Uyuni to Atacama. Lifetime photo adventure to Bolivia and Chile
Andean Photo Expeditions is proud to announce the launch of our first group photo tours! For this overland adventure across the Altiplano of Bolivia and Chile, we’ve partnered with Adventure Photographer and Explorer Kevin Floerke. He gives us some insight into this incredible route and the wonders we see and photograph along the way!
Andean Photo Expeditions and I recently announced our first group photography workshop in Bolivia and Chile. My first visit to Uyuni was way back in 2010 as an adventurous young backpacker. I remember being stunned by the sheer scale of the world’s largest salt flat, the white expanse that felt like I’d landed on the moon.
I would revisit many times, including in 2018 when, during an expedition exploring the Inca Road Network in Bolivia and Chile, I crossed the entirety of the salt flats on foot., Spending long hours walking across the Salar gave me an intimate understanding of the various conditions we see in the region, and only deepened my love and fascination with this truly special place.
This tour upcoming trip has been years in the making, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit about what makes this part of the world such an incredible place to visit and photograph, as well as give some insight into what the experience will be like.
What We Will See
If you’re a photographer looking for an adventure, this itinerary was built for you. We begin in Bolivia’s capital city of La Paz, a vertical urban landscape surrounded by stunning glacial peaks that tower over the densely populated neighborhoods below.
Here we have a chance to capture images of Bolivia’s strong indigenous cultural history with women wearing colorful traditional polleras (dresses) sometimes cutting a stark contrast to the bustling modern city.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the Witches’ Market, a famous shopping district where ceremonial goods such as dried llama fetuses are sold for use in burnt offerings, often mere steps away from stalls repairing smartphones. Our local guides help put it all in context, while your photography instructors help you capture beautiful images that tell the story of a culture in transition.
From La Paz, we catch a flight to Uyuni, where the true adventure begins. The Salar de Uyuni, located in southwest Bolivia, is the largest salt flat in the world, covering over 10,000 square kilometers. The area is known for its expansive and almost lunar landscapes, where the white salt flats meet the piercing blue sky.
The Salar is also the flattest place on earth which makes it the perfect setting for creative forced-perspective shots, where you can create mind-bending images by playing with the scale of objects in the frame. This also means that when it rains, or when the snow from the nearby peaks melts and drains to the Salar, the water spreads into a thin, perfectly reflective layer. This turns the salt flats into the world’s largest mirror, reflecting the sky in perfect detail and creating an effect unlike any other in the world. Our tours are timed to maximize the potential to see this phenomenon, and our private vehicles allow us to seek it out wherever it may be occurring.
In addition to the striking daytime scenery, the Salar de Uyuni offers some of the best astrophotography opportunities in the world. The areas high altitude and remote location make it an ideal place for stargazing, with little light pollution to interfere with the clarity of the Milky Way. The flat and sometimes reflective surface of the Salar allows for a maximum viewing angle of the galaxy center and other celestial objects against a stark, surreal landscape. And stepping onto the reflective Salar at night is an experience you will never forget. I always describe it as the closest most of us will come to visiting space, with an endless expanse of stars both above and below. It’s both an amazing phenomenon to experience and an opportunity for some unbelievable photos.
Your instructors take you out each night on the Salar to teach you the best ways to capture print-worthy images of the night sky. My images of the Salar are consistently among my best sellers. Their highly unique and striking nature seems to enchant even those who have never personally visited.
From Uyuni, we continue south to the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, a stunningly beautiful protected area that spans over 7,000 square kilometers and is home to a variety of unique flora and fauna, including llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and flamingos. Your photography guides will help you to spot and capture these often-elusive creatures and create world-class images of exotic wildlife in breathtaking locations.
One of the highlights of our visit to the reserve is the Laguna Colorada, a shallow saltwater lake that is colored red by the pigmentation of algae and plankton. The lake is surrounded by towering red and orange mountains and is often filled with flocks of flamingos, making for an incredible photo opportunity. We also visit the Sol de Mañana geothermal field, where you can see hot springs, mud pools, and geysers spewing steam and boiling water. Traveling through the reserve by 4×4 vehicles is an adventure in itself, with bumpy roads, breathtaking scenery, and unpredictable weather.
Our expert guides and drivers do the hard work of navigating this terrain while you focus on capturing its unparalleled beauty. The night skies in this area are also among the darkest in the world, offering us great opportunities to further hone our astrophotography skills before retiring each night to our remote ecolodges.
Continuing our southward overland journey we come to the Atacama Desert, a vast, arid region that stretches from Chile into parts of Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Atacama is known for its ethereal landscapes, from towering sand dunes to twisted and surreal rock formations. Like the Salar de Uyuni, the Atacama is also an excellent location for astrophotography and stargazing. We visit one of the region’s several observatories and photograph some of the clearest skies in the world. We plan our departures around the new moon to maximize our chances of capturing stunning images of the Milky Way and other celestial objects.
The Atacama is also home to a number of hot springs and geysers, which offer unique photographic opportunities. The hot springs in particular can create interesting contrasts between the steam rising from the water and the stark, dry landscape. And when you’re ready to wash the desert dust off your skin, we stay at the phenomenal Terrantai Hotel for a taste of luxury after our long overland expedition.
Why Go With Us?
In addition to my personal experience exploring and photographing this region, Andean Photo Expeditions brings their expertise in planning and executing world-class photography expeditions in the Andes. Our tours are timed to coincide with the beginning and end of the rainy season, allowing us the best chance to see the Salar in its reflective state while still being able to navigate the high-altitude passes that separate Southern Bolivia from Chile’s Atacama.
Our tours are also scheduled to coincide with the new moon phase, allowing us to capture the best and clearest dark skies possible. We partner with the top local drivers and guides, who pick us up in the morning in time for sunrise shoots, get us to the best locations for wildlife viewing, and are experts at navigating this remote and rugged region safely and comfortably.
After traveling to six continents and photographing some of the world’s most sought-after destinations, I still find myself longing to return to this part of the world. It is my sincere pleasure to make this journey available to others and to share the experience of exploring one of the most uniquely beautiful parts of our planet with other passionate photographers.
Join us on this adventure, and we’ll not only help you create your most memorable images yet, but you’ll also create memories that will last a lifetime.
Your Guide: Kevin Floerke is an adventure photographer with over ten years of experience exploring the remote corners of the Andes. Trained as an archaeologist, he got his start combing the ruins of the Inca civilization, mapping their road system across South America. He has explored this route numerous times, including crossing the Salar de Uyuni on foot in 2018 as part of an expedition mapping the Inca Road through Bolivia. His work has been published worldwide, including in the Guardian, BBC Travel, and the Outdoor Journal. He brings his knowledge of the wilderness and his photography expertise to share with us on this epic adventure!
My first visit to Uyuni was way back in 2010 as an adventurous young backpacker. I would revisit many times, including in 2018 when I crossed the entirety of the salt flats on foot, giving me an intimate understanding of the various conditions we see in the region. This upcoming trip has been years in the making, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit about what makes this part of the world such an incredible place to visit and photograph, as well as give some insight on what the experience will be like.