On March 25th after three days in La Paz, we made our way to El Alto where the airport is located. We had a choice of a 14hour bus or a 45minute flight with about 30euro price difference to take us to our next stop, Uyuni where we would begin a tour of the salt flats. There was no hesitation in booking the flight and it was a really nice treat after so many bus trips! Uyuni is a really small little town but home to the largest salt flats in the world and highly populated by agencies offering various tours to see them. As a priority we visited some agencies and booked in for a three day tour with Red Planet agency which would end the tour in Chile in the following days. We were due to depart on the salt flat tour the following morning so we had an overnight stay to pass in Uyuni. We visited a restaurant called minuteman pizza which had showed up in almost every search we did for Uyuni. It was a really yummy gourmet pizza spot and we very happily shared a massive one after being treated to a nice sunset!
The next morning we met at the Red Planet Agency and joined the others in our three day tour. The method of transport is 4×4 land cruisers. There was a total of 9 in our group including us, and we had two drivers and a guide across two land cruisers. Our first stop was to the old trains ruins in Uyuni where we had time to explore the old trains and lots of photo opportunities.
From there we visited a salt museum where our guide showed us blocks of salt. You can see white and brown lines in the block, and it was explained this is the difference between rainy (brown) and dry (white) season. We watched a local process his salt for sale and there was an opportunity to taste some! The salt flats of Uyuni cover 12000 Sq km.
After lunch we arrived to the flats, our initial reaction was wow-it was so white and just so big, the fact that it was sunny also helped as the sky and flats just blended into each other for miles. We firstly visited the refuge where there was a salt cafe and complete with numerous flags from all around the world-we managed to locate the Irish one!
We traveled further around the flats for the afternoon and shared so much laughter with our perspective pictures which our guide courteously directed. So much fun and very hard to choose just a few to share but the following are some of our favourites!
As the sun started to go down we visited a section of the flats where there was rain water gathered-serving as the most amazing mirror and making the place even more stunning than I could have imagined. Any parts of us or our clothes touching the salt or splashed from the shots instantly turned white and stiff-it was mad.
We reached our accommodation by about 6pm that evening and it was nothing to complain about even though they had advised of basic hostels. We enjoyed a yummy dinner and chats with the rest of the travellers before an early night! Day two began at 7 for breakfast and the start of a day traveling with many viewpoints and stops in the desert and Eduardo Avaroa National Park. The desert we visited was surrounded by many dormant, extinct and semi-active volcanoes.
Our next stop was to view flamingos, this was one of two flamingo stops on the tour with the later one being more prominent! However, it was my first time to see one and it was pretty cool but they were a bit distant for photos!
In the afternoon we reached, Siloli which is the highest and driest desert in the world. Crossing this desert brought us to a famous Rock tree which is a rock formation formed from cooled lava, along with many other impressive rock formations.
The next stop that day was to the amazing Red Lagoon to see some pink flamingos and the redness of the water from the view point. We were also joined by many friendly llamas at this viewpoint, many of whom were even happy to pose for selfies :)!
Finally, our last stop of the day took us to the top of a big volcano called Sol de Mañana where it is possible to get into the crater. There is plenty of volcanic activity here including geysers and hotsprings – however the pictures come at a price and my face is covered in most due to the absolutely overpowering stink from the sulfur!!
Finally after a fun day of touring and photoshooting we arrived at our accommodation. The warnings of “basic” then began to make sense! We quickly got fed and hopped into our swimming gear (via torches-no electricity), as there were thermal baths just meters from our accommodation/shed. We were at an altitude of around 5,000m so it was quite cold and the heat of the baths were welcomed. Aside from our cheap bottles of Bolivian wine while chilling in the hot springs, what stole the show was the sky-I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. Partly because of the altitude and partly because of our proximity to Atacama, the driest desert on earth, we were treated to views of the milky way, southern cross, Jupiter, and even shooting stars – with the help of our guide and his laser to point these out!!
We arrived back to the shed we were sleeping in for the night and if things couldn’t get worse there it had turned into a mini hospital while we were out. There was some seriously ill travelers suffering from altitude and seeking ways to get down from the altitude as even oxygen shots were not improving the situation. Bearing in mind there was no lights and no water, and I don’t know how many sick travellers it quickly became more hygienic to use the “inca toilets” outside! Unfortunately for me my nights sleep was cut short after about two hours when I was the next one to get hit with the illness- it was actually the most horrific 24hours I’ve experienced including no option but to move the following morning and crossing the border into Chile with my plastic bag in hand! We have pictures of every border crossing so this wasn’t an exception- in hindsight I’m happy we managed to take the selfie because I look like something that came from a horror movie and we shared lots of laughs when I was better about the colour of my face!!
We stamped out of Bolivia after our car dropped us at the border and caught a bus to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile which was about 45 minutes away (head out the window!!!).