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3 must-see places to visit on a South American holiday tour

16 December 2015

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.

The Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat
The Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat

Peru by rail

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…

Planet Bolivia

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…


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.