Date: November 2019 – from 11/02 to 11/15.
The Atacama Volcanoes and Salar de Uyuni route gathers the most interesting tours of San Pedro de Atacama (Northern Chile) and Sud Lipez (southern Bolivia). It’s a desert region full of high altitude volcanoes, salt flats, colorful ponds, wild nature, history and archeology in a fantastic itinerary, that combines mountain climbing with traditional ecotourism in one of the Chile’s most spectacular natural areas, and a 4×4 adventure through the wildest region of Andean Bolivia.
Seen from the Chilean side, the Licancabur Volcano is a 5,920m perfectly conical dormant stratovolcano. The Bolivian side, however, is much more accessible and It’s the side we chose for our expedition. Located on the border between Chile and Bolivia and only a few hours from San Pedro de Atacama, Licancabur is known for its Inca history and has a great Inca ruin at its base and at its summit!
The Licancabur, along with its close neighbor, the Juriques volcano, can be seen from 150 km away, dominating the view of the Salar de Atacama and surrounding towns.
The acclimation for the Licancabur is done in Cerro Toco, with 5,604m of height. It is one of the easiest mountains in the Atacama region. In a trek of approximately two hours, we walk from the sulfur mines to the summit in a very slight rise. Just before reaching the summit there is a strategic point to photograph Licancabur and Juriques, which are only 13km to the north.
We will make another climb of acclimatization in the Lascar Volcano, with 5.592m of height. Located in the Atacama desert, it is the second most active volcano in Chile. In addition to a beautiful view with dozens of volcanoes, it is amazing to watch its gigantic crater, with 750 meters in diameter and 300 meters deep, rewarding the whole effort of the climbing.
Also we will not leave aside traditional tourist points, like the Geyser el Tatio, the Lagunas Altiplánicas, Vale Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley), Vale da Lua (Moon Valley), Pucará de Quitor and much more.
In this itinerary we also have the breathtaking Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt desert in the world. And a 4×4 tour on the remote region of Sud Lipez, to experience its picturesque landscapes and quite preserved culture.
The Atacama Volcanoes and Salar de Uyuni route is a itinerary for people with hiking experience, who wish to have their first experience in altitude mountains of easy technical level and average physical difficulty.
You must book a fligh to El Loa International Airport – Calama – Chile (CJC)
In the morning we will visit the Pucará de Quitor’s ruins, remains of a pre-Inca culture, later annexed to the empire. In this tour we’ll dive into the origins of Atacamenha culture and learn a little about the pre-Columbian American history.
The tour to the famous Vale da Lua (Moon Valley) starts shortly after lunch. Where we will see and learn a little of the Atacama’s geography: bent rocks, geological faults and bizarre relief forms. This tour will help in acclimatization for the next day and we advise you to bring a liter and a half of water, sunscreen, cap, a blouse, pants, dark glasses, a snack, boots or sneakers.
Located 100 km away from San Pedro do Atacama, Tatio is the third largest Geyser in the world. In Quechua (Incas language) Tatio means “The old man who cries”. Produced by the heat generated by the Andes volcanoes, this thermal water eruptions can reach more than 10 meters in height. The site has 40 geysers, 60 hot springs and 70 fumaroles. As the thermal waters show begins at 6 am, our day starts early, with the Van transportation leaving the Hotel at 4:30 in the morning. Get ready for the cold!
We’ll return to San Pedro at 1 pm and after lunch the transportation will take us to relax in Laguna Cejar, 30 km away. In the afternoon it is hot in San Pedro, and nothing better than swimming in a paradisiac lagoon. The Laguna Cejar is salty and dense, there you will have difficulty sinking (as it is in Dead Sea, in Israel). Do not forget to bring swimsuit!
The Altiplanic Lagoons tour is one of the main tours to be done in Atacama. We’ll leave San Pedro de Atacama early to visit the Miscanti and Miñiques Lagoons, as well as the Atacama Salt Flat and the Chaxa Lagoon.
Leaving San Pedro de Atacama at 07:30 am, we will have an hour and a half of road to 4,500m of altitude, where we will serve your breakfast. Then we’ll go up to 5,000m height where the trek begins, a four hour climbing session to Toco’s summit. We’ll return to San Pedro de Atacama approximately 03:00 pm.
We will rest during the morning. After lunch we will visit the Vale Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley), a valley with spectacular rock formations where we will see the colorful geological formations that assigned name to the place. The valley was inhabited in prehistory, and so there are many archeological sites with petroglyphs. It will be a light stroll, so we can recover for the next day.
With 5,592m of altitude, Lascar is an active volcano located in the Atacama Desert, in which we can see a fumarola coming out of its gigantic crater (750 meters of diameter and 300 meters depth).
Early in the morning we’ll left the hotel in San Pedro de Atacama and travel about 50 km to cross the border. Arriving in Hito Cajon we change to a 4×4 transportation to began the tour on Eduardo Avaroa National Park, where we will visit Laguna Blanca, Laguna Verde, Salvador Dalí Desert, Thermal Pool, Geyser Sol de Mañana and Laguna Colorada. Then we will spend the night in a hut in Huayllajara.
In this tour we will visit: Desierto de Siloli, Árbol de Piedra, Lagunas Altiplánicas (Honda, Hedionda, Cañapa and Chearcota), Salar de Chiguana, San Juan, Puerto Chuvica, and we will stay at the Hotel with walls made of salt blocks.
We will leave the hut early and visit: Incahuasi Island, Salt Museum, Ojos del Salar, Colchani, Cementerio de trenes (Train Cemetery). Afternoon around 15:00 – Arrival in Uyuni (Ending the 3 days and 2 nights tour).
At 17:00 – Return to the border / Arrival at Villamar.
Departure from Villamar with expected arrival at 1 pm at the Hotel in Laguna Verde, the base to climb Licancabur.
After the breakfast our 4×4 vehicle will take us to the base of the mountain, where we begin the trek. We will walk from 6 to 9 hours to the summit due to the high altitude. We usually return to San Pedro around 5:00 pm.
Extra day in case of any eventuality or change in itinerary due to bad weather or any other reason for delay.
You will be taken to the airport three hours before your flight.
** The above itinerary is subject to change due weather conditions, performance of the group, political / administrative problems and any other events not described.
Having good mountaineering equipment is one of the key points to have a successful trip. Please note all your personal equipment will be checked by one of our guides before departure.
Buff or similarQuantity: 1
To protect your face on summit pushQuantity: 1 (OPTIONAL for protecting your face)
Woollen hat or similar for cold daysQuantity: 1 (OPTIONAL)
Sunglasses (cat 3 or 4)
With side protection to fit your faceQuantity: 1
Sunscreen and lip balm
30 FPS or moreQuantity: 1
Summit Down Jacket
Heavy hooded down jacket for cold conditionsQuantity: 1 (OPTIONAL, ask the guide about weather conditions)
A good snow, rain and windproof jacketQuantity: 1
Synthetic fibre long or short sleeve t-shirtQuantity: 1 long sleeve
Used alone or as part of a layer system for better performanceQuantity: 1
Light trekking pantsQuantity: 1
Base layer pants
For very cold days and summit pushQuantity: 1 (OPTIONAL in case you feel cold)
Goretex or similar pants will be used for high wind or during snow conditionsQuantity: 1
Fleece, polartec or similar. To be used with other layers for very cold conditionsQuantity: 1
Thick down mittens for summit pushQuantity: 1 pair (OPTIONAL in case you have cold hands)
Fleece or polartec gloves for every day useQuantity: 1 pair
Waterproof trekking boots, try wearing them before the expeditionQuantity: 1 pair
Good thick trekking socksQuantity: 1 pair
Thick expedition socks
For summit dayQuantity: 1 pair (OPTIONAL in case you have cold feet)
25fps or above, any brandQuantity: 1
Any sort of water container for hydrationQuantity: 1 or 2 litres
25 to 35 litres for water, food and personal belongingsQuantity: 1
Gives you more stability during walk and summit push.Quantity: 1 or pair (OPTIONAL)
“How much will I spend on extra costs on this expedition?”
In addition to the expense of the expedition, you have to buy the plane ticket, food (lunches and dinners) in San Pedro de Atacama, among others. Depending on your interest with souvenirs, we recommend you take around $ 600 for these expenses.
Chile has a slightly expensive cost.
“What currency should I bring to exchange?”
No doubt the best one is dollar. Do not carry old and crumpled notes, because the exchange offices of San Pedro will not accept it. Real (Brazilian currency) is also accepted, but with devaluation.
“Can I pay for the extra costs with a credit card?”
Credit cards are accepted in Chile without any problem. However, do not forget to free the credit card for use abroad and do not forget to consider the purchase taxes.
“How much gear do I have to carry?”
On the mountains you will need to carry the weight of your own backpack, should not exceed 8kg.
All group equipment will be purchased, assembled, cleaned and carried by guides and staff. To the last camp, you’ll be carrying your sleeping bag, crampons, clothes and some smaller items. If you feel that you will not be able to carry your own gear, you can hire a personal porter, which must be ordered in advance. Besides the mountains, the other tours have transport vehicles and you will only carry what is necessary to spend the day.
“Is there any way to rent equipment in San Pedro de Atacama?”
Unfortunately there is no way to rent or buy equipment in San Pedro de Atacama.
“Will I need to carry tent and stove?”
No. These equipments are bought, loaded, cleaned and assembled by our staff, so you don’t need to worry about this.
“Is there a way to communicate on the mountain?”
The cities are the bases of this expedition, so you will have easy access to the phone and the internet. However, we will remain out of communication during the mountain climbing.
“What is the difficulty level of the mountains on this tour?”
The mountains of this tour are technically easy. Therefore, you will not use your hands to climb and you will reach the summit of the mountains by walking. However, the altitude imposes a big challenge and it will be even more difficult if you are not in good physical condition. A good physical preparation is essencial to your success.
“Is there a way to notify my Family on how I am doing?”
Of course! We always post photos and texts on the progress of the expedition, with daily updates.
“Do I have to share tents with anyone?”
Yes, if we use tents, they will be shared by two people and the pairs will be previously chosen. Sharing a tent with someone creates an essential partnership bond to survive in these hostile environments that are the mountains.
“Can I charge my camera or cell phone on the mountain?”
Only in the hotel.
“What if I give up on the expedition?”
If you give up the expedition while you are still in your country, it is possible to recover part of your investment. Contact us to learn more.
If you give up the expedition in San Pedro de Atacama, before going to the mountain, you can still enjoy the services we offer, such as transportation and hotel. However, we can not return the money you invested, because all the logistics will be already hired and paid for. Also, you will have to bear the costs of transportation and individual stay that are not on the scheduled itinerary.
If you give up during a climbing or summit push you will never have to go down alone! We will coordinate your return with our staff or with partner expeditions. According to the size of our group, we hire more guides to ensure your safety.
“What is the Andes Specialists philosophy?”
We work with women and men of any age, skills or ambition, we have proper tours for people with all levels of experience. We extremely value the group safety, so we ask the members of our expeditions to be patient and respect the leader’s decisions.
You are not paying a company to take you to a ridge. You are paying mountaineering professionals with years of experience to drive you up and back in the safest way possible.
We focus a lot on acclimatization and safety, so our itinerary may seem slower than other companies, but that gives us a better chance of reaching the summit.
“What kind of training do I need for this expedition?”
The best training is to go hiking and camping. If you do not have time for this activity, we
recommend running and functional training. It is very important to be in good physical condition.
“What experience do I need to climb Licancabur?”
You must have gone hiking and climbing in the mountains.
“How is the weather on the Mountain and in San Pedro de Atacama?”
Atacama has a desert climate. San Pedro is hot during the days of summer, but in the mountains it is cold. The mountains always hit negative temperatures overnight.
“What if I’m on a special diet or food restriction?”
Please let us know in advance about any food restriction, and also inform the guides.
“Who cooks at Licancabur’s base camp?”
The base camp of Licancabur is a simple hotel. Bolivian cooks will be responsible for food.
“Do I have to bring freeze-dried food?”
There is no need to.
“What happens if I get an altitude sickness?”
Our leader has extensive experience in dealing with mountain health complications and can solve most of the problems.
“What if I need to be rescued?”
Our guides will rescue you with 4×4 vehicles quickly and efficiently. In out of reach places we can also evacuate by land or call Global Rescue and request the helicopter. We will spare no effort in the case of a rescue need.
“Do you recommend insurance?”
For high-altitude climbing, we recommend a rescue insurance plus travel insurance with Medical Assistance (like those that exist in credit cards). And take extra money in case of ground evacuation (we recommend 350USD).
For this tour we recommend World Nomads rescue insurance (which only covers trekking up to 6000 meters of altitude), if you want a more complete one, the Global Rescue insurance covers up even a helicopter rescue in Aconcágua – Global Rescue Insurance
“Do you recommend the use of Diamox or Acetazolamide?”
For this expedition we do not recommend. At extreme altitudes, such as Himalayas or Karakorum, this drugs works by increasing nighttime breathing, which helps during the acclimatization period. But it is also a diuretic that eliminates sodium from the body. On the Andes mountains the climate is very dry, so taking a diuretic can impair your ability to acclimate rather than help.
“The guide speaks what language?”
All of our guides have the ability to communicate in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Check our team’s information to learn more about our guide’s communication skills.
“What rate of clients reach the summit?”
That depends on several factors such as: experience, physical condition, psychological factor. But usually about 98% of our customers reach the summit.
“Can we go to the bathroom on the mountain?”
Only hotel rooms have restroom facilities. In the natural environment ablutions are taken care in the wilderness, and in the campsites we set up a tent for this purpose and bring the stools back.
“Is there a way to rent gear in Chile?”
There is no such option in Chile. Please contact us if you do not want to buy some needed equipment.
“What is the Optimum Temperature rating of the sleeping bag for the base camp of Licancabur?”
We recommend that you bring a good sleeping bag with comfort temperature of -5°C (23 fahrenheit). Note that there are 2 types of temperatures shown on most sleeping bags, and we are not talking about the “limit temperature”, our recommendation is based on the “comfort temperature”.
“Do I need an entry visa to go to Chile and Bolivia?”
This information varies from each origin country, look for the responsible agency in your country. Americans need a visa to enter Bolivia.
The investment for this expedition is USD 2,900 (special discount)
What is NOT included: