We got off the bus in Uyuni at 5:30am and we were FROZEN. Oh how times have changed from our bikini clad days in Colombia!
We met Andrew from Chicago (who we’d unknowingly sang happy birthday to on our BoliviaHop bus) and quickly followed a lady down the road who was offering hot coffee and wifi! There is something quite beautiful about Uyuni at that hour, very still with various statues and well kept squares. Almost like something out of a western.
Refuelled and slightly warmer (Tiff had 4pairs of trousers on, I couldn’t believe my eyes!) we booked our salt flats tour with Estrella del Sur (800bs = £80 each).
- Train cemetery
- Colchani town
- Ojos de Salar
- Monumento de Dakar
- Museo de Sal/Playa Blanca
- Volcán Tunupa
- Isla Incahuasi
- Sunset on the salt flats
- San Juan to sleep
Our jeep for the next few days rolled up with our guide/driver Paulino. Six in our group were myself and Tiff, Andrew, Cristina from Quito, Mirella and Patricia from São Paulo.
The train cemetery was a bit odd, a series of abandoned trains used in the 1900s between Bolivia and Chile. It’s a big kids playground to climb around and take photos. Don’t be fooled, it’s busy and hard to get a photo of just yourselves on the trains.
A warning, you might have seen a million cool perspective photos from the salt flats but nobody tells you they are actually very difficult to take! We were so frustrated for the first few hours because it just didn’t work…look!
Fortunately, after trial and error and getting other people to help we really began to get the money shots.
One of the stops, Isla Incahuasi is a strange big island, full of huge cacti, that just pops out of nowhere. You can pay 30Bs to enter and have a look etc. Or be sneaky like our group and walk around the side and take your own route.
After a beautiful unique sunset we headed to our ‘hotel’ for the night. However, it took 3 attempts at different places and dark dusty roads before Paulino found a place for us to stay. Without exagerrating, we felt like meat being preserved over night! The rooms had salt for a floor. The 50Bs (~£5) we spent on hiring sleeping bags was money well spent. It’s also 10Bs for a hot shower, if you can hack it, it’s worth it!
- Salar de Chiguana
- Volcán Ollagüe
- Lagunas altiplanicas x5: Cañapa-Hedionda(flamingos)-Chiarkota-Honda-Ramaditas
- Montaña de Colores
- Desierto Siloli
- Árbol de piedra
- Laguna Colorada
- Punta Negra to sleep
At 7am it was another typical Bolivian(and Peruvian) breakfast of bread, jam and coffee, before we set off on our busy itinerary.
After several years of obsessing over flamingos and having a few too many items of clothing with them on, we finally saw them! They are incredibly beautiful, a lot more vibrant pink in real life than you can imagine. At the first lake they sat out in the middle because it was still frozen and they couldn’t move. However the following lake Hedionda, they were EVERYWHERE! We never thought we’d get so close up. Tiff took photos that are national geographic worthy! Another pop up lunch with the gang, a wide array of potatoes and pasta. Another standard carbohydrate meal that keeps us lean and sexy…
Next, we drove alongside the Andean mountain range with Chile on our right. Snowcapped mountains and big icey rocks on the ground that Paulino had to dodge. There were various weird formations that are made from volcanic rock and then shaped by the unforgiving wind. Main example is the tree rock.
Last stop before bed was the coloured lake, which is part of the national park. It’s 150Bs (no surprise cost, you are told in advance) and you also get two passport stamps if you want!! The lake itself is not a light maroon, it’s actually scarlet red! Apparently a combination of algae and minerals. Although our photos don’t do it justice, it was very impressive.
Luckily it was a short drive to our next delux accommodation where all 6 of us shared a room. We spent the evening playing cards (successfully teaching all nationalities our game of shithead), Spag Bol, and one glass of red wine each to warm ourselves. The stars are spectacular at night, but it’s too cold to sit and look, we worried our eyeballs might freeze over. It drops to between -10 to -15 degrees Celsius at night!
- Sol de Mañana, Geysers over 5000m
- Hot springs
- Salvador Dali desert
- Laguna Verde/Blanco
After a cosy night of a million layers and Christina sleeping beside me, our guide Paulino knocked on the door at 4:30am. Getting out of bed was torture.
The stars could be enjoyed from the car as we drove south towards the geysers. They were very loud and smelly but cool to see. After a quick round of photos all the girls jumped back into the car. We couldn’t quite believe our eyes when we saw Andrew waddling towards us coated in grey, Was it dust? Nope the poor boy had fallen into a sulphur pit! He was head to toe in a thick clay gloop. It was so funny but we didn’t have the heart to take a photo because it was also such a shame. He was freezing and VERY embarrassed as he stripped off quickly.
Fortunately the next stop was the thermal baths so he could wash off. We optimistically packed our bikinis but never really intended on getting in. Imagine how cold it’d be climbing back out!!
After that we passed by the Salvador Dali Desert rocks. As a Dali fan you can easily see where the resemblance or possibly inspiration comes from in his surrealist paintings of the rock formations.
There were yet another set of spectacular lakes (bright green coloured), however by this point the wind had really picked up. We jumped out for a second to take some snaps but it was just too cold! The warmth of our jeep was so comforting. From here Paulino took us straight to the Bolivia/Chile border. It all happened so fast, jumped out one car and into the next we barely had time to say bye to our salt flat friends!
**We dragged Andrew across the border with us. Poor boy had no choice (and no shoes or jacket)