Travel to Salar De Uyuni
From La Paz to Uyuni we set off at night to reach before dawn and set off on an expedition through the deserts of Bolivia. It was a very good idea, because for some time it has been a very crowded tourist place and there is no problem with finding an office. You can eat something on the same day, do some shopping and go on a journey.
Getting off the bus at dawn, we are surrounded by 10-20 representatives who want to persuade us to take a trip with them. However, you have to look at them a little.
Which tour to choose?
In Uyuni we have several variants to choose from, these are usually 1-4-day trips, but the most popular of them are the 3-day ones. Which allows you to see the most interesting places and relax a little, because in the desert there is not light. Therefore, it is necessary to find out a little what the itinerary looks like, what we will eat and where to sleep. You also need a good guide who knows the area and with whom we will spend these 3 days.
It is also worth determining the direction of the trip, so as to avoid the largest crowds. Thanks to this, we will not have crowds of tourists at every step getting out of the car. Which provides us with a well-organized guide.
The owner of the office explained everything to us on maps and photos, where and how we will move and what to take. As a group that is planning a 3-day trip, we got with another 3-person team to our car. The rest of the people who were with us were leaving in another car and on the last day they were to go to Chile.
Transport in the desert
For 3 days we were to drive a Lexus Jeep, with a 4×4 drive (emphasized the owner). We had to limit ourselves a bit with luggage. Everyone could take 1 small backpack and pack 2-3 people in a large one, so as not to take everything with them, leaving the rest of the things to be stored in the office.
The travel agency we used provided us with breakfast, lunch and dinner. We even got a menu that included vegetarians. Although the most recommended was chicken, with rice and vegetables that we chose. We had such a dinner served from the car, but in Salar we ate it in a hotel made of salt. We had breakfast and dinner at the place of accommodation. Only before leaving we went to a restaurant friendly with the office to have breakfast on the first day.
Funny, because when ordering scrambled eggs, I had to wait for the cook to go to the market to get eggs. It was tasty.
After breakfast, we went shopping for the trip, because it is worth getting water and snacks before leaving, because later it will be difficult. For the water itself, you can then overpay 5 times, so it’s better to prepare.
After shopping, we got a quick shower after a trip in one of the hotels and a ride to Jeep.
The price of the tour in Uyuni
You are probably wondering how to plan such an expedition? There is no greater philosophy.
Apart from bus tickets from La Paz, we haven’t booked anything before, because it doesn’t make sense. There are plenty of travel agencies on site that you can view and check on the spot. There is also so much competition that prices are similar, and ordering a trip via the Internet or in La Paz can be up to 2x more expensive than on the spot. The average price is approx. 700-1000 Bolivians per person for 3 days, and an expedition with an English-speaking guide is already approx. 1500. It is not necessary for the guide to be English-speaking, because it is enough for someone in the group to understand Spanish. Although those who know the additional language are supposedly more eloquent. We paid approx. 900 Bolivians, but in dollars for everything, which are also accepted by the office, at a fixed rate. So you don’t even have to look for an exchange office beforehand.
The best time of year?
arto also ask yourself when we want to go see Salar de Uyuni. We chose the rainy season, which lasts from December to March. It’s summer in Bolivia. Which gives us longer and warmer days and a more interesting view of Salar. The lake is covered with a thin layer of water that makes the sky merge on the horizon with brine. In addition, we have smaller crowds of tourists and better weather, because the temperature can exceed 20 degrees and does not go below 0 at night. Although in the desert it blows heavily, we were still cold, and I caught a slight cold at night in the desert. When everyone slept in their jackets, I was discovering myself and looking for water after the night, so warmed me up.
Day 1 – deserts and lagoons
Once we got over it and packed all the bags on the car, we could go for a few hours journey into the desert. At the beginning we just drove, admiring the views from the car, running herds of animals and modest nature.
We made the first stop in a mining town, where you could stretch your bones, use the toilet and buy almond snickers at the stall. The next few dozen kilometers away we had the first stop for lunch in a small town, where apart from us and two other groups, we met maybe 5 residents.
Problems with the cooler in the desert
After lunch, we set off further and, after literally a few kilometers, our car began to smoke and we had to stop. It turned out that the water in the radiator boiled and we had to add some of it and wait for the engine to cool down a little. We, at that time, were able to admire the views and take a few pictures before the situation clarified.
After some time, we turned back to the place where we had dinner and there we had to wait for our driver to deal with the damaged cooling. At that time, there were even fewer people in the town. Normally, ghost city.
After all the fuss with the car, we continued to explore the lagoons, piles of boulders and places where llamas and alpacas graze. Even with one of them I had a close encounter, taking a small nap on the grass. In the meantime, it turned out that the car was not yet fully operational and lost some water in the radiator, and we still had a lot of kilometers to the nearest village where we were supposed to spend the night. We lent some water to our driver and guide – Ariel, who poured it into the radiator from time to time to save the situation. So we could see the rest of the places. Only because of all this confusion until the next day we had very little of it.
We finished the journey that day at the last minute before sunset. It was already starting to get cold. Just before the village we still had the opportunity to see one of the lagoons, where flamingos are lounging at sunset. Later, we had a delicious dinner and a quick sleep, because the next day we had to go to the National Nature Reserve, which is located on the border of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
It wasn’t the best day for me. Due to altitude sickness, I had a terrible migraine all day and getting out of the car I did not have the strength to climb up a larger hill, because the pain was unbearable. That night I probably got sick the most, because when everyone was sleeping in their jackets, I was fidgeting through the fever. In addition, I was so dried that I thought it would burn, and practically all the water went to the radiator of our car. In the morning I had a cold shower and a terrible nosebleed, but after eating breakfast it started to get a little better.
Day 2 – Salvador Dali Desert
The next day we set off at night and at dawn we reached the desert of Salvador Dali, where beautiful views, frost and hot springs awaited us. At the very beginning, we went to the border with Argentina and Chile to see the beautiful blue and fog that enveloped the mountains in the distance.
Border with Chile and Argentina
A little further, behind the desert of Salvador Dali, we reached the border with Chile and Argentina where there was only a beautiful blue view of the lagoons and white mountain peaks. From this place we had to set off on the way back towards the hot springs.
Later, we went the same way to the natural hot springs, which, however, I had to let go, because of the headache, I did not even have the strength to change clothes. I was tired like an old grandfather who tires of putting on a shoe. It’s hard to compare this feeling to anything.
Next time with such changes in altitude, I have to acclimatize longer, because it takes away a lot of fun and it’s hard to get an active rest.
Geyser, lagoons and pink flamingos
After resting by the springs, it was time for a further journey through the next lagoons. On the way, we also visited a geyser and a stone tree, a stone that resembles a tree. There is no madness, but you can watch.
On the other hand, the lagoons made a huge impression on us. Blue water among desert views, and in the distance white peaks of mountains. On one of them we were lucky to meet a lot of flamingos and take a few photos with them, because apart from our team from Jeep, there was no one else there.
Flamingos in Laguna Hedionda
A lagoon full of flamingos.
Lunch on the hood of the car
In the descriptions of travel from Uyuni, it is often said about dinners on the hood of a car. Ariel (our guide) that day prepared us a picnic in one of the canyons, where we ate chicken with vegetables, vegan pies, sipping everything with Coca-Cola or wine – to choose from. I did not complain, I can eat like that “from the hood of the car”. Even the surrounding rabbits began to envy us and wanted to join the dinner.
Overnight in Uyuni
That day we did not sleep in the desert anymore – we returned to Uyuni. There we already had an overnight stay arranged, but there was some problem with finding it and we were a bit hanging around the city before we had dinner. It was hard to call our accommodation a hotel or even a hostel.
We went inside through a café, behind which there was a several-storey building with rooms for 2-3 people closed with a padlock from the outside and a latch from the inside. We had showers and toilets outside, which at low temperatures at night caused a small problem, which was increased by a limited amount of hot water and the number of other guests.
Day 3 – Expedition to Salar de Uyuni
That day we also set off before dawn to see the sunrise on Solar De Uyuni. It was probably the most awaited moment of this trip. It is the largest dried salt lake in the world (salt flat) with an area of 10,582 km?, which during the rainy season is covered by a small amount of water. Despite this, the first descent to the lake raises slight concerns when we drive a car to the surface of the water, which stretches to the horizon, from which small islands, mountains and volcanoes emerge. This is probably the most awaited place by tourists, to take cool photos. The girls made about a million of them.
Everything here is covered with salt, so it’s either good to have some shoes for a change, or like us, rent wellies from the tour operator for this time. Still, we had salt everywhere on our clothes.
Salty hotel in Salar De Uyuni
After the photo session, we went to the hotel, which stood on the Dakar Bolivia route. The hotel is a very interesting place because it is all built of salt, which is located here. You can even rent a room for the night here, but apparently it is a little cold at night. The hotel has a souvenir shop, a bar and even a toilet and shower. We could eat our dinner in this place, lie down a bit and take another million photos.
Salt production in Uyuni
Returning from Salar, we visited the producer of salt, which is mined there. From what we have learned, Bolivia is not very interested in selling off these deposits and the production of this salt goes mainly to the local market. Apparently, it is also not profitable for them to export salt itself, thanks to which the landscape is not destroyed by machines that would extract brine to the power.
The interesting thing is that under the surface of the lake there is lithium, which is estimated at 70-80% of the world’s resources. If you don’t know, lithium is used to make battery cells, so in the future it could be a place that will contribute significantly to the production of electric cars.
At the very end, we bought a few souvenirs at the local bazaar and set off on the way back to Uyuni, hooking up with the locomotive cemetery. There we met an interestingly dressed couple who were doing a session of traditional Korean costume.
Locomotive cemetery in Uyuni
About 3 km from Uyuni there is a cemetery of abandoned locomotives, which is one of the must-see places for tourists to visit. The British were responsible for the construction of the railway in Bolivia, but the opposition of local residents and the loss of access to the pacific ocean led to its collapse.
For tourists, it is an interesting and mysterious place, but it does not make much of an impression on local residents. There is no need to buy tickets or even the possibility of buying souvenirs, and the machines themselves are stolen and destroyed – you can find a lot of graffiti on them. Despite this, it is worth visiting this place.
Departure to Copacabana
Finally, we still had to find a bus to Copacabana, shower and dinner before the next night trip. We had dinner in a rather strange place, because it was a kitchen in the back of the building, where children were constantly running, and the whole thing looked like the hall of a multi-family house.