The Lagunas Route: A road trip through the roof of the Americas

The Lagunas Route, stretching 400km through the Bolivian Altiplano, is one of the most remote and eerily beautiful roads in the Americas. It begins in the town of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, and ends in the Bolivian town of Uyuni, known for its vast salt flats visible from space. The route passes through a surreal landscape dotted with salt lagoons, volcanoes, geysers, and otherworldly rock formations.

Travelling along the Lagunas Route can take anywhere from two to five days, depending on the weather and the mode of transportation used. The journey is best undertaken with 4×4 vehicles or off-road motorcycles due to the lack of paved roads and services along the way. There are few fuel stations, motels, or services available, but the route passes several small Indigenous communities.

The Lagunas Route is located more than 4,200m above sea level, and the high altitude and cold, biting wind can cause mild altitude sickness and make for slow going. The landscape is home to flamingos, vicunas, and Andean condors, and the deep sand hugging the tyres can make for a challenging ride.

The region is home to 36 recognised Indigenous peoples speaking 36 distinct languages, and some of the Indigenous villages along the route are so remote and secluded that the locals do not speak Spanish. The communities are self-sufficient, growing their own food, raising llamas and alpacas for meat, and having very little contact with the outside world.

One of the most notable landmarks along the route is the blood-red Laguna Colorada, home to flocks of flamingos. The vivid hue of the lake is caused by red algae in the mineral-rich water. The landscape is also home to the Salvador Dalí Desert, littered with surreal, wind-swept rock formations and otherworldly turquoise and red lakes that contrast against the white, pink, and beige desert sands.

The Lagunas Route was originally used by locals in pre-Columbian times to transport goods between villages and settlements via llama caravans. In the 1890s, mining companies began using it to transport silver, zinc, and salt to Chile. The route’s many natural wonders have become shrouded in legend, with stories of the blood-red Laguna Colorada being “touched by the devil” and changing color if it senses invaders. However, these are just stories people tell, according to local guides.

Despite the challenges and hardships of travelling along the Lagunas Route, it offers breathtaking views with every kilometre and a sense of discovery and adventure. The region remains largely untouched by the outside world, making it a truly unique and remote travel destination.

.st1{display:none}See more