Atacama Desert, Volcanoes, and Bolivia's Salt Flats
March 16–26, 2023
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 and polygon shapes in the mud from evaporation.
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 4 nights at 8,500 feet in altitude, so everyone has time to acclimate for the higher elevations we will visit later, in Bolivia. These 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 ascend to 15,000 feet where we’ll cross into Bolivia. We’ll pack into Land Cruisers and head through the wilderness of the high Andes to the 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, you’ll learn about techniques to best capture the reflections of the salt flats, and 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.
This expedtion reaches altitudes over 16,000 feet. Please read the document linked in ALTITUDE.
This itinerary is subject to change due to weather, local conditions, and other factors.
March 16, 2023: Everyone will take an early flight from Santiago to Calama together. For this reason it’s much better to arrive into Santiago on the 15th of March and stay at the Holiday Inn Express in the airport. We will be greeted by our guides at the Calama airport and driven to San Pedro de Atacama, about 2 hours away. After lunch and checking into our hotel, we’ll spend the evening walking around town and photographing the interesting architecture.
March 17, 2023: Early pre dawn shoot in the historic town of San Pedro de Atacama. Breatkfast and intoductory image review. After lunch you’ll explore and photograph either Valley of the Moon or Mars Valley. After dinner in town, and weather permitting, you’ll go out for an intoductory star shoot.
March 18, 2023: You’ll visit one of many locations at 14,000 feet in altitude today, allowing your body to experience the thin air for the first time. There are plenty of great photogenic locations to choose from. We will spend the afternoon exploring an old mission and canyon filled with beautiful cacti. Dinner back in town followed by another star shoot.
March 19, 2023: We’ll spend our final full day in San Pedro de Atacama acclimating and learning about post-processing night images from the previous evening star shoots. We may venture out to shoot sunset if the weather permits. Everyone will attempt to get a good nights sleep before driving up in altitude the following morning.
March 20, 2023: 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 21, 2023:
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 22, 2023:
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 23, 2023:
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 24, 2023:
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 25, 2023:
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 26, 2023: Flights home from La Paz anytime this day.
This photography workshop visits altitudes more than 16,000 feet. It is imperative that you are comfortable at this elevation.
We have made requirements that everyone is able to acclimate properly and require that you consult with your personal physician. Please read this document, "Health Changes of High Altitude Adventure" prepared by physician Gordon Saperia (also one of our clients).
This workshop is designed to provide four nights at 8,500 feet in elevation to help acclimate for the much higher elevations reached in the Bolivian Andes. If this will be your first time at altitudes above 14,000 feet, we recommend that you arrive 1 or 2 days early into San Pedro de Atacama. We can arrange for our local guides to meet with you and drive you from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama.
To prepare yourself for enjoying high altitudes, we recommend that you visit locations in your home country that exceed 14,000 feet in altitude. Be careful and remember that to do this safely, it takes time. You can visit Pikes Peak in Colorado to test your acclimation process if you are from the US. It is best if you spend a minimum of 2 nights at an altitude of around 8-9,000 feet to properly acclimate and enjoy yourself at 14,000 feet. We also recommend consulting with your physician to obtain the proper medication to help your body adjust. We can only offer recommendations, but you need to consult your physician for final approval and prescriptions!
Challenging: You must be able to hike up to one mile at elevations up to 16,000 feet.
Arrive El Loa Airport (CJC), Calama, Chile before 9:00 AM on March 16, 2023. Depart El Alto International Airport (LPB), La Paz, Bolivia anytime on March 26, 2023.
What to Bring
Please see our page How To Prepare For Your Workshop. We will send you a detailed information document 90 days before your workshop. This document will include specifics of where and when to meet, gear and clothing recommendations, and more.
- Double occupancy lodging. Single available for $1,800 supplement.
- All meals, soft drinks, and snacks during the workshop
- All permits and park fees
- All transportation during the workshop
- Tips for crew, drivers, and local guides
- English speaking local guide throughout the workshop
- Photographic guiding and instruction from 2 pros
- Image reviews and post-processing instruction
- Adventure, fun, inspiration, and a great time!
- Travel to Calama, Chile and from La Paz, Bolivia.
- Passport and visa fees (if applicable).
- Any meals or accommodations before or after the workshop dates.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Medical Evacuation Insurance (required).
- Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended).
- Anything else specifically not listed as included.
- Single rooming available for $1,800 supplement.
“Awesome is definitely the understatement of the day! It was a fantastical photo workshop!! (That’s a legal term for a hybrid of fantastic and magical.) Many kudos to Wayne and Kevin for making it happen. ”