The giant salt flats of Uyuni are undoubtedly Bolivia’s biggest tourist drawcard and this is 100% warranted – they are truly out of this world. We did a 3 day / 2 night tour starting in Uyuni and ending across the Chilean border in San Pedro de Atacama.
The tour starts with a stop at the train cemetery that has a bunch of old decaying trains from back when they were used by mining companies. The trains were then abandoned in the 1940s. Not our favourite stop and had the highest concentration of tourists we saw over three days but a worthwhile place to grab a couple of snaps before we headed to the real show.
The rest of day one was spent driving across the breathtaking salt flats and, of course, stopping for plenty of photos. I warn you from here on this post will have more pics than words – I’ll leave nature to mostly describe herself!
Not only is it mandatory to include the silly pics above destorting the size and perspective but we would be kicked out of the Salar de Uyuni fan club if we didn’t have at least one dinosaur chasing pic and one of our tour group leaping for joy!
Day one continued with some time exploring the views from Fish Island (Isla Incahuasi) which I think would be better called cactus island – the views from up top looking across the salt flats were spectacular.
We capped off one of our favourite days of the year by watching the sun set over the salt flats.
With such an awesome day finished we lowered our expectations for the second day knowing we wouldn’t see the great white salt flats again. We hadn’t expected the awesome mountain scenery and the magical and brightly coloured (yes I’m not afraid to throw out plenty of adjectives here as it really was a special tour!) lagoons filled with flamingos that seemed indifferent to our presence! Enough words.. photos can sum up the rest of day two.
I have hundreds more photos but that should give you a fair idea!
We ended the second day with a drive at about 4500m altitude including a drive past the coloured mountains.
We started day three at 5am and hit the road to see the geisers at sun rise and complete the tour near the Chilean border where Jen and I said goodbye to our tour group and jumped on a waiting bus to take us to San Pedro.
We used the World White Travel tour company after hearing good things about them from the German couple we met in Sucre – Chris and Karan – and were very impressed with the jeep, driver (Gabriel) and the tour itself. We opted for the Spanish tour (you can pay a little more for an English guide) and paid USD$130 each including accommodation and food. Entrance fees were an extra $30 each. We were very lucky with our group and had an exceptionally friendly Italian couple and a Spanish/Dutch couple. We all chatted in Spanglish on route while Jen played Spotify DJ! At no point did I find the long hours in the jeep uncomfortable which was a big surprise!
Accommodation on the tour was simple – and that’s pretty generous. Night one was in a salt hotel (pretty much entirely made of salt). We had a private room with shared bathroom – though at minus 10 degrees we opted not to use the cold shower. Night two was even more simple and we had a shared room with another couple. That night the temperature dropped to minus 18 degrees celcius (not a typo!!) so our only priority was layering up and staying warm! The advantage to sleeping in the middle of nowhere was the unparalleled views of the night skies complete with a stunning display of the milky way. A very friendly french guy was keeping himself warm drinking rum while taking photos of the skies and lent me his tripod and his skills to take a couple of great shots.
We stayed one night in Uyuni before the tour. One night is definitely enough – probably too much. Our guesthouse was odd – we really wouldn’t have wanted any longer there (so I won’t name it to recommend) but the hosts were helpful and friendly. We did find a great pizza place in town called Minuteman Pizza within Tonito Hotel (the hotel looked really nice!). How such a dreary town has such a cool pizza place I don’t quiet understand but it was a sanctuary to be used by all!
A side story…
Our time in Uyuni was not without drama and adventure. I won’t bore you with the full story here but it involved a lost passport, our attempts to get it back, our dealings with the local police (including needing to go to the local shop to buy paper for them then have to go print the loss certificate back at our guesthouse because the printer had too much dust in it), immigration and the eventual return of the passport. All ended well but the full story is more fun with wine.
Next up: our time in Bolivia is finished. Next, we visit the desert in northern Chile at San Pedro de Atacama.