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  • meta 1,468 posts

    Uyuni
    – We booked two full-day tours with two different agencies
    – The best time to visit Salar de Uyuni is early to mid-April because you get to experience best of both wet and dry seasons.This is because one part of the salt flats retains some water so you get the mirror effect in this part and also you have the pure whiteness in other parts. You can also visit the Incahuasi Island which is not accessible in wet season.
    – First we booked full-day private tour on the Uyuni Salt Flats with Joker Expeditions for $180 per person (saved $15 per person compared to online). We had a bit of trouble finding their office. They are located in Atipax hotel, but there is no sign outside. They were absolutely great though. We had both a driver and an English-speaking guide. New comfortable land cruisers (all other agencies have old cars), free wifi on the salt flats!, snacks, water, lunch (very delicious food) and sunset drinks and snack with some really great Bolivian wine. Pick-up at one one hotel, drop off at the other hotel. They also knew all the best spots without other tours. We barely saw them.
    – We had an option to going to two other main sites in this part of Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde on a day tour (contrary to what was said online), but were advised against it as it would have involved at least 10 hours in the car for 2-3 hours to visit these altiplanic lakes. I don’t feel like we missed much (we saw similar in Atacama)
    – Instead we opted for another full-day tour to Tomawe area north of Uyuni. This was booked with 3 Gigantes Expediciones. $150 per person for English-speaking guide, lunch included but no extra water or snacks (if we did the Spanish tour which we couldn’t because of my partner, it would have cost us $120). The guides (both Joker and 3 Gigantes spoke very good English). With 3 Gigantes the owner of the agency was also the guide and the driver. Older 4×4. On the tour we went close to 5000m altitude which was quite an experience. I liked this landscape probably more than Uyuni Salt Flats. We visited three altiplanic lakes – Celeste(unreal), Verde (different from the south) and Kuntur. We also visited the desert area Cerro El Mundo surrounded by volcanic peaks and mountains. There are no reviews on Google for this, so really we were the only ones. We also went to thermal baths Kanqui and visited Tomave town itself. Saw lots of wildlife too upclose.

    meta 1,468 posts

    Atacama

    We rented a car for four days with Mitta (30% off with LATAM pass membership, free to sign up). Total cost £162 for automatic SUV (essential and don’t even attempt driving with standard car). Picked the car from Calama airport and drove to San Pedro. All very quick although the car was not ready when we arrived 20 minutes earlier, so had to wait. (Luckily the hotel issues delayed us otherwise it would have been a longer.

    I booked all parks/sites tickets online in advance, some have strict timed entries and even require you to arrive an hour earlier before advertised start time.

    We visited on the first day Pukara, Valle de la Muerte (just a viewpoint from a different side as the site is closed), Valle de la Lune (some areas were closed, but saw Duna Mayor, Achaches, Mina Victoria, Tres Maria). Second day we visited and hiked around Guatin area. We skipped El Tatio Geysers given the need to wake up early and the fact we’ve seen many geysers in Iceland and US.

    Third day we wanted to do Salar de Talar, Aguas Calientes, Piedras Rojas, Laguna Miscanti and Miñiques in the morning
    plus Laguna Cahxa and Tebinquiche in the afternoon.

    However, there are no petrol stations at all anywhere south of San Pedro and we wouldn’t have enough fuel to get back, so had to go back to San Pedro. Some said there is illegal petrol station in Socaire (where you have to check-in for Salar de Talar and Lagunas are).

    Instead we opted to stop for close ups with vicuñas and llamas as well as walking around Tropic of Capricorn landmark just of the main road from Socaire.

    The last day we just relaxed at the lodge and enjoyed the premium facilities.

    meta 1,468 posts

    Santiago

    This is modern mega-city, I’d say a cross between European and US cities and Dubai. Downtown Santiago, unlike Lima and La Paz is very polished. I never felt like I was in South America plus everything was more expensive than elsewhere. Listarria area is like Shoreditch for example. However unlike UK, there are many avant-garde theatre and arts events, so I want to go back to visit some of the many cultural centres and venues in the city.

    I booked Olam restaurant (on the Latin America’s best restaurant list) which was not good. In fact food isn’t the best in Chile
    in general. We haven’t had a good meal or service in any of the other smaller establishments. Bill came to £130 with pisco sours and a wine glass each.

    I also looked at Boragó (on the top of the best list), but at £140 per pers. for chef’s menu without drinks is expensive for South America and we don’t eat a lot in the evening. Boragó’s website states 12-17 courses. I enquired and there was no à la carte option. As a comparison we only spent £120 for both of us at Maido in Lima incl. two drinks each which is also on top of the list.

    We also did a day trip to Valparaíso, Viña del Mar and Casablanca Valley which was more to my liking.

    This concludes the trip report. I hope this level of detail is useful to some and sorry for the length.

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