Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is on very famous spot to visit. It is mostly familiar for it’s salt flats. With a surface of more than 10.000 square meters it is one of the biggest salt flats of the world. The salar is at an altitude of 3650 meters above sea level and it lies in the south of Bolivia in the Andes.
Most people take the 3 day tour from Uyuni village. My brother and I checked a lot of tour agents, but they all sell the same tours, for almost the same price. There can be a difference of accommodation and food, but just be aware it will all be basic. The last night will be at 4500 meters high and dormitory. You have to share the room with your group.
The group will be with a maximum of 6 people. And you’re lucky if your guide speaks English. If you want, you can pay extra to be assured of this, but I didn’t found it worth the money.
We met our 4 other members, Carla and her father Umberto. They brought their cousin and nephew Nico, they are all domestic travelers from Bolivia. Liam, a guy from whales, who has seen the whole world, was the last member of our group.
After a short drive and leaving the town, we visited the train cemetery. In the early 19th century there where big plans of making a huge network of trains. But because of problems, the plan didn’t come trough, all the equipment was left behind. Now you can see big, rusty trains making their own memory.
There are no guards or fences, and nobody cares if you climb them. It was cool to see these old bastards, only too bad there where many crowds, all starting their tour.
We drove a bit further and it wouldn’t take too long before we could see the bright white salt flats. We stopped for a bit to take pictures of the piles of salt, waiting to get packed and transported.
More to the center we stopped to take pictures. The sun was shining really bright on the white surface, you really needed sunglasses!
Our guide was helping a lot with the trick shots. Since the surface is so flat you can do funny shots as you can see on the pics.
We had a great lunch with the salt flat surrounding us. We continued to the weird cactus island. This island, called Isla Incahuasi in Spanish, lays in the middle of the salt flat. It is the top of an ancient volcano which was submerged, when it was part of a prehistoric lake. Now you can see giant cactus and unusual rocks with fossils.
As a tourist you have to pay to enter, but you can make a nice scenic walk surrounded by the giant cactus. There is a toilet here, one of the fewer real toilets. Or as Umberto would say; 'Lot of natural toilets around!'
After this natural wonder we drove for 2 hours to get to our hostel. We had a private room with beds made from salt, and the floor was covered with salt too. The bathroom was shared. We got good food with chicken.
My brother and I wanted to take pictures of the stars. But it was so cold I couldn’t hold my camera or even push the button. So I just looked at the stars amazed and it just felt surreal. Hundreds of stars like diamonds in the sky!
The next day we got up at about 7. Breakfast was fine and soon we set off. After a drive or 2 we got to the highest point of that day; 4300 meters. In the background we could see 3 volcano tops from 2 countries, Chili and Bolivia. It was very cold and because of the altitude and I drank a lot of water to get hydrated I had to pee. Umberto, our oldest group member only could see natural toilets, so this would be a cold pee behind the only rock I found.
Next stop was lago Negro, here I figured after a short walk, the altitude was getting to me. I was short on breath. We started to chew on coca leaves, which you can buy on every market.
The next lake we visited had a few flamingo’s. There are 3 species living in this area, but not sure weather we have seen all of them. The guide told us we were early in season, so we just have seen a few. Nonetheless, I loved to see the beautiful birds with their bright pink feathers.
We ate lunch at Lago Blanca. This lake was white because of the salt in it and even then it was partial frozen! Can you imagine the cold weather? Again the food was great, as well as the scenery eating it.
At the rock forest we could feel like children again. We could climb them and have fun.
Lago Colorado should have a lot of colors. Because of the thin ice layer we couldn't see much color, but he flamingos made it right again.
The best to visit was Red lake, the last stop of the day. The background of the lake was mountains covered in snow. This lake was really red and on top of it there where loads of flamingo’s again. We could get really close and the combination with the red colored water I just couldn’t stop making pictures.
This would totally make up for my visit to Lac Rose (Pink lake) in Senegal. I was expecting to see a lake filled with pink colored water, but I didn't get lucky on that trip.
This last night we stayed in accommodation at 4500 meters. This time the food was bad and the dining area was cold. The night was bitterly cold, even freezing! We had 6 blankets, but non of them was isolating the heat. I was wearing layers of clothes, even then shivering from the cold. I didn’t get much sleep and waking up at 4 AM to start the tour again, didn’t help much.
We had a fast breakfast with pancakes. This made my day already. The freezing cold car was holding well and took us to the first stop. The geysers are at the altitude of 4850 meters high. It is difficult to breath so we took it slow. With the sun rising, we could see the hot damp coming from the ground. A short stop to make pictures took us to the next stage. Walking between those boiling and damping scenery it feels surreal. We had to follow the guide, because the paths can be slippery and dangerous. They don’t want us to fall in this boiling earth!
It was still freezing cold. I barely could hold my camera to take pictures. And it took me a while to getting to normal temperature.
Before we left Bolivia, there was another stop to get warm again. Hot springs! The earth is still boiling here, and it heats up the water. At the hot spring they have changing rooms where you can put on your bikini. You can enter the natural swimming pool. Because I found it too cold to change, I just walked around and took a few pictures. My brother and the other 2 guys took a nice bath.
After a short stop at the green lake which wasn’t green, we got a drop off at the border. Here we could continue our way to San pedro de Atacama in Chile.
They told us we didn't needed more money. Only for the entrance of the hot springs. But when we arrived at the border of Bolivia, we had to pay 15 Bolivianos as departure tax. Luckily we had some small Dollars left behind, so we could pay the dept. But they should have told us.
For this tour we payed 110 Dollars. This was including transport, accommodations, food, drinks and snacks. For the cactus island and hot spring you have to pay an entrance fee.
I have booked the tour with Andes Salt Expeditions. Overall this tour agent was fine. As sad before, it was the cheapest at the moment and we got an English speaking guide.