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A breath of fresh air in Wild West-esque Tupiza, owners of El Grano de Oro, Ariel and Silvia Aguilar set out in April 2004 to offer travellers a different tailor-made emphasis to their tours, unlike other companies who offer the same standard packages. Friendly and knowledgeableAriel understands the needs of tourists well, having worked for other tour companies as a guide previously, and will offer useful information with no obligation. It is this honest, family-run approach along with their eco-friendly stance that makes them a great choice to explore the red-hued and and cactus-filled landscapes of this stunning area.
All tour guides are chosen for their aptitude in explaining the tourist sites well and Ariel and Silvia constantly review customer feedback forms in order to improve their service and innovate. Although most itineraries are customised, below are common examples which can be adapted upon discussion with Silvia who speaks English and Spanish. Deposits are generally not required, but to confirm a reservation (after sending an initial email) Silvia requests either a contact telephone number or a visit to their pleasant office in Tupiza. The Salt Flats tour is highly recommended, which builds up over four days to a spectacular ending in the Salar itself, unlike tours from Uyuni which visit this incredible sight first.
Salar de Uyuni Tour
Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) Tour by Jeep. Duration - 3nts or 4nts. Price - based on the classic 3nt tour in standard accommodation: Bs1000 based on five people sharing including guide, transportation, all food and accommodation plus park entrance fees. Private tours are also available for Bs2500 based on two people sharing. El Grano de Oro aim to provide a higher level of service by offering smaller group sizes, more innovative cuisine and some treats along the way! Itinerary is as follows (NB the tour is also available in the reverse itinerary) Day 1: The morning is spent exploring the desert landscapes near Tupiza, including Palala, El Sillar, passing through llama territory of Agua Pampa, stopping at Trapiche for lunch. Then visits to Paso del Diablo sand dunes, San Pablo, Relabe and overnight accommodation in Colpani (bed in shared room). Day 2: After breakfast, pass through Laguna Onda, Hedionda´s sulphuric region and Kollpa, amongst lunar-like scenery, the hot baths of Aguas Termales, the surreal looking Rocas de Salvador Dali, emerald green Laguna Verde, Laguna Blanca and the bubbling and steaming nearby Geisers (at 5000m altitude!) before overnighting in Huayllajara (bed in shared room). Day 3: The impressive red lake of Laguna Colorada and its resident flamingoes is the first stop after breakfast, then the gravity-defying Arbol de Piedra (stone tree); the scenery here is reminiscent of ´The Return of the Jedi´. Drive past the five lagunas of Ramaditas, Honda, Charcota, Hediona and Canapa and through the village of San Juan before overnighting in Villa Candelaria (bed in shared room). Day 4: Wake early for sunrise (around 6am) to catch your first glimpse of the awe-inspiring Salt Flats of the Salar de Uyuni, watching the terrain appear slowly from obscurity before your eyes. The surreal island of Inca Huasi, with its hundreds of cacti (some 8m high and 1000 years old), and elevated position with the pure white backdrop of the Salar, is your breakfast stop. Next you will drive along the flats and stop to take the trademark optical illusion photos (some props provided, but you´ll no doubt have your own ideas too!) and view gigantic salt crystals. Visit the Hotel de Sal then a final at the museum site before heading into Uyuni and the end of the tour at approx 2pm. Arrange with Silvia in advance if you wish to return to Tupiza.
Horse Riding Tours 3, 5 or 7 hours. Price: Bs25 p/
You will be given the option to choose when and where you ride around Tupiza, for example the Puerta del Diablo, Valle de Los Machos and Canon Del Inca and perhaps Canon del Duende for longer tours. Cowboy hats (or helmets if you prefer) and chaps are provided to complete to the Wild West look! A lunch is included in the 7 hour tour.
Jeep Tour half or full day Bs200 full day min 2 pax
A sample full day tour departs at 9.30am where you will visit El Angosto and the picturesque rivers nearby, then heading onward to Canon del Duende where you can walk to see the gravity-defying and unusual rock formations. Then you will continue to the Quebrada Seca before having lunch in Toroyoj. After lunch, you will visit Puerto del Diablo, Valle de los Machos and Canon del Inca and onto Palala and El Sillar to complete a jam-packed day. Half day tours comprise some of this circuit according to your preferences.
Trio Tour prices and durations vary
A completely tailor-made tour that combines the excitement of saddling up and heading off on horseback, going off-road in a 4x4 jeep and hiking the beautiful terrains of Tupiza. This tour is totally flexible and you will usually discuss with Silvia how much time you wish to spend on each activity (hence the price varies for every itinerary created). As with other tours, the price will also reduce with a larger group size following the same itinerary.
VIP tours prices and durations vary
El Grano de Oro also offer a VIP enhanced service which will include a luxury vehicle and a different level of catering and accommodation. This can apply to any of the various jeep tours mentioned above. If you wish to upgrade to extra luxuries on the Salt Flats tour like a private room and central heating, these can also be arranged with the team beforehand.
How to get there...
The office is centrally located in Tupiza for your convenience, on Avenida Pedro Arraya, which is the same road as the main bus terminal. From the main plaza, take Calle Florida three blocks until you reach Avenida Pedro Arraya. Turn right here and El Grano de Oro´s office is less than 50 metres on your right. Silvia is also often at the bus/train terminal to discuss the tours with new arrivals, so look out for her!

Report & Photos by: Dominic Smith & Alex Wilson
Contact Info...
Avenida Pedro Arraya no.492
591 2 6944763
591 72208602
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