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These days, luxury travel can take you to some of the most remote and beautiful sights on earth, ensuring first class comfort, even as you take in some of the world’s wildest regions. This includes the Salt Flats near Uyuni, Bolivia, which can now be traversed in style aboard a luxury Airstream camper. But this wasn’t always the case.
One of my most memorable visits to the Salt Flats of Bolivia wasn’t exactly what you’d call a luxury vacation. Sitting in Quito, Ecuador, taking a break from the road as an overland driver, I received a call from our HQ in London England. “Can you fly to Uyuni, Bolivia and help one of the expedition vehicles (trucks we like to call them) dig their way out of the Salt Lake?” The group, after being stranded for 2 days on the roof of the truck, in the flooded Salt Lake in somewhat soggy tents, had moved on to Santiago, Chile, but the other tour leader still needed some help.
So began a trek south, to the largest Salt Lake in the world and one of the most impressive places on Earth.
It was not my first visit to the region. I had travelled the roads between Uyuni, Bolivia, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, and Northern Argentina many times as part of our itineraries up and down the spine of the Andes. The region never fails to leave me breathless, not only due to some extreme altitudes but because of its extreme beauty. Each time going back was like a new first time. Maybe that had something to do with the fact there are no marked roads. Drivers need to navigate by memory, compass and some (hopefully) hand drawn maps from the last trip.
Caution must be taken when navigating the area, both on the dirt tracks and on the salt flats themselves as while the surface can look solid, parts of it are be crusted-over mud holes, just looking to ‘swallow’ careless vehicles. That could mean anything from our 22 tonne expedition vehicle, to small SUVs, or the many trucks that ply goods to and from Chile and Bolivia!
Knowing how to ‘unbog’ a vehicle is an essential skill in this region. Locals with years of this experiences pass on some great tips – tips that helped me and helped my co-worker dig out of his expansive bog hole to continue on his merry way. I have also fallen victim to ‘soft patch’ more than once (head bowed), getting caught up in the surrounding beauty. This one instance, I spent a night digging out – well, attempting to – our expedition vehicle at 4000+ meters (13,000 feet) while the group walked to the nearby bunk house. Word of advice. If you are going to get stuck in this area, do it within a half mile of a bunk house, otherwise everyone is camping out for the night!
My passengers slept well, while the next morning I schlepped off on the back of a motor bike – thanks, bunk house manager – to find a bigger truck to pull us out. 30km there, 30km back, and $20 USD later, we were out of the hole and on our way.
While the area is remote and tough, it is stunningly beautiful. While relatively few places in the world that can be called unique, the Salt Lakes of Bolivia and the Altiplano leading to and from Chile are such a place. Thankfully, you don’t need to be in a ‘truck’ or digging vehicles out of holes, or sleeping in bunk houses anymore. They were the days but things change and wow, has it changed here.
While the scenery remains stunning, the roads still unmarked, and the Salt Flats still the largest, with mirrored surfaces flowing off to create their own white horizon, these days, it can all be done in style and comfort with no digging. (Don’t worry, we can throw that in for a small extra charge if you really want it!)
All these stories may not immediately bring to mind deluxe and luxury, but with Goway’s exclusive Deluxe Chile & Bolivia trip, not only will you stay and travel in unique luxury, but visit some of South America’s, and the world’s most stunning natural sights.
Starting in Calama in northern Chile, in the heart of the Atacama Desert with a stay at the luxurious Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa, you then travel to and through the world’s largest Salt Lakes in custom built deluxe Airstream Campers.
Offering a one-of-a-kind experience, this deluxe Airstream trailer comes with its own private chef and guide, allowing you to explore the Bolivian Slat Flats in unique style. You will have your own private guide, driver and chef and the chance to explore the remoter parts of the Salt Lakes away from the crowds on foot or by bike.
The sound of silence makes the heart beat faster and the surreal views of crystalline salt, pure sky, cacti, and sometimes even flamingos, certainly makes you feel that there is no other place like this in the whole world. Visit Isla Incahuasi, an oasis with formations of algae and fossils, covered by thousands of giant columnar cacti, which can be more than a hundred years old, growing to a height of over 12m/40 ft. The landscape against the background of the salt pans extending to the horizon makes it an ideal place for photographers at all levels. All meals are unique as they are prepared by your personal chef and you dine on gourmet feasts outside on the Salt Lake.
Your luxury expedition includes all airport arrival and departure transfers, 8 nights deluxe accommodation, all activities in San Pedro de Atacama, overnight stays in custom built Airstream Campers on the Bolivian Salt Lakes, cycling, Uyuni to La Paz flight, La Paz City tour, private tour on Lake Titicaca (Bolivian side), all guides and most meals.
In addition to its natural splendour, the World Travel Awards just announced that Bolivia was chosen as the “World’s Leading Cultural Destination 2017”, winning over China, France, India, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Vietnam among others. So now is the time to see Bolivia and see it in style!
Departures can either start in Peru travelling to Chile via Bolivia – 2018: Apr16; May 14; Jun 18; Jul 16; Aug 20; Oct 8 or travel the other way from Chile to Peru 2018: Apr 7; May 5; Jun 9; Jul 7; Aug 11; Sep 29 from US $6789/CA $9395
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