The Best of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile
The Best of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile is a 2000 mile ride through three remarkably different countries which all share a single incredible geologic feature – The most influential mountain range in the world; - The Mighty Andes!
The Andes create two of the most extreme climates on earth. The Amazon River basin and jungle on the east side - and the Atacama Desert to the west. The Amazon is the largest river on earth… and the Atacama is the driest desert on earth… all created by this remarkable Mountain chain...
We have an amazing itinerary for you to enjoy as you travel from the jungles near Salta, Argentina to the highest dirt road mountain pass on the continent (over 16,500 feet) and into the the Atacama Desert which is the driest place on the planet. You’ll have the chance to ride the infamous “Death Road” of Bolivia and the mind bending Uyuni Salt Flats! We’ll spend a night in a Hotel made of salt, drink a coffee made of beans from the highest coffee plantation on earth and also ride the “mother road” of Argentina aka Ruta 40. All in all its an amazing trip that embodies the very essence of “Adventure Riding” – below is the itinerary for our “Best of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile” adventure.
Plus a $500 delivery and drop charge.
RawHyde The Best of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile schedule:
Fly into Salta, Argentina. Transfer to the lodge, and pick up the bikes.
Salta to Cafayate
Northwest Argentina is renowned for its extraordinary landscapes and unique Torrontes wine. We begin our trip with a ride down Ruta del Vino (The Wine Route) this is our “warm up day.” An up-and-coming wine region, it is also known for crazy cool rock formations. This will mostly be an asphalt day with a few sections of dirt that have in the past been used as part of the famous Dakar Rally endurance race. Marvel at the colorful cliffs and unusual rock formations of the Valles Calchaquíes and Quebrada de las Conchas. The name translates as “Shell Ravine” due to the marine fossils embedded in the rock which was once the sea bed. The porous sandstone has been sculpted over millennia by wind and rain creating a landscape of surreal formations. Admire natural landmarks with stops at anthropomorphic formations, including The Toad, a towering natural Amphitheater, The Devil’s Throat, The Castles, and the iconic La Tessera, a layer-cake of striped rock in hues of terracotta, ochre, and greens.
Cafayate to San Antonio de los Cobres
Today we head north on the infamous Ruta Cuarenta or Ruta Nacional 40. Known as The Mother Road of Argentina, it is the longest road in all of Argentina, and one of the world’s longest roads at over 5,000 km/3,100 miles. From Cafayate’s vineyards the road undulates up a lovely valley to Cachi before continuing upwards to La Poma. From Cachi to La Poma the scenery is sublime, with tiny, centuries-old adobe settlements scattered along the road. After La Poma the climb to the pass is steep and likely dusty, and there may be a number of water crossings. The final 15 kms are at an average gradient of 7% and we cross one of the highest passes in the Andes at more than 16,300 feet. This is the incredible Paso Abra del Acay which is the highest point on Ruta 40 and it links the wine-growing Valles Calchaquíes with the Puna Plateau. The pass is unpaved and at the summit air has half the density that it has at sea level. From the pass we’ll drop down into the gritty and windswept mining settlement of San Antonio de los Cobres cupped high in the Puna Mountains.
San Antonio to San Pedro de Atacam, Chile
Today we leave San Antonio and continue north on Ruta 40 through some stunning landscapes to the border of Argentina and Chile, where we’ll cross the Andes at Paso Jama at nearly 14,000 feet. From the top of Paso Jama we’ll pass herds of vicuñas which are prized for having the softest wool of any animal in the world. The views are beyond spectacular and we have a full hour of riding “downhill” from the top of the Andes to the dusty resort town of San Pedro de Atacama. San Pedro de Atacama is a town set on the arid high plateau in the Andes mountains of northeastern Chile. Its dramatic surrounding landscape incorporates desert, salt flats, volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. The Valle de la Luna in the nearby Los Flamencos National Reserve is a lunar-like depression with unusual geologic formations, a huge sand dune, and pink-streaked mountains. In town, the whitewashed adobe Church of San Pedro de Atacama was built in 1745. South of town, the Salar de Atacama is a 100km-long salt pan where multi-hued lagoons reflect the sky and attract Andean flamingos. Within the surrounding volcanic region is the El Tatío geyser field and its active fumaroles, the Baños de Puritama hot springs, waterfalls, and pools for soaking.
Explore SPDA as we call it. It is a crazy cool town. There has never been a city that has had a more adventurous vibe. Here is a clickable link to show you a ton of pictures from the town. Awesome hotels, great food, a bunch of local things to do... but it’s the “vibe” that makes it memorable. No paved roads in the city… all dirt! The town and commune are in El Loa Province in the Antofagasta Region. It is located east of Antofagasta, some 106 km (60 mi) southeast of Calama and the Chuquicamata copper mine, overlooking the Licancabur volcano. It features a significant archaeological museum, the R. P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum, with a large collection of relics and artifacts from the region. Native ruins nearby now attract increasing numbers of tourists interested in learning about pre-Columbian cultures.
San Pedro to Calama
Today is a fairly short day of riding, but we’ll be riding into the heart of the driest desert in the world, the Atacama. Calama is a lovely town on the Loa River in the Antofagasta region in northern Chile. Set in a mining area, it’s known as a gateway to the Atacama Desert. Just north, Chuquicamata is the world’s largest copper mine, a vast open-pit mine. Some may say it is drab and gritty, but it happens to be the pride and joy of northern Chile. Calama is an economic powerhouse that pumps truckloads of copper money into the Chilean economy every year. There is a visceral appeal to this mining town that definitely goes that extra mile in “keeping it real.”
Calama to Uyuni, Bolivia
Our trip to Calama serves as the launching point to get us into Bolivia and the mind-bending Uyuni Salt Flats. Uyuni is the flattest place in the world and because of its altitude it’s frequently used to calibrate the sensors of satellites in orbit. Uyuni occupies a desolate corner of southwestern Bolivia, standing in defiance of the desert-like landscape that surrounds it. Mention Uyuni to a Bolivian and they will whistle and emphasize “harto frío” (extreme cold). Yet despite the icy conditions, the town has a cheerful buzz about it.
Explore Uyuni and enjoy the salt flats. The Salar de Uyuni is beyond breathtaking and as mentioned above… it’s truly difficult to get one’s mind around. A hundred miles of flatness in any direction… you can ride top speed for hours.
While you’re on the salt flat there is a fun game you can play which is to try and write your name in cursive on the screen of your GPS? And once you’ve tired of riding the salt flats you can venture just two miles outside the city, and you’ll find an amazing, rusted-out tribute to the Gilded Age. In the late-19th century, then-president Aniceto Arce set out to give Bolivia a state-of-the-art rail system, with Uyuni as its major hub. But Arce’s vision was hampered by indigenous tribes who felt the railroad was an intrusion on their way of life, and the system -- while completed -- was never as grand as he dreamed.
The unique setting of endless salt flats at Salar de Uyuni make all kinds of fun perspective photography possible. Here we have our top tips for great salt flats photos to add to your collection.
- Bring something small and interesting: toy animals and action figures, toy vehicles, and regular props such as sunglasses, riding boots, helmet, and water bottles can all be turned into something funny and useful.
- To set up for the shot the photographer needs to lie on his/her stomach and rest the camera on the ground to make positioning much easier; holding the camera in your hand makes it next to impossible.
- Advice from an old photographer: “Shoot, shoot, shoot!!” Take lots and lots of shots since it’s not so easy to see your camera or phone screen in the glare. Making everyone jump in the air is a last resort shot that always comes out well.
Uyuni to to La Paz
We leave the stunning salt flats, and head north for the capital city of La Paz. Mostly a street ride but remarkably beautiful in a stark and barren kind of way. If you haven’t already acclimatized by now, and consider taking Diamox or sipping some coca-tea to mitigate the high altitude effects.
Here you’ll have the option to take a day trip to Copacabana to visit Lake Titicaca, or ride the infamous “Death Road,” or just go exploring many of the crazy and precipitous local roads... or sleep late and relax. Famed for its tranquil crystalline waters which shimmer beneath majestic snow-capped peaks, Lake Titicaca is among Bolivia’s most magical destinations. It is sacred to Bolivia, partly because the ancient Incas believed it to be the birthplace of the Sun. As a result, a plethora of fascinating archaeological sites can be found scattered throughout. More recently, the continent’s most important effigy, the Virgin of Copacabana, was housed here in an elaborate church. On the other hand, Yungas Road, grimly known as “Death Road” due to its notoriously high death rate, was cut into the side of the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners during the Chaco War. Surrounded by mountainous terrain and terrifying precipices, the winding road stretches 69kms from La Paz toCoroico, connecting the Amazonian rain-forest to the capital city. From La Paz, Yungas Road road climbs to around 4,650 meters (15,260 ft) at La Cumbre Pass, before gradually descending to 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) at the town of Coroico. The drop in altitude means riders experience both chilly conditions in the Altiplano highlands and hot humid conditions in the rain-forests below.
La Paz to Potosi
Today we’ll begin heading back toward Argentina as we head south to the colonial city of Potosi. Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world at over 13,000 feet – AND in the 1600s it was one of the largest cities in the world based on one thing only… silver! Founded in 1546 after the discovery of vast silver deposits, the city was home to the most productive silver mines in the world, which made it, for a time, the richest city in the world by far. Today, Potosi’s silver is long gone but the city is still one of remarkable beauty. Colonial churches and intricately built mansions line the narrow sleepy streets of the city that once seemed to be the center of the universe. UNESCO has recognized the entire city as a World Heritage Site. A visit to Potosi is one of the highlights on any Bolivia itinerary. Once the pearl of the Spanish Crown, the center of legendary riches, its name, in the Spanish lexicon, is synonymous with excessive quantities of wealth, the numbers of which are too high to describe! These days they are mining for zinc, but using techniques that haven’t been updated since colonial times. It is a nice colonial city rich with architecture, many churches, museum, cafes, and lively markets.
Cross back into Argentina to La Quiaca
This a quaint border town that straddles the border of Bolivia and Argentina. It’s a perfect place for us to spend the night when we consider a long days ride AND a border crossing from Bolivia back in Argentina.
La Quaica to Purmamarca
Today we ride through the historic cities of northern Argentina to to the World Heritage site of Purmamarca. The village is in the Jujuy province of northwest Argentina. It's set at the base of a striking, multi-hued mountain called the Seven Colors Hill. From the village, the Paseo de los Colorados trail leads into the surrounding desert landscapes for views of the mountain. Adobe houses line the streets, and 9 de Julio Square hosts a popular crafts market. Nearby is the centuries-old Santa Rosa de Lima church.
Purmamarca to Cachi
Today we’re back on the Mother Road or Ruta 40 to climb the dramatic mountain road known as the Cuesta del Obispo, 20km of hairpin bends, offering views of the rippling Sierra del Obispo. We finish our final day of riding in the beautiful 16th century village of Cachi for our farewell celebration and dinner.
We’ll say our goodbyes and shuttle you to the airport in Salta for your flights home or on to your next adventure.
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