Salar de Uyuni. It’s one of those places that is always making an appearance on the “Most Beautiful Places To See Before You Die” lists. So of course, when booking our trip across the world to South America, there was no way that we would pass up the opportunity to see this incredible natural place. Like many tour companies in the area, our G Adventures tour included a 3 day + 2 night trip across the Salt Flats and surrounding deserts. Here’s how we spent 3 days crossing the Salar de Uyuni!
Day 1: Crossing the Salt Flats
We spent the morning running around the dusty little town of Uyuni, gathering our supplies before setting off on our tour through the most famous attraction in Bolivia. Lined up along the road outside our hotel were three land cruisers and drivers – our transport for the next few days. We teamed up with our driver Pancho and piled into our car, ready and curious about what the next few days would bring.
→ Train Cemetery
Our first stop was a mere 3 kilometres outside of Uyuni at the train cemetery. In front of us lie a collection of old and graffitied train carriages surrounded by nothing but barren land. These trains were once used by a large mining company to transport minerals, however when the industry collapsed, the train carriages were left abandoned in the same places that they are found today. We unleashed the inner child during our time there – climbing along the different carriages and taking many amusing photographs.
→ Colchani Community
Next we travelled to a small town at the edge of the salt flats, Colchani. This one-street town, with a population of around 800, has the only salt production facilities for Salar de Uyuni. We were given a demonstration by one of the locals about the salt production process, which happens to be produced and packaged all by hand. About 5000kg of salt per day is produced by 8 people, which they sell at only $1 Boliviano per 1/4kg.
→ Salar de Uyuni Salt Flat
We continued onto the main destination of the tour, Salar de Uyuni. Covering over 10,582 square kilometres, Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world. Located in Southwest Bolivia, the salt flats are the result of a large dried out prehistoric lake which left behind an endless amount of salt.
We had finally made it to Salar de Uyuni. I had pictured never-ending beauty and glimmers of wet salt reflecting the sky above. I was expecting to take the token perspective shot and the spectacular photo of the clouds mirrored across the salt floor. There I was, standing there in an endless space of white land stretching across the Earths floor for miles and miles. I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed at first. I had looked forward to seeing mesmerising reflective surfaces, but as a result of my own error and lack of research – there were no reflections in sight. It turns out that you’re more likely to get those dreamy reflective surfaces during the months of March and April.
However, there’s no denying that Salar de Uyuni is a spectacular place, and I did very much enjoy my time there. It just wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was still incredibly awe-inspiring! We spent our time there taking hilarious perspective shots and although we didn’t quite master them – we gave it a good shot. The whole place was quite impressive. I had never seen such unusual surroundings before – there was salt as far as the eye could see!
→ Tambo Coquesa
As the sun began to set over the salt flats, we made our way back to our cars and buckled up for the final journey of the day. We arrived at Tambo Coquesa; an eco-lodge at the foot of Tunupa volcano that was entirely built out of salt bricks and rocks. After settling in and eating dinner, we spent the night playing card games with our tour group before crashing for the night.
Day 2: Exploring Nature
→ Incahuasi Island
After a freezing night in the Bolivian winter weather, we were off by 7:30am the next morning. We were on our way to Incahuasi Island; a unique island in the middle of the enormous salt flats. The island is known for the giant cacti and coral that cover the island from head to toe. In fact, some of the cacti were so tall that they had to be over a hundred years old – crazy right?! We spent some time hiking along the various routes across the small island before arriving at the top lookout point, which gave 360 views across the salt flats and the Andes in the distance. We stopped via San Juan for lunch.
→ Ollagüe Volcano
We continued on driving through the desert areas of Bolivia. With the music pumping in our car, we covered heaps of ground and stopped for the occasional photo opp. One of these stops was at the viewpoint of Ollagüe – a volcano that lies within the Andes on the border of Bolivia and Chile.
→ Stinky (Hedionda) Lagoon
Our final stop of the day was at the Hedionda Lagoon, otherwise known as the ‘stinky lagoon’. This particular lagoon is famous for the pink flamingos that flock the shores. When we pulled up to the edge of the lagoon, we could see why it was so well-known for this reason. There were plenty of flamingos surrounding the edges of the lake and we were able to sneak up quite close to them without them noticing in order to capture the moment. From here, our hotel for the night was only a short drive away.
Day 3: Lagoons, Deserts & Geysers
→ Árbol de Piedra
We began the morning crossing the Siloli desert before entering the Eduardo Abaroa National Reserve. It was here that we stopped at the famous rock formation, the Stone Tree. It’s unreal to think that just sand and wind can sculpt this shape out of the Earth. The morning wind was absolutely freezing and despite being ridiculously rugged up in our alpaca jumpers and socks, we could only bare to be outside for about 15 minutes before we jumped back into the warmth of our four-wheel drive.
→ Laguna Colorada
Next up was the Red Lagoon – one of my personal favourite spots from the tour. The incredible deep red colour of the lagoon is caused from pigments of algae in the water. I had never seen anything like this before, so this was such an astonishing sight for me.
→ Geysers & Laguna Chalviri
We continued on, stopping at the geysers and Laguna Chalviri for lunch – which to our surprise had it’s own hot springs built into the edge of the lagoon. This was our final meal together with our drivers and guides, and we used this time to thank and tip them for their great work. From here we made our way through the Salvador Dalí Desert to our next and final location.
→ Laguna Verde
Along the border of Chile and the base on a volcano lies the impressive Laguna Verde. As with Laguna Colorada, this lagoon gave another splash of colour within the barren desert surroundings. The minerals of the water give this lagoon a brilliant, turquoise green appearance. This was our final stop along the tour before making our way across the Chilean border to San Pedro de Atacama.
I will definitely remember those three days crossing the salt flats and surrounding deserts. It’s crazy to think that the world can be full of so many incredible yet completely different natural formations.
Have you visited Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia? Is it on your bucket list?