When you hear about Uyuni you instantly think of the biggest Salt Flats in the world. Or at least I did, I put no after thought into the town itself. So when we arrived into the small deserted town we were a bit shocked about how empty and dirty it was. We arrived with a couple named Sarah and James who were from New Zealand. We met them at the hostel in Potosi and all discovered we were all heading to Uyuni next and decided to book the Salt Flat tour together! They pre booked a hotel before arriving and of course we didn't so we just walked around until we found a budget hotel that was $6 USD each for the one night. We have just continually kept learning that in this country prebooking usually means you are staying somewhere a bit more expensive than if you waited until you arrived. So patience and research are virtues on this trip. That evening after settling into our hotels the hunt for the perfect tour agency was on.
We thought this would be a big adventure to find a tour agency but all of them can be found on one of the two main streets and one was called Avenida Potosi. We asked in total four different travel agencies (All offer basically the same package) and decided to go with the trip advisor #1 choice called Salty Desert Aventours. We got the price including transportation across the border to Chile for 820 bolivianos ($118.67 USD) each with a Spanish speaking driver. We could have paid 400 bolivianos extra for a English speaking guide but we decided that it was time to practice our spanish and save a little bit of money. Since it was Thursday it was the day for the big feria which is an open street market that sells everything from fruit, snacks, clothes, teas and full meals. We walked around the street stalls and I got to thinking that I have heard the flats are freezing and all have are of my thin layered jackets that I have worn everyday the last month. It was time to invest in a heavy duty puffy black jacket that I bartered down to 200 bolivianos ($28.95 USD)and it was an incredible decision. I was told how cold it would get on the tour and I wanted to let nothing stand in my way from fully enjoying this. We ate at a local restaurant for 10 bolivianos each after the successful purchase and had the typical chicken and rice dish that you find most anywhere in Bolivia. After dinner we found a street vendor selling Api which is purple maize, cinnamon and hot water with some fried up sweet bread on the side. We just relaxed that evening with new friends under the street lights of the small town enjoying the thoughts of what was awaiting us.
The tour the next morning started at 10:15am. Before departing we went to a few mini markets to grab some last minute snacks that we didn't already get at the day priors feria and of course had to get some wine and beer. We met the third couple that would be joining us on our tour outside the car and could already tell we were going to hit it off. Their names were Celine and Bruno who were both from Switzerland and spoke 5 different languages including Spanish! For the three day and two night tour ahead it was pretty comfortable with 6 people and the driver in a midsize SUV. We even had bluetooth for music alongside with good conversations.
Our first stop was to the train graveyard that was a playground of old trains that all the tourists including myself could jump all over and take pictures on. It was a bit of a underwhelming way to start our tour but the next stop was the incredible salt flats. It was our car of 6 and one other car of 6 that were all from the same tour agency and we were taken care of so well by our guides. As soon as we got to the salt flats we just took it all in. The endless view of salty flats covered 360 degrees around us. You could sort of see the famous mirror reflection that the salt flats are known for but since it wasn’t the wet season it wasn’t visible everywhere except a few parts. I just had to put my camera down and step away from the group to really soak in what I was seeing. From there we went on to Isla Incahuasi that is covered with cactus and had a 30 boliviano entrance. This island was once a lake that was dried up and this little island still remains and we were told it was over 1,000 years old and to see it still surviving in the elements is incredible. Before it got dark we pulled over one last time to watch the sunset over this perfect day. One of the best sunsets I have ever seen in my entire life and to reflect on everything we have done to be there in that moment. We spent the night in one of the few salt hotels in the area where the walls, floors, chairs and tables were all made of salt. You could just dip french fries on the floor to give them a little more salt (but that is not advised)
The following morning after a small breakfast served at the hotel it was time to start day two of our trip. We first headed to Laguna Hedionda that was a lagoon full of flamingos and was completely beautiful and surreal to see flamingoes in a climate like this. We had lunch here that consisted of an assortment of pasta, chicken and vegetables. I will say that this tour agency knows how to feed their guests because the drivers not only travel with us everywhere and give us historical facts about the places we are visiting, they do all the cooking and help loading and unloading the vehicles. The guides are a one man show so make sure to tip them for all of their hard work. From the lagoon we saw different crazy rock formations to beautiful Laguna Coroada that was a lake that was the color red to a stone that was shaped as a tree from all the years of the sandy winds. Before heading to our hotel for the night we saw one last amazing natural wonder which was the Solar de Manaña geyser. These geysers were completely beautiful and so powerful. The water looks boiling but with the view of the background with the geyser steam pouring out makes for a beautiful scenery.
We arrived to our hotel for the night as the sun started to set and we got to see where we were spending the next twelve hours. Only a few hotels were close by all that were not housing many groups and we had the incredible Termas de Polques hot springs a five minute walk away. Before and after dinner our group decided to go soak in the hot springs with some beer and wine. We were able to watch the sun set completely and see the milky way come alive. I have never seen the milky way so clear in my entire life until that moment. I felt almost in tears for how happy I was to be there. After the many hours and our hands completely pruned we went back to the hotel where we shared a room with the new zealand couple and we stayed up for another hour just giggling like little kids about all the fun we had. And right before our eyes shut for the night we decided to wake up in three hours to see the sun rise over the lake that is outside of our window. We all woke up still rubbing our eyes but we witnessed the sun rise with one another by our side. We enjoyed our last meal together before we hit the road again to see one more Laguna Verde before getting dropped off at the border crossing into San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. It was a 15 boliviano fee to leave the country but free to enter in Chile which was a nice change after having to pay to get into Bolivia. We were happy to move onto a new country but sad to leave a country we built so many friendships in and had some amazing experiences ending with the best one.
To any future travelers that want to adventure to Bolivia, I will say don't hold back and just go. This is a tour you will brag about to your kids and your grandkids and when you are done traveling and people ask what some of your highlights were, this trip will definitely be one of those stories.
5) Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Sacred Valley
6) Machu Pichu
1) Copacabana and Isla Del Sol
2) La Paz
1) San Pedro De Atacama
4) La Serena
5) Puerto Iquazu
6) Buenos Aires