3 must-see places to visit on a South American holiday tour
On Saga’s latest adventure tour to South America, you can cross the Andes by rail, scout Incan ruins, stay in a hotel made of salt, see lakes of red and green, explore a cemetery for abandoned trains, walk on the world’s largest salt flat and explore a grumbling geothermal desert.
Altitude: 2,400 metres to 3,400 metres.
Can’t face the prospect of a week-long hike up the mountains to Machu Picchu? Then take the train. The Expedition Train takes you through the Sacred Valley in a fraction of the time, and without the aching legs and all that exhaustion. Meaning you can throw caution and your comfortable walking shoes to the wind! Another train journey awaits once you make it to Cusco, the Hispanicised capital of the Incan Empire. The Andean Explorer – a lovely 1920s-style locomotive complete with fancy armchairs and a bar car – departs from here. It’s all very Agatha Christie – sans the murder. The train drops you off at the shores of Lake Titicaca, where you cross the border into Bolivia and the next part of the expedition begins…
Altitude: 3,400 metres to 4,800 metres.
After charting Lake Titicaca by hydrofoil in search of two sacred islands you’ll hop on the next flight to Uyuni in Bolivia’s bizarre highlands, where your first stop is a cemetery for abandoned trains. Did we already say bizarre? Then you’ll step out onto the world’s largest salt flat and visit an ‘island’ of geriatric cacti and fossilised coral. This is probably a good point to mention that your hotel here is built entirely from salt (don’t worry, it won’t dissolve in the rain). As you venture further into the mountains you reach Laguna Colorada, a lake tinged deep red by algae, dotted with bright white islands of borax, and home to hundreds of flamingo. This is as well as Laguna Verde, which is sometimes green and sometime turquoise, depending on its mood. Just another day in Bolivia…
Bottoms up, Chile
Altitude: 4,800 metres to 520 metres.
Welcome to one of the driest places on Earth. In the Atacama Desert, mountains of salt overlook barren lunarscape valleys, active volcanoes fuel therapeutic hot springs, and fields of geysers sit next to pits of boiling mud and a gaseous congregation of noxious fumaroles – hello, Post-Apocalyptia. But as your expedition comes to a close you’ll find yourself back in civilisation with the opportunity to quench your parched self at a winery in the Maipo Valley just outside Santiago. Really quite well timed after your journey through the desert…