Atacama Desert, Volcanoes and Bolivia Salt Flats

When the winter rains flow down from the high Andes that surround the Bolivia flats, the water spills out onto sections of the 11,000 square kilometer area, creating a stunning, sparse landscape with incredible reflections.

To reach this spectacular location, we’ll take an overland adventure through the Andes, reaching altitudes of up to 16,000 feet with volcanoes reaching as high as 21,000 feet. We’ll spend the first nights at 8,000 feet, so everyone has time to acclimate for the higher elevations we will visit later, in Bolivia. But those days “acclimating” will be filled with photography, too! We’ll photograph the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), Laguna Chaxa (Los Flamencos National Reserve), and Humdedal de Putana (Putana Wetland).

Then we’ll pack into Land Cruisers and head to the Bolivia salt flats. We will have a few long drives through amazing landscapes of the high Andes mountains as we venture north into Bolivia to the town of Uyuni and beyond. We’ll visit Laguna Colorado (home of three species of flamingo, as well as many other birds), Isla Incahuasi (large cacti hill), as well as many more great and exotic locations.

By day, Michael and Cecilia will teach you techniques to best capture the reflections of the salt flats, and we’ll shoot well into the spectacular, star-filled night skies. We will also have our famous image critiques and Lightroom instruction.

Everything is covered from the airport pickup in Calama, Chile, to the airport shuttle in Paz, Bolivia. You are expected to acclimate to 16,000 feet for this workshop, and there will be oxygen carried in each vehicle for emergencies. Due to the high altitude, there is an age limit for this workshop: you must be fit and 70 or younger.

Location:

Chile and Bolivia

Tuition:

$10,995

Dates:

March 16–25, 2021

Fitness Level:

Challenging
Short hikes up to 1 mile at
elevations up to 16,000 feet

Availability:

Open For Registration
Limited to 8 Guests

I really liked that Michael gave me assignments and helped me move outside of my comfort zone (something I wanted to do on this trip). And though I’ve been photographing for a while I learned new ways to approach my images.
— Hilari Hardin, Glacier National Park '19
All the questions of setting up shots, lighting, etc.. were met with great detail and no quick answers and not leaving me hanging. Loved to see the critiques of each other’s photos and the final day critiques from the staff was great!
— Dan Chrenka, Slovenia '16, Italy '16, Muench Madness '15, Arches '15, Big Sur '15, Glacier ‘13

Itinerary and General Information

March 16, 2021: Arrive into Santiago, Chile, on or before 9:00 AM this day. Everyone will take the same LATAM flight from Santiago to Calama (we will send the info by email). In Calama, we will be driven to San Pedro de Atacama as a group. Check in to the hotel and enjoy a dinner out in town. Muench Workshops will recommend a hotel in the Santiago airport for the preceding night to give everyone a chance to make the same connecting flight into Calama.

March 17, 2021: Visit one of many local features around town such as the Valley of the Moon. We will drive higher in elevation to begin acclimating in short durations for a couple hours. Photograph the village as the late light of the afternoon bathes the adobe walls, followed by dinner and a late evening star shoot.

March 18, 2021: Another trip up to elevation for sunrise. You’ll learn camera techniques used for capturing the sunsets at high altitudes as well as night photography for the stars. Take a trip to a local stargazing location to photograph one of the darkest skies in the world.

March 19, 2021: We’ll begin our journey overland to Bolivia. This will be the first of several legs up and over high passes and onto several dry lakes along the way to the Bolivia salt flats. When we reach the Bolivian border at Hito Cajón we’ll meet our Bolivian guides and four jeeps, where we’ll continue to Villamar. Along the way, we’ll stop for lunch at the Hot Springs of Chalviri or Dali’s Desert. We’ll spend the sunset photographing at Laguna Colorado.

March 20, 2021: We’ll drive further into Bolivia from Laguna Colorado to Hediondia. We’ll spend the day photographing the incredible high plateaus of the Andes with snow-capped volcanoes in the distance, and on occasion, flamingos in the lagoons. We’ll spend the night at our second remote hotel high in the Andes at Hediondia Laguna.

March 21, 2021: Today, we’ll continue our journey to the salt flats and the town of Uyuni. When we reach the town of Uyuni we’ll check in to our first salt hotel and head out to the salt flats for sunset.

March 22, 2021: On this day, we’ll spend the morning out on the salt flats for sunrise and then continue on from Uyuni to the town of Coquesa, which is near the volcano Tunupa. We’ll have the opportunity to cross the salt flats if there’s not too much water. When we arrive in Coquesa, we’ll check in to our second salt hotel then head out to photograph the local culture and the fantastic quinoa fields. This will be a new moon, allowing us to photograph the stars reflecting in the salt flats. 

March 23, 2021: We’ll spend the day out on the salt flats visiting the island of Incahuasi, where the cacti grow on the rocky cliffs overlooking the salt flats. Depending on conditions, we’ll photograph the volcano of Tunupa with polygon shapes in the salt flats or visit the colorful quinoa fields. We’ll have another opportunity to spend time out on the salt flats photographing the stars and the Milky Way in some of the darkest skies in the world.

March 24, 2021: Our last day in the region, we’ll drive to La Paz, with stops at the world’s highest forest, queñua forest, and Huayñacota Lagoon, hot springs for lunch. Our last stop will be at the Altiplanic Sistine Chapel in the Carangas Village. We’ll make our way to La Paz for our final night and farewell dinner.

March 25, 2021: Flights home from La Paz anytime this day.

Additional information: Because of the extreme altitude visited on this workshop, you must be fit and aged 70 or younger. We will also be carrying oxygen, and our local guide is certified in wilderness first aid and experienced in altitude medicine. We will spend 3 nights at 8,000 feet to help acclimate for the higher altitudes of 15–16,000 feet reached on our way to the salt flats in Bolivia.

What to Bring and How to Prepare for Your Workshop

Please see our How To Prepare For Your Workshop page now for guidelines on workshop prep, gear, and packing. Approximately 90 days before your workshop, you will be sent a PDF with more specific instructions.

What’s Included

  • Double occupancy lodging (single available, just ask)

  • All meals, soft drinks and snacks during the workshop

  • All ground transportation during the workshop

  • All permits, fees, and gratuities

  • Photographic instruction and guiding from Michael Strickland

  • Image reviews, critiques, and post-processing instruction

  • Fun, inspiration, and a great time!

Whats Not Included?

Air transportation to Santiago, Chile, and then Santiago, Chile to Calama, Chile and from La Paz Bolivia. Alcoholic beverages. Visa or passport fees. Medical Evacuation Insurance (required). Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended). Items of a personal nature. Anything specifically not mentioned as included.

Payment Terms

Your deposit of $3,995 will hold your space in this workshop. A second payment of $4,000 will be due on August 1, 2020. The balance of $3,000 will be due not later than December 1, 2020. All of our standard terms and conditions apply. Need special payment arrangements for your deposit? No problem, just ask us.

Additional Information

This is a small group expedition visiting a unique part of the world and it will fill fast. Don’t hesitate to register, and we’ll see you in San Pedro de Atacama!