This action-packed itinerary takes travelers to awe-inspiring natural attractions in two different countries. Start in Chile, exploring the massive sand dunes and otherworldly rock formations of the Atacama Desert. Then cross the border into Bolivia, where you'll spot flamingos in the wild in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, go for a dip in natural springs, and gaze out at the ethereal white expanse of the Uyuni Salt Flats.

Highlights

  • Go sandboarding and see an unforgettable sunset in the Valley of Death
  • Bathe in hot springs at the Sol de Mañana geysers
  • See wild flamingos in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve
  • Visit the Uyuni Salt Flats and see giant cacti on Incahuasi Island

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San Pedro de Atacama San Pedro de Atacama
Day 2 Visit the Valley of the Moon & the Valley of Death San Pedro de Atacama
Day 3 Explore the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve Villa Mar
Day 4 Spot Flamingos in the Wild Colchani
Day 5 See the Incredible Uyuni Salt Flats & Depart Bolivia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San Pedro de Atacama

Church of San Pedro de Atacama
Church of San Pedro de Atacama

Welcome to Chile! You'll land in Calama and transfer to the town of San Pedro de Atacama. Your adventure begins in the Atacama Desert, one of the planet's driest ecosystems. The landscapes here are often compared to those of the moon and other planets. You'll get out and explore them tomorrow. This evening, after checking into your hotel, take it easy and hydrate! The town is small and easy to explore on foot, so you might go for a short walk and sample Chilean cuisine in a local restaurant. Make sure to look up and enjoy the view of an incredibly starry sky before you turn in for the night.

Day 2: Visit the Valley of the Moon & the Valley of Death

Rock formations in the Valley of Death
Rock formations in the Valley of Death

Today you'll venture into the desert's vast landscapes. First, you'll see the Valley of the Moon, with its unique stone and sand formations carved by wind and water erosion. You'll also get to see the Valley of Death, known for giant sand dunes that you can climb. If you're up for it, go on a sandboarding excursion — it's one of the most popular activities in the area. Or you can just hike around and enjoy the views from the rocky outcrops that surround the dunes. Off in the distance, you'll see snow-capped volcanoes. Stick around for sunset: the dramatic pink and purple sky, framed with rock formations and mountains, is a marvelous sight to see. 

Day 3: Explore the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve

Green Lagoon and Licancabur Volcano
The Green Lagoon and Licancabur Volcano

After breakfast this morning, a driver will pick you from your accommodation and take you across the border into Bolivia. In the afternoon, enjoy a Jeep tour through the spectacular sites of the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve. You'll visit the Sol de Mañana geysers and go for a dip in the hot springs. Continuing onward, you'll see the Green Lagoon at the foot of Licancabur Volcano, pausing to watch the water change colors as the sun passes overhead. Later, you'll continue on to visit the Red Lagoon, home to three species of flamingo. At the end of the day, you will arrive at the village of Villa Mar, where you'll have the evening free to relax and have dinner.

Day 4: Spot Flamingos in the Wild

Flamingos on a lagoon in Bolivia
Flamingos on a lagoon in Bolivia

Today, you'll continue your adventure through the high desert. Enjoy views of volcanoes and lagoons, and keep your eyes open for flamingos and other Andean wildlife, on a scenic drive. In the early afternoon, your driver will stop in the village of San Cristobal where you'll have lunch. Take some time to explore the Valley of the Rocks before continuing on to the salt-harvesting village of Colchani, the gateway to the Uyuni Salt Flats. Spend the night here before tomorrow's exploration of the salt flats.

Day 5: See the Incredible Uyuni Salt Flats & Depart Bolivia

View of the salt flats from Incahuasi Island
View of the salt flats from Incahuasi Island

After breakfast, you will visit Uyuni's small salt museum (which was constructed with salt!) Then you'll continue to tour the salar, or salt flat, and walk around the otherworldly Incahuasi Island. Covered in enormous cacti, it boasts amazing views of the flats. You'll visit the famed "train cemetery" that's filled with rusting train cars once used to transport minerals and people to and from Uyuni. Transfer to La Paz to catch your flight out in the afternoon. Safe travels!

More Bolivia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Bolivia? Check out these other 5-day Bolivia itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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Map

Map of Discover the Atacama Desert & the Uyuni Salt Flats - 5 Days
Map of Discover the Atacama Desert & the Uyuni Salt Flats - 5 Days