Whenever you see the reflective pictures of Salar de Uyuni, it’s exhausting to consider you’re taking a look at someplace on earth. Bolivia’s famous salt flats are definitely the most important draw for backpackers however this is not the only natural marvel that the country provides. Vibrant lagoons, quirky rock formations and hoards of wildlife mean that there is much more to Bolivia than salt.
South America Backpacker Ambassadors Sheree and Tim went to discover Uyuni and the encompassing areas with Altitude Alliance Journey. Right here is their assessment of Bolivia’s largest attraction, along with the remaining!
Salar de Uyuni is Bolivia’s most popular attraction!
Tim and I had simply arrived at La Paz bus terminal. It was almost 10 pm and our bus to Uyuni can be leaving imminently. As battered native buses drove previous, we assumed we might be in for an extended night time.
Nevertheless, upon displaying our ticket to at least one of the employees, we have been pleasantly stunned (and relieved) to be led to a premium coach. After finding our seats and reclining them again into a really snug position, the English speaking travel concierge introduced round fleecy blankets, neck pillows and informed us dinner was on the best way.
We feasted on a scorching meal of hen, veg and rice earlier than settling into our seats for the night time. At this level, the concierge collected the meals tubs and introduced around the WiFi password! As all travellers know, a lot of buses promote free WiFi however very few deliver. The connection was wonderful and after twenty minutes of catching up on social media, I slipped into a deep and cozy sleep.
Earlier than I knew it, we had arrived in Uyuni and have been left to collect up our things. It isn’t fairly often you sleep right by way of on an evening bus which simply goes to point out how distinctive this one was!
We hoped we might see tons of wildlife on our journey and weren’t dissatisfied!
Day 1 – Salar de Uyuni (The Bolivian Salt Flats)
We have been greeted off of the bus by a pleasant woman with our names on a sign. It was very early and I was pleased to find we weren’t going to be left to kill the four hours before the tour by strolling around the city.
She led us to a close-by cafe outfitted with WiFi and free bogs (a rarity in Bolivia). Right here we might take pleasure in our complimentary breakfast which had been offered on the bus or opt for one thing scorching in the cafe.
We spent the subsequent few hours eating, shopping the online and getting psyched up for Bolivia’s most well-known attraction.
After being met in the cafe by our driver, he took us to the native market in Uyuni to purchase water and snacks for the day ahead. At 10 am, we met our fellow travellers and tour information, Hector. There have been 5 of us on the trip and Hector can be delivering the tour in each Spanish and English. After being sized up for wellies, we piled into the waiting 4×four.
Our first stop was going to be Uyuni’s practice cemetery. The areas surrounding the town have been found to be massively rich in minerals and a practice line had been constructed to move these around the nation.
Uyuni’s Practice Cemetery was nonetheless eerie despite the crowds!
After diesel engines have been introduced, the coal-powered locomotives have been abandoned in favour of more trendy options. They have been left on the outskirts of Uyuni, forming an in depth practice graveyard.
We walked across the area and watched as other travellers climbed on board the previous trains. Although there were so much of other teams there, the world was large enough that you may wander away to quieter areas to get good pictures. Despite how busy the practice cemetery was, it was also creepily eerie in locations.
After leaving the practice graveyard, we continued to the group of Colchani and learnt about how the locals process the salt collected from Salar. This gave us a captivating insight into the work that’s executed to distribute the salt to the remaining of Bolivia.
In the same village, there have been streams of artisanal markets where you may purchase all the things from alpaca merchandise to plastic dinosaurs for those humorous Uyuni pictures. We spent around twenty minutes perusing these stalls earlier than piling back into the 4×4 to go off to the salt flats.
As the skyline blurred and the ground turned white, it turned obvious that we have been crossing the huge plain that’s Salar de Uyuni. It felt like we have been driving to nowhere until the lodge the place we might be consuming lunch came into view. This was a surprise in itself, the whole place was made of salt bricks!
Consuming lunch in the salt brick restaurant was really cool!
The inside was surreal, outfitted with salt chairs, tables and partitions. We hadn’t long been seated when an in depth buffet lunch was brought out, featuring quinoa, salad, llama meat and combined veg. We ate till we have been stuffed, earlier than heading out to actually explore the salt flats.
After seeing how crammed the restaurant was, I felt a bit of involved about our photographs. In fact, the salt flats are an Instagrammers dream and I didn’t need there to be different individuals milling about in the background of our bucket listing pictures.
I needn’t have fearful. We drove for round fifteen minutes before making our first stop, a random set of stairs that acted as a viewpoint. It was here that I actually realised the size of this pure marvel. Salar de Uyuni spans a whopping 10,582 sq. kilometres. That is greater than the second largest county in the UK!
Luckily for us, our driver Jimmy and information Hector knew all of the perfect places to get footage. As we visited on the tail-end of the rainy season, we have been fortunate that there was floor water on the bottom. This meant we have been capable of see a lovely reflection of the sky which in flip melted the horizon line away.
Hector and Jimmy have been nice in serving to us get humorous photographs!
The water here was surprisingly deep so I was very grateful for the welly boots that we had been provided with! We obtained some beautiful photographs and have been all very excited to go off to drier salt for the humorous photographs.
As Salar de Uyuni is so flat, it is a tremendous place to get deceiving perspective photographs. Our group all messed round, filming humorous movies of us operating away from huge monsters into Pringle cans and coming out of hats! Both Hector and Jimmy have been sensible, helping us all to get the most effective photographs to remember the day by.
As we started to lose the solar, we headed off to another moist part of the salt flats for some sundown photographs. I couldn’t consider how successful these footage have been, nor how unimaginable the sky seemed illuminated. It was a very special expertise that I will never forget.
Heading to the Salt Flats independently? For more info, take a look at our article – Find out how to Lease a Automotive and Explore the Salt Flats of Bolivia And not using a Tour.
Sunset on the salt flats was one of my trip highlights.
After an extended and tiring day, we headed again to Uyuni for dinner. We sampled some of the local delicacies which was scrumptious, before heading back to a lodge. Though the plan had been to stay in a salt lodge, unfortunately, it was absolutely booked. This was regardless of although, the rooms we have been provided in the backup lodging have been clear and spacious, to not mention very cozy!
Day 2 – Eduardo Avaroa Nationwide Reserve
We reunited with Hector early and made our strategy to the breakfast spot. After getting our fill of sausage, eggs, bread and jam, we took our seats in the 4×4. Hector knowledgeable us that the day would consist of so much of driving with a brand new driver as we have been heading to Laguna Colorada which was a number of hours away.
As we drove out of Uyuni, I took in the sights of the landscape round me till I fell sufferer to sleep. Before I knew it, Hector was telling us we had reached our first cease: the Valley of Rocks. He explained that this landscape had been created by volcanic eruption tens of millions of years ago.
This medicinal plant is round 1000 years previous!
We spent round twenty minutes exploring the world and climbing on the rock formations. The view really was beautiful. Hector additionally knowledgeable us this spot was a favorite with Viscachas (small rabbit creatures with tails) so we stored an eye fixed out for them too.
The terrain was dry and arid, which it turns out are implausible circumstances for medicinal crops to grow. These crops develop very slowly and subsequently they are protected by the government.
The day was a fowl watchers dream. We visited an entire host of lagoons which showcased three totally different species of flamingos! Surprisingly, they all seemed very totally different from one another and every lagoon allowed us to see them closer.
Near to at least one of these places, we stopped for a buffet lunch of hen, rice and combined veg. The food was scrumptious and it was right here we have been lucky sufficient to see our first Viscacha of the trip! After lunch, Hector informed us we might be heading to the famous stone tree, situated in the Eduardo Avaroa Nationwide Reserve.
By the time we had arrived at the stone tree, the climate had modified and snow was pouring out of the air. It was bitterly cold so we listened to Hector’s rationalization concerning the weathering of the stone, snapped a number of footage and headed off.
Bolivia’s famous stone tree is a must-see!
One thing I liked about this tour was the pliability afforded to us relating to time. If it was chilly we might head off earlier and in addition make unscheduled stops for photographs.
As we drove away from the ominous black clouds, the sky lightened and we headed to the doorway of the Eduardo Avaroa Nationwide Reserve. Right here we paid our entrance charge (150 bolivianos, not included in the fee of the tour) and acquired stamps in our passports!
We had reached the day’s spotlight: Laguna Colorada, also referred to as the pink lagoon. This spot was extremely lovely and we have been all shocked when Hector stated the intensity of the pink colour modified depending on the time of day.
After dropping ourselves in the majesty of the lake, we headed to the town to find a place to sleep. The primary lodging selection was full so we headed a row back to the reserve selection. The hostel was very primary (there was an extra value for showers and WiFi) but fantastic for one night time. Right here we had dinner and have been even treated to a bottle of wine for the desk!
Laguna Colorada was a gorgeous sight!
After we’d eaten, Hector invited us outdoors for a short stroll and a bit of stargazing. This is an area so devoid of mild pollution that this exercise proved to be an actual deal with. It was freezing chilly but wanting up on the sky in awe whereas Hector pointed out constellations was the right finish to the day.
Day 3 – Geysers and Laguna Negra
We had a really early begin to the morning, rising at around four am for breakfast. Having been warned of the chilly weather, we have been all bundled up in the whole lot we owned, grateful for the warm pancakes that had been provided.
After breakfast, the group took refuge from the cold in the automotive and Hector explained we might be heading to see some Geysers. These are scorching springs where the water boils slightly below the earth’s surface. The strain builds up then creates a jet of steam that rises high into the air.
I was excited however still used the hour-long journey as an excellent opportunity to catch up sleep I had missed that morning. After what felt like a very brief time, Hector was informing us we had arrived at the website.
He warned us to stay close behind him and watch where we have been putting our ft. Visiting the geysers is dangerous and could be life-threatening for those who fall in. We huddled in shut and listened as he explained how the geysers have been shaped.
Listening to how the geysers have been shaped was fascinating!
At an altitude of almost 5000 m, I used to be shivering together with everyone else so we didn’t cease too lengthy for photographs. As an alternative, we received again into the automotive and headed to some local scorching springs to heat up.
The recent springs have been situated a the bottom of a mountain and missed a shocking lagoon crammed with totally different birds. There was a 6 boliviano entrance charge per individual (not included) which was properly value it to heat up after the cold begin to the day.
After around an hour of lazing in the water and taking in the views, we headed back to the automotive the place we might be travelling to Laguna Negra. Although the itinerary stated we might be headed to Laguna Verde, Hector informed us that this lagoon doesn’t seem inexperienced till the early afternoon but to make it again on time we must go to the location earlier. Laguna Negra was situated elsewhere but in addition lovely and he was positive there can be far fewer individuals there.
We left the nationwide reserve and witnessed Bolivia’s largest Borax mine on our means out. This mineral is usually used as a preservative, in cosmetics and in medicines, as well as many different things. Bolivia exports this mineral worldwide.
Once we made it to the location of Laguna Negra, I used to be shocked to see no lagoon. I asked Hector the place it was, to which he replied, ‘It is hidden,’ with a wink.
Looking for the hidden lagoon!
We traversed the spongey ground interspersed with small trickling streams in the company of only each other and the resident llamas. This lagoon was half of the Valley of Rocks so the landscape was hanging, although I still saw no lagoon.
Hector bounded up some of the rocks and invited us to comply with him. It was here the place the lagoon came into sight. After explaining some of the history to us, Hector allowed us some free time to explore the world and climb the rocks.
Being swept up in the sweetness of the world, I simply continued to take a seat by his aspect, watching the animals under and taking in the tranquillity of the scene. It was really breathtaking.
Once our time at Laguna Negra had handed, we headed back to the automotive which might be taking us to a viewpoint over the Valley of Rocks canyon. I took a pointy consumption of breath once I noticed how excessive it was however unperturbed, Tim skipped alongside the very best part with the perfect view.
There was to be one remaining stop of the day, in the small city of San Cristobal. Here Hector explained some of the city’s historical past and allowed us a while to look around. The highlight of this town was undoubtedly climbing as much as the church bell tower!
From this level, the automotive continued its journey to Uyuni, the place we arrived round 5 pm. Tim and I have been dropped at the bus station the place we have been informed that Jimmy (the driving force from day one) had organized our bus tickets for us.
Positive enough, he later turned up with our tickets and alter telling us precisely what we would have liked to know for our journey to Sucre. Though this wasn’t part of the tour, we have been massively impressed by the commitment that the Altitude employees had shown to ensure we had an excellent trip!
The views in Eduardo Avaroa Nationwide Reserve have been unimaginable!
A Bolivian Highlight!
Although we might’ve seen the salt flats on a day tour, I used to be so grateful that Tim and I had the chance to do the complete three-day choice. The extra time meant that we weren’t rushed during our time at Salar de Uyuni and have been capable of bear witness to maybe probably the most spectacular sundown I’ve ever seen.
Previous to this trip and despite having already spent a month exploring Bolivia, I hadn’t realised simply how geographically numerous this country is and the three-day tour actually reiterated this.
With every little thing from vibrant lagoons, to volcanoes and rocky outcrops, the surroundings never did not impress and often left me in awe of Bolivia. Both of our drivers have been skilled and competent and I by no means once felt unsafe, regardless of many of the roads being in determined need of smoothing.
Whilst I don’t assume a information is 100% mandatory for a tour of this nature, there isn’t any doubt that Hector massively added to our understanding of Bolivian panorama and culture as well as being an excellent companion across the three days.
With so many horror stories relating to Uyuni excursions, it’s imperative to go together with a trustworthy and reliable firm. I’m pleased to say Altitude Alliance Travel was undoubtedly one of these and really gave us a trip to remember!
At present backpacking Bolivia? Read more in our comprehensive journey information!