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Rainbow Mountains of Purmamarca & relaxing in Salta

Time to cross a boarder again! After only a couple of days in Chile, we took a bus to Purmamarca, Argentina. Chile, we will be back soon! The bus ride was…long and a little depressing in the end: We had left with bright blue skies and suddenly found ourselves in fog so thick the bus driver almost couldn’t see where he was going. We arrived in Purmamarca in drizzling rain and it took us ages to find an ok place to stay. Not a good start… but it got better! Much better actually. Next morning we woke up to once again blue sky and sunshine. Yay! Time to explore the colourful hills around Purmamarca that the region is known for. First, we climbed up a hill on the other side of the river where we got the typical view of Purmamarca with the 7-colour mountain in the back. Really nice!

It reminded us a little of Tupiza, although Tupiza was bigger of course. Once again, we really liked the rocky landscape, so we continued our exploration on the village side of the river, climbing up various hills and walking the much recommended Paseo de los Colorados, a dirt road that leads in a half circle behind the village, passing by lots of cool red and colourful rocks.

Purmamarca itself is a cute little village, however a bit more touristy than expected, especially when all the tour busses roll in. There isn’t a whole lot to do and see – we were done with our hikes after half a day, so spent the rest of the day chilling in the sun with some beers. Not too bad either!

The day after, we left for Salta, which took us a good part of the day again as we had to go to Jujuy first and change there. In Salta, we spent two rather relaxed days exploring the small center with its typical plaza and picturesque churches.

We also took the cable car up Cerro San Bernardo. Unfortunately, late afternoon is not a good time to go since you’ll have the sun against you when taking pictures. Still, we always enjoy viewpoints, so it was good to do and see!

The rest of the time in Salta, we took it a bit slower than usual, going out for drinks with a couple we met, eating delicious empanadas and testing one of the famous pay-per-kilo restaurants for the first time. Salta was a nice stop, even though not a very special one, and from here we took our yet longest bus ride of this trip – 18 h to Mendoza.

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San Pedro de Atacama – in the driest desert of the world

From the town of Uyuni, we took a bus across the boarder to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. What sounds simple took the whole day…from 5.30 am. We were not keen on waking up that early and spending the whole day on a bus, but there really wasn’t any alternative (other than going on another Uyuni Tour which would end in SP – we were even tempted to do that, but the first day would have been the same as our last day, so that would have been a waste of money). The wait at the boarder was long, all luggage got searched by hand and with dogs, as well as the bus. But in the end we arrived in the little desert town and were greeted by desert temperatures and sun! Ideal for yet another camping adventure. This time we camped next to some sheep and llamas.

On our first real day in San Pedro, we rented mountain bikes and took on the Valle de la Luna. I think last time I was in San Pedro, I went to Valle de la Muerte only – so it was something new for me as well. I just hadn’t expected it to be quite as exhausting! The sun was burning down, there was lots of dust in the air and the roads were really shitty. But of course it was still very pretty!

We had rented the bikes for 6 h which in the end wasn’t enough to see all the sights, but it was enough for us and more than enough for me and my body. Lol. At some points we parked the bikes and hiked up to various viewpoints. Really cool views and rock formations!

However, we were a bit spoiled after the Uyuni Tour and Tupiza, so didn’t find it as special as maybe someone else would. After handing back the bikes and recovering for a bit, we made our mind up to go on a tour the next day, the „Lagos Altiplanicos“ one. In San Pedro there are hundreds of tour agencies, all selling more or less the same, but prices differ a lot, so it pays to shop around. The tour took us first to Toconao, a sleepy little village with a photogenic bell tower but not much else going on.

Next, we went to Salar de Atacama, a quite picturesque lake/salt lake setting with some flamingos to photograph once again. It wasn’t as pretty as some landscape/flamingo combinations we had seen during the Uyuni tour, but still really cool.

Then we stopped at yet another little village with a photogenic church – Socaire. We also did some photo stops along the way to be able to take pictures of the mountains, which was really nice.

In the end, we finally got to the actual „altiplanic lakes“ Miscanti and Miniques whereas the first one was beautifully blue with mountains in the back that were still a bit snowy. Very pretty!!

The other lake, Miniques, was also nice but just not as special. All in all, we were glad that we did the tour and feel that we saw some nice places still. Even after the Uyuni Tour, we are still not sick of pretty lakes and flamingos. Was it absolutely necessary to do? Probably not, but like this we feel like we’ve really „done“ the Atacama desert – the rest of the other places you could see on tours just looked very similar to places we had seen on the Uyuni Tour already. So after this short stop in Chile, we ventured across the boarder again – to Argentina…

Bolivia – Summary & Pictures

People: Locals are friendly if a bit shy in Bolivia. We didn’t have many closer interactions than for clear tourist reasons. We met a mix of backpackers, many other couples around our age or a little older. Often we were also the only ones in our accommodation though.

Food: A bit of an issue, especially for me. There are not much vegetarian options, lots of fried chicken. The set lunch menus never excited us either. The best places we ate at were a Turkish place in Samaipata and an Italian pizza place in La Paz. Lol.

Weather: We were a bit unlucky with the weather since rainy season hit early this year. We had to cut our time in Bolivia and leave out quite some highlights unfortunately. Too bad! Luckily, we were also treated to some sunny days in the most important places such as Uyuni.

Costs: Bolivia was a nice change after visiting so many expensive countries. Finally things were cheap again! We spent around 28€/day per person. Could have done it a bit cheaper, but we did quite some tours and also some (necessary) shopping for warm clothes.

Accommodation: We almost always stayed in smaller guesthouses in a double room, barely in hostels because they were usually more expensive. What’s odd in Bolivia is that they always mention prices per person, not per room.

Infrastructure: Easy-peasy after the South Pacific. There’s busses or colectivos to go pretty much anywhere you want. Cheap, lots of competition and therefore often quite good (especially long-distance night busses). Taxis are also readily available and cheap and La Paz has awesome cable cars to offer.

Illnesses: Our stomachs didn’t quite enjoy the Bolivian food as much so we both had some issues now and then, especially Mathijs got quite sick once.

Safety: Bolivia is supposed to be a bit more unsafe and therefore I was a bit more nervous about things sometimes… without real reason. Everything went fine!

Itinerary: We visited pretty much all typical tourist destinations plus some that were a bit out of the way such as Samaipata. As mentioned, we would have wanted to see more – especially around La Paz there were some hikes and towns that I would have loved to do/visit. Also, the Sajama national park sounded very good. Guess we’ll just have to come back one more time!

Highlight: The Uyuni-Tour.

Lowlight: The battle with the weather. As in places: Cochabamba.

Click on the photo below to see our full photo album of Bolivia:

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