Did you know that a big part of Bolivia is almost not inhabited? This is the part we want you to discover. From its more than 10.000 square kilometers big salt desert to its volcano region in Sur Lipez, with its white, blue and pink lagoons, you will enjoy a wide and beautiful landscape and see what it’s like to live in one of the least populated regions on earth where 90% of the population have no access to electricity.
The concept is quite simple. In Uyuni, you can chose one of the many agencies. The typical tour is three days long, starts with one day in Salar Uyuni, the salt desert, and then continues to Sur Lipez, the South of the country. Trips start at 9:30 or 10 am, so you should book your trip at least one day in advance.
Normally, 3 to 5 people are in one Jeep. There is a driver, that most of the time only speaks Spanish and a cook for the meals on the road. The Jeeps are packed with everything you need during your trip, food, water, gas etc. However, you should bring some water yourself as only half a liter per person is served every day at lunch time.
Most people spend the night in very basic shelters with limited electricity from 7 to 10 pm and no hot water nor heating. Don’t forget to bring warm clothes, a torch lamp, toilet paper and a sleeping bag. You can rent the latter at the agency for 5 Dollars per night.
It might not be the most comfortable trip of your life, but the beautiful landscape is definitely worth the effort and the whole package is quite an unforgettable experience.
In order to get to Uyuni, we flew in from La Paz, but there are also buses and trains going to this city of 18.000 inhabitants on the border of the salt desert.
The tour starts with a visit of the train cemetery with its old steam engined trains from the 19th century that served for the transport of minerals to the neighbor countries. The second stop is somehow more commercial. It takes place at the salt museum next to Uyuni where you get some basic explanations on how the salt from the desert is treated and packed in order to be sold. This is also where you can buy some salt to bring it back home for only some bolivianos. Many souvenir stalls also give you the possibility to shop for some souvenirs before finally getting to the most interesting site of the trip: The famous salt desert Salar de Uyuni.
Salar de Uyuni
The Salar de Uyuni is, with its more than 10.000 square kilometers, the biggest salt desert in the world. It is formed as a result of transformation of several prehistoric lakes and consists of several meters of salt.
The snow white surroundings of the desert are spectacular and it’s quite a unique experience to walk around this wide landscape feeling the salt under your feet.
The lunch break takes place just in front of the Incahuasi island, an island in the center of the desert with hundreds of huge cactuses which grow more than 10 meters high. After lunch, there is time to discover the island and the breathtaking view from its top.
Afterwards, there is enough time for pictures in the middle of the white desert before leaving the Salar for a small village to spend the night.
The next day, you go South. Roads, or what is used as roads, are getting lonelier while you make your way through this beautiful volcano landscape.
After a while, the first lagoons and its flamingos appear. Our favorite lagoon was definitely la Laguna Hedonda. This is also where lunch is served in a small cabin with a view on the beautiful lagoon and its hundreds of flamingos in front of a vulcano landscape.
In the afternoon, it is time to visit the great Laguna Colorada, a huge Lagoon with pink water. At this altitude, in mid-June, it started to snow and unfortunately we did not see much at the first view point. We had to insist a bit to go to a second point, where you can walk next to the lagoon. It was super cold but it was definitely worth the truble, as the nature next to the lagoon is just amazing and the color of the water somehow surreal.
We spent the night in one of the basic shelters without heating system when the snow continued to fall. The only place in the village with a fireplace was the bar, where we spent the evening. Don’t expect anything fancy but it was quite fun to have some beers around the fire and we even ended up playing ping pong with the locals.
The next day begins quite early with a wake-up at 4 am, not that we were sleeping very well anyway. We were actually quite happy to continue our night in the heated car while driving through the snowy night at an altitude of 4900 m.
The highlight of the third and last day is definitely the bath in the hot springs. With an outside temperature of maximum 5 C°, the experience is even more special and you will definitely enjoy the 38°C warm water… which you will miss once you get out and feel the cold air on your skin.
It is then time to go back to civilisation. After a few hours ride you are back in Uyuni, packed with amazing memories that you will never forget.
We did this Expedition during our 2 weeks trip in Peru and Bolivia. For more information on our itinerary, check out our article 2 weeks Peru and Bolivia itinerary.
Also discover our full Peru/Bolivia travel video here.
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