The most amazing scenery ever...

Uyuni Travel Blog

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... can be found in the salar trip that goes from Uyuni, Bolivia to the Chilean border. Everyone in Uyuni is only there to do one of these trips, some that loop back to Uyuni or go to Tupiza or cross over to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. People say Uyuni is a hole, but I thought it had a certain charm to it. It´s certainly very flat (something novel in South America) and feels sort of hollow, but since the arrival of the MinuteMan Pizza restaurant, well, there´s one good reason to stay. I acquired more travelling companions (and lost a few); two Aussie couples and a Canadian who had been travelling with them for a bit, so we all had dinner together at this infamous pizza restaurant. It´s run by an American guy, and the pizzas were pretty damn good.

I had booked my tour in La Paz which wasn´t necessary, what with a million tour agencies (and spruikers) lining the streets, and open till quite late. We spent the night drinking Bacardi and coke and chatting to two Irish guys (this later turned into a political argument between the Irish guys and the Canadian guy which Bella and I extracted ourselves from). The next morning I left for my tour.

We had a very diverse group: a Swedish couple, two Israeli girls and two Bolivian girls, from Cochabamba. Our guide drove well and was professional and let us listen to music in the jeep. The tours are pretty standard - you run into other tour groups at every place you stop at which makes everything feel less remote. The first day we drove across the Salar de Uyuni, a huge expanse of salt. There´s a little salt hotel in the middle, where the walls, chairs, tables and beds are made of salt - quite impressive. Then we stopped at La Isla, which is a big hunk of convoluted rock in the middle of the salt flat with cacti growing on it. You can explore the rock island and have a 360 degree view (of the big sea of white and the distant mountains, very cool). They had a cactus there that was 1203 years old... amazing! We had steak for lunch, then headed off to our lodging for the night. Driving across salt is quite an experience; the guides use the mountains to guide their way, as compasses don´t work due to the layer of magnesium below the salt surface.

We stayed in San Juan, a little pueblo near the salt flat, and of course they were having a festival of some sort. Fried chicken and chips was for dinner (and lunch the next day), but made up for by good soup and bread. The second day we drove across rough terrain to lovely miradors (viewpoints) of volcanoes, lagoons and rocks. There were pink flamingoes at one of the lagoons, and we spotted two very cute foxes. We got to see the Arból de Piedra - a rock that has been shaped by the elements to resemble a tree. Kind of cool. The landscape throughout was just awesome, vast, and everchanging. Last stop for the day was at the Laguna Colorado, coloured red due to the plankton (or something) inside it. Made for some amazing photos, I hope! We stayed in a little building nearby the lagoon and ate our pasta with some red wine.

On the third day, we woke up at the unforgivable hour of 5am to drive out to see some geysers as the sun rose. I honestly don´t think I´ve ever been in as cold a place as that geyser place. It was still mostly dark and our driver stopped and told us we could go out and take photos. It felt like I was in a blizzard (I think the temperature was around minus 10! I come from Australia, people!). Many tour groups do this, and I don´t really know why because while it´s nice to watch the sun rise, it´s just too damn cold to enjoy anything, and you can´t really see much of the geysers except all the steam rising from them. Everyone had breakfast at the hot spring, which was welcome warmth (although it was still only 2 degrees or so outside). There  are some rocks in the desert called the rocks of Dali, because they resemble a Dali painting - and they actually do. Very surreal. We stopped at the green lagoon which wasn´t green because it had frozen over, and at this point I was ushered into another jeep to be taken to the border crossing.

Most people say this tour is the highlight of Bolivia, and I´m inclined to agree but it depends on your guide. We heard stories of guides being moody, not letting people listen to music, stealing alcohol from their group and other such things, so it seems a bit hit and miss. But the scenery is that stunning that it makes up for it. The driving can be rough at times, but the sense of isolation is second to none... if you like that sort of thing.

Raches says:
Steve - I'm not sure about the cactus, but apparently every year it grows 1mm or so, so it must be 1023mm this year!
Posted on: Aug 08, 2006
flynn says:
Interesting. 1203 year old cactus - how would they be so precise? It sounds like 3 years ago they must have decided it was 1200 years old and then started counting from there.

Dali was also well known for his optical illusions. Did you notice this?
Posted on: Jul 03, 2006
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Uyuni
photo by: razorriome