey latin america for sure!

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