Salar de Uyuni – definitely one of the must-see places of a trip to Bolivia! So of course it was on our list and after seeing so many photos online of the brilliant white landscape, we were super excited to see it for ourselves.
After a not-so-nice overnight bus from Sucre to Uyuni (the only ‘toilet’ stop of the journey was at the side of the road – dignity was definitely lost when I had to pee behind what looked like the world’s smallest rock) and a 6 hour wait in a café until our tour at 10am, we set off with refreshed optimism about the next bit of our trip.
Our group was really lovely – Felipe and Alice from Brazil and Cesar from Colombia – but as usual we had an oddball who turned out to be Turkey’s answer to The Idiot Abroad. Why people travel and then complain about every tiny thing is beyond us! Anyway, after a short drive and a stop off at the market village of Cachani, we had our first proper stop – at the ‘cemetario de trenes’ or train cemetery. Funnily enough, it’s exactly what it says on the tin, just lots of abandoned trains that were no longer needed. Pretty random!
We then headed into the salt flats themselves. Even from the car the views were unreal, we could even see mirages on the horizon of supposed lakes that turned out to just be dry land. We made a stop at Dakar which has a salt hotel (yup, an actual hotel made out of salt) as well as a weird flag shrine, which looked pretty cool.
Then for the real fun!
Our driver José took us into the middle of the salt flats with nobody else around so that we could attempt to get our own version of the famous perspective photos you see of the salt flats…
There’s definitely a knack to it and we were a bit disappointed that José hadn’t been more enthusiastic and helped us a bit more with the photos (in other reviews of tours we’d read online, the drivers were all really helpful). But we still managed to get a couple of good ones!
We were also treated to an amazing picnic lunch on the salt flats – alpaca steaks, quinoa, potatoes and veg. Proper yummy and made even better by the fact we were eating in the middle of the salt flats!
After lunch we had our next stop at the cactus island of Incahuasi. Driving up to the island was pretty surreal – flat white ground for miles and miles, with a few green ‘islands’ popping up out of nowhere. These seem like actual islands in rainy season when the salt flats are covered in water and look like a perfect mirror reflecting the sky. We walked around Incahuasi for about an hour, admiring all the huge cacti and the incredible views of the salt flats from the top.
Our final stop for the day was at another spot on the salt flats so we could watch the sunset. We also managed to try a few more perspective photos and managed to get our favourite shot…
Yes, we’re feeling pretty proud of ourselves, although some credit here has to go to Cesar for being the photographer extraordinaire. Thanks amigo!
Sunset was also really cool. We’d read online some reviews of tours that had skipped watching sunset so we were really glad when José gave us a good hour or so to enjoy it.
After that we said goodbye to Salar de Uyuni and headed to our accommodation for then night – Hotel de Sal Tambo Loma, another salt hotel. Our room was really cosy and we even had hot water for a shower. We were impressed! We were also impressed that we got wine with dinner. Being a red wine fan, Joe was in his element.
The second day of the tour was full of mountains, volcanoes and lakes.
After a yummy breakfast of cake and dulce de leche (treat yo’self), we drove off to our first stop, which was a viewpoint of Volcan Ollague at a disused railway track.
We continued our volcano-spotting with a stop at a second viewpoint to see Volcan Tomasamil and Volcan Choquellas. Joe even got an artsy photo of one of them which he’s pretty proud of.
Then it was on to the first of 5 lakes…. well actually it was only 4 because one had dried up.
Laguna Cañapa – the one with all the flamingoes:
Laguna Hedionda – the one with flamingoes AND llamas:
Laguna Honda – the one that wasn’t as interesting as the others:
Laguna Colorado – the red lake:
Our other stop for the day was at the Arbol de Piedras (tree of rocks), which is basically a whole load of boulders that have been moved over time by the wind. The ‘tree’ itself is actually a perfectly balanced rock, which looks really cool but also makes you wonder how it’s so stable. In hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have stood so close to it…
Our hostel for the night definitely wasn’t as cosy as the first night. We’d read online that the second night is a lot more basic and also really cold. They weren’t wrong. We’re glad we brought our hats and scarves (we even had to wear them in bed) as well as essentials like toilet paper. Thanks to our Turkish oddball and his horrendously loud snoring, hardly any of us got any sleep so we were pretty tired when we had to get up at 4:30am for our sunrise trip to the geysirs.
Laguna Ok so even though we got up so early, José must have got his timings wrong because we missed the sunrise, but we still got to have a walk around the geysers, which were really cool.
Next up, since we hadn’t had a shower at the hostel we were treated to a hot ‘bath’ at the geothermal pools near the geysers. It was absolute BLISS!
Unfortunately José wouldn’t let us stay there all day but I guess he had a good reason… we were on our way to CHILE!
We had another two stops beforehand, first at Desierto de Salvador Dali (more rocks that had been moved by the wind, and named after the artist because he had done a painting of them)…
… then at Laguna Verde (Green Lake), which didn’t really look green because we were there at the wrong time of day…
… and then we were at the border!
It was a bit of a faff to get into Chile – we had to get our exit stamp from Bolivia, entry stamp to Chile, put our bags through an airport-style scanner and then let sniffer dogs give our bags the once over. Fortunately all went well and we were back on the road to San Pedro de Atacama, where our tour ended. We were pretty happy to be back in the heat again after some pretty cold weather at altitude over the Andes.
We really enjoyed our Uyuni tour, the salt flats were incredible and we saw some amazing scenery on the second and third days of the trip. We definitely recommend you sticking this in your must-see list for Bolivia. A HUGE thank you to Jess, Rosey and Theo for treating us to the tour as a wedding gift – we loved it!
Have you ever visited Salar de Uyuni? Did you get any awesome perspective photos? Leave us your comments below. Follow us on Instagram @pitkinswithpassports for more of our travel photos.