Uyuni itself, doesn't have much to offer in the way of things to see or do. But, just outside this small, little town, is a whole playground of out of this world landscapes, so hauntingly beautiful you may find yourself taking more than 500 photos over a 3 day tour...just like I did!!
Arriving in Uyuni off a night bus from La Paz, we were greeted by more tour operators than you'd ever care to imagine! One clever lady though, came bearing an invitation to her cafe with the promise of a tasty breakfast and hot coffee. We took her up on the offer, deciding to speak to the different agencies when we were more awake.
After a terrible breakfast (it really was awful and expensive), we headed back out into the street, where another unimaginable number of tour operators were waiting to swamp us like seagulls. We spoke to another 6-7 before realising, they all offered the same thing, they just had different ideas on what we should pay for it.
Eventually we decided on Expediciones Lipez's 3 day Salt Flat tour because they promised our second night would be spent at the hotsprings. Other companies (with the exception of Quechua & Red Planet), could only guarantee 30 minutes on the 3rd day.
We had roughly 2 hours before the tour started so, while I watched the bags, Justin went off in search of supplies. We needed snacks, some extra water, wine (of course) and toilet paper. By 9:30am, we, along with our new colombian friends, Carlos and Ana Marie, were ready to go. Only the tour wasn't. They loaded our gear around 9:50am and then left us outside the agency while they went looking for two girls that were also on our tour that hadn't arrived yet. Returning 10 minutes later, sans las chicas, we were advised we'd need to wait a few more minutes before we could get going.
It wasn't long however, until Lea joined our group and our driver/guide, Raul, decided we could leave. We drove back past the hotel of the other girl but, she still wasn't there so, we continued on to our first destination, the train cemetery. Once we arrived, Raul left us once again to go in search of our mystery 6th member so, we walked around looking at the rusted out train carriages. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to try out my new camera after my Nikon died in Peru.
Before long, Raul was back to collect us, advising he wanted to make one more pass by the hotel to see if the other girl was still coming. By this point, we were all getting a little frustrated seeing as we should have been long gone by now but, luckily on this final drive by, Ana was waiting for us, ready to go! We later found out she had been told it was a 10:30am start so, when we collected her at 11:15am, she thought we were late. Luckily, the rest of the trip went much more smoothly.
On the first day, the other places we visited included; Colchani, where we had the opportunity to buy salt handicrafts, visit a salt museum, and take a tour of the salt factories. Our guide skipped this last one but, no-ne seemed to concerned.
We made our way into the salt flats which really is this incredibly large expanse of nothing. White salt as far as the eye can see in every direction and the bluest skies imaginable. We had lunch at a restaurant of sorts, completely made out of salt before, heading ourr further along the flats to make some magical photos.
Next, we visited Fish Island, a rocky outcrop in the middle of the flats covered in large, spiky cacti. Entrance to this attraction was extra 30 bolivianos per person and our entire group decided to not bother instead, sitting around talking and getting to know each other better.
Then it was back into the salt flats to wait for the sunset. As the sun dropped in the sky, Ana took out her guitar and sang a beautiful song in Spanish. All I understood was 'ants' but I'm sure the words were as honey as her voice was. Then, it was time to head to our first night's accommodation, a hotel made out of salt.
While a hot shower at this point would have been lovely, at 10 bolivianos per person, all but Justin decided to go without. He's very hygienic and not surprisingly, almost always smells very good!!
We enjoyed our dinner, laughing and joking about the waitress who told us off for sitting at the wrong table and then continued to chastise us every chance she got, before we all turned in for the night. Day 1 done and dusted.
Starting at the Caverno de Inferno (15 bolivianos per person), our itinerary for day 2 was a little more intensive, not physically, it just meant longer periods in the car. We made stops at Ollague Volcano, Salar de Chiguana, Lagunas Canapa, Hedionda, and Colorada, plus stops at Arbol de Piedra and Sol de Manana Geyser before arriving at the hotsprings for the night.
The landscapes on this day were dramatic in contrast to the previous day. It was like we were in some kind of surreal painting, all the colours alive and vivid. I snapped away a hundred photos at least, quite easily.
That night, we drank wine, beer, rum, singani and soaked our bodies in the gorgeous waters of the hot springs, while watching shooting stars fly across the sky. All of us girls may have also gone topless for a cheeky picture...may have...
There were more than a few sore heads the next day as we were forced to say 'see you later' to Lea and Ana who were off to Chile but, we were lucky enough to welcome Anya who would return with us to Uyuni.
Our first stop of the final day was in the Salvador Daly Desert, so named due it's likeness to this artist's famous work, followed by Laguna Verde and the Valley of the Rocks.
As we got closer to Uyuni, the landscapes shifted several more times, some bright green and flowing with fresh waters, llamas grazing along the banks, to vast open nothingness.
We returned to Uyuni around 4pm, well impressed by what we had just experienced. Less impressed that the tour operator had our luggage and the office was closed being a Sunday and all. Thankfully, someone arrived an hour later to let us in to collect our things after Raul did his best to make contact.
For me personally, I would have paid double to see and experience the Uyuni Salt Flats knowing now how incredibly diverse and interesting the area is. Just amazing and so different, we really could have been on any other planet. But, we weren't. We were here on earth and how fantastic is she??
Expediciones Lipez runs 3 day tours of the salt flats starting at 900 Bolivianos. We paid 800 each but Carlos and Ana Maria managed to negotiate down to 700. You will need 150 Bs. for National Park entrance fees with extra cash for optional activities such as;
We had Raul as our driver / guide and we'd rate him 4 stars out of 5.
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