A volcanic area with fertile land were Bolivia’s best quinua is produced separates the Salar de Uyuni from the Salar de Coipasa. This is the Región Intersalar and the road which joins the two salt lakes is called the Ruta Intersalar. The area has limited bus service from Oruro and Uyuni.
Southwest of Salinas, near the northwestern shore of the Salar de Uyuni, is Llica, another important town with basic services, including bus transport across the salar from Uyuni, and road access from Oruro via Quillacas and Salinas. Here too are archaelogical sites. Llama and other wool handicrafts are produced here. On a peninsula that juts into the Salar de Uyuni is the lovely snow-capped Volcán Tunupa (or Thunupa, 5432 m), important in the local mythology about the creation of the salar and a landmark that can be seen in the distance from most of the Salar de Uyuni. Tunupa can be climbed from several of the villages at its base, the views of the salares are beautiful but note that the climb to the summit is demanding. There are some ancient ruins on its flanks. With a private vehicle it is possible to circumnavigate the volcano, passing several villages. Allow a full day if you plan to stop at the multiple photo opportunities. The Ruta Intersalar goes south from Salinas to a fork, where you can go left (clockwise) or right (counterclockwise) around the volcano. The former leads more directly to the Salar de Uyuni and to villages with accommodation.
Jirira, a tiny village 55 km from Salinas along the left fork, has a ramp to enter the Salar de Uyuni and a good alojamiento. You can climb in four hours to a mirador (4650 m), with stunning views over the salar and Tunupa’s crater; the trail is rocky and marked by cairns. Local guides charge US$8 to the mirador and US$16 to the summit. From Jirira, a particularly scenic 7 km stretch of road follows the northern shore of the salar, past the hamlet of Ayque with a 5-ha archaelogical site nearby, to Coqueza, a somewhat bigger place with several lodgings (working mostly with groups and closed in the rainy season). This is another good base for climbing Tunupa, here too is a mirador at 4120 m and a cave with mummies, thought to belong to the Aymara kingdoms period, around 1250. Just ahead, at Chantani is an access ramp to the salar and a small museum with regional ceramics and petrified algae. Tahua, 5 km beyond, is a town with a lovely church just at the edge of the salar, ramp access to the salt-flat, places to sleep and eat, a telephone and possibly petrol. At Tahua, the road leaves the shore of the salar and goes north through desolate countryside to the village of Alianza before closing the loop....
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