You may think that your not really a tour kind of person. We definitely thought that too! However, for some activities the only and best way to do them is through an organised tour. The Salar de Uyuni Salt Flat Tour is an opportunity to spend 3 days in the desert with like-minded people experiencing altitude, geysers, lagunas, rock formations and of course the salt flats, as a group!
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We were approaching from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and we used the tour as a way to cross the border into Bolivia. It is extremely difficult to decide on a company, mainly because San Pedro is tourist central, with every other shop front promoting their tour. Essentially, they are all the same but differ in the safety of their drivers, standard of the Jeep, how much English is spoken by the driver/tour guide, and the quality of the food cooked. We made friends with a couple in Santiago who’s itinerary was similar to ours put ahead of us by a few weeks. They kept in touch with us and recommended the company they went with as they ticked all the right boxes and they had a stress-free time with them. This company was Cruz Andina and their positive TripAdvisor reviews reflect how great they are. Thank you Alexandra and Mark for your recommendation!
Learn many of the Spanish colours when visiting the Blanca, Verde, Colorada and Negra Lagunas! The two that stand out in my mind are the white and green lagunas. Laguna Blanca is a salt lake that was frozen over enough to walk across. It was all going so well until we heard a ‘crack’ while posing for a group photo! Laguna Verde contains many different minerals (including arsenic) that combined together make the salt lake green!
The Geiser Sol de Manana (Morning Sun Geyser Basin) has volcanic activity, sulphur springs, mud and steam pools. The pressurised steam can be as high as 50 metres in the morning! A memory that sticks in my mind, is a new found friend, doing the best ‘fart’ picture I have seen next to the geysers! My kind of instagram worthy picture, for sure!
Time to strip off and relax in the Thermal Water at Polques Aguas Termales. A word of caution, as relaxing as the hot springs are, hot water at altitude can cause dizziness. We stayed in for 20 minutes and I was light headed when we got out and had to sit down for a while. Your lunch will be waiting for you after the springs so head over there and down some coca-cola and you will feel human again!
Caution 2: The changing rooms are renowned for petty thieves and your tour guide/driver should warn you about this. Keep all valuables in the Jeep and just leave minimal clothing in the changing room. We stayed in view of the changing rooms and had no issues but we heard of people engagement rings, watches and even Down Jackets going missing.
At Desierto Salvadr Dali (Dali Rock Desert) and Valle de Rocas (Rock Valley) you will have the opportunity to go rock climbing in places properly not safe to climb! Definitely worth seeing the boys climb onto a camel like rock! My favourite was climbing up into the rock holes within the walls. Climbing down was not as much fun haha!
This was our first opportunity to get up close and personal with llamas and flamingos. A new friend was determined to get a llama selfie and then I found myself wanting to do the exact same! I didn’t achieve this goal until we got to Peru! We arrived at Laguna Colorada just in time to see the flamingos as the sun was setting. They were walking towards the remaining sunlight away from land as we arrived.
Uyuni Salt Flats
Be prepared for super cold temperatures when you wake at 5am to see sun rise on the Uyuni Salt Flats. This is the big finale on your final day of the tour and it didn’t disappoint. We arrived on a dry day – so no reflective shots were possible. However, the endless white landscapes of salt where there formally was a lake, makes for incredible perspective shots. We had great fun lining up on a cigarette and being smoked, being snorted like cocaine, being eaten off a spoon, standing on walking boot string, to name a few. It was great to help our new friends get the perfect shot for their wedding invites … we hope they made the cut!
Isla Inca Huasi
After you are worn out from an early rise and playing on the Salt Flats you must reserve some energy for Isla Inca Huasi, the island full of Cactus. The walk around this island is quite steep especially at altitude so I definitely was puffing away at the top!
You will end your trip in Uyuni with the train cemetery. I feel that if we weren’t so tired we would have appreciated this a little more. The World Cup game was on too, so we rushed through, took some pictures for the memories, said our goodbyes and headed to the pub with our new friends. I recommend using your stay in Uyuni to get a good nights sleep, a warm shower and organise yourself for the next leg of your journey. We appreciated having a place to dump our bags, explore the small town of Uyuni and get on our way the next day. No more than one night is needed in Uyuni. However, you may find the cutest children that you just want to take home with you.
Definitely worth a mention on this blog post! My best advice is to be prepared and take preventative measures but in all honesty you never know if your going to be the unlucky one who gets altitude sickness. The side effects of altitude include; shortness of breath, heart palpitations, headaches, migraines, nausea and vomiting. For me, I experienced heart palpitations when simply laying in bed for a good few hours. I’m glad I read about the symptoms prior as I may have interpreted this as a panic attack. All the other symptoms were experienced throughout the group. Every morning, we drank Coco herbal tea which appeared to help. Avoid drinking at night as you won’t sleep. Some people had coco leaves to chew, which is the done thing but I really disliked the taste. Take a medical kit with you that includes painkillers and altitude sickness tablets.
There are options to do the tour we have done in reverse; from Uyuni to San Pedro and an option to add a 4th day to return to San Pedro from Uyuni. Now you can of course do a Day Trip to the Salt Flats and be back to your hostel all snuggly and warm at the end of the day. This of course is a cheaper option, but in my opinion the sights we saw along the way to the Salt Flats were actually more impressive. I feel this is a good option if your only travelling in Bolivia with no intention to cross to Chile, or your strapped for cash.
Go the Distance to Bolivia,