The Largest Salt Flats in the World – Salar de Uyuni
The Salt Flats in Bolivia is something we have seen photos of sporadically throughout our lives and the photos have always caught our eye. I mean, how could the image of a 4x4 seeming to drive along the sky not be eye catching?
We had to pinch ourselves to believe that we were finally really doing it and that it wasn’t just the high altitude getting to our heads.
What we didn’t realise when going to book our tour, was that visiting the Salt Flats could be done over a 3 day journey. Travelling from Chile to Bolivia (or vice versa) we were going to see so much more than we had anticipated.
The booking process
Also before we get into what amazing things we did and saw over the next 3 days, we just want to speak briefly about the booking process.
Now, if you’ve done a little research like we had - you might have seen a few stories about how a lot of drivers of these tours seem to get drunk behind the wheel. Scary, right?!
This may be the case for some companies but we had a perfect 3 days with a perfectly sober driver. So in case you’re feeling a little worried and overwhelmed by the copious amounts of travel agencies, we can recommend that you go with Flamingo, who are highly professional.
Ok so with the worries out of the way, let’s get to the exciting stuff!
The Salt Flats Tour
Day 1: Lakes, Crates and Geysers
So on the first day of the tour, we arrived at the Chile/Bolivia border and got our passport stamps and were greeted with some breakfast and the 4x4’s that we were about to spend a lot time with.
We couldn’t have got to a greater start, with our first stop probably being the most beautiful lake we have ever laid our eyes on, Laguna Blanca. It was completely reflective and with the backdrop of mountains, it looked like a painting.
We then continued through the most scenic road (if you can call anything we were driving along a road...) we’ve ever driven on towards lunch. Followed by casually walking through the crater of a volcano and geyser spotting and yes, we are still only on day one.
It’s not over yet though, our next stop was another lake but this time the lake was entirely pink and also filled with wild flamingo’s. What is this fantasy land?
A sunset drive to our accommodation followed by dinner and it was time to get some rest for day 2.
Day 2: Old trains, Rocks and a salt hotel!?
Pancakes for breakfast, yummy! Time to head back into the 4x4 and see what was in store for the second day.
So day two consisted of a lot of rocks and imagination. Each time we got in the car we seemed to be heading to more rock formations that bared a resemblance to camels, faces and even the World Cup trophy but we’re not gonna lie - the rocks do get boring.
Good job a pack of alpacas appear to keep you on your toes!
The rocks do finally come to an end (don’t get us wrong though, the scenery is still amazing!) but then we did proceed onto somewhere else quite peculiar.
We seemed to be surrounded by derelict factories, trains and a train line... or so we thought, until an old rustic train came driving past!
However, all of this randomness was overshadowed by the excitement that tonight we would be staying in a hotel completely made out of salt!
We all got our own room this time and obviously the first we did was plonk our belongings down and lick the walls. Nope, they weren’t lying. Definitely salt.
Tomorrow was the big day, what we were all here for, the salt flats!
If you get a moment on this night, pop out after dinner and take a look at the sky. Not quite the Atacama experience we had here but it’s a very pretty sky full of stars!
Day 3: The big day!
This was it. It was really going to happen and even a 4am start wasn’t going to ruin our spirits. We drove along as the sun rose over the slightly flooded salt flats, creating the beautiful reflective effect we’d seen in all the google photos. It was truly beautiful.
We stopped to watch the sun rise and as time went on, the white glare of the salt became more visible. Eventually every direction we looked in, there was just salt for miles. It was hard to believe what we were looking at was actually salt and not snow. So much salt!
We were left to our own devices, literally. Out came all the phones, cameras and GoPros to capture this magical moment with as many photos and videos that didn’t do it justice as we could.
We then drove to another spot absolutely baffled as to how any of the drivers knew what direction to go in and now it was time for the all the fun perspective shots! These are not as easy as they look and luckily our drivers were pros at getting everyone at the right angles.
We took numerous shots of us with dinosaurs, looking like we’d been scooped up in hat or about to get stomped on by a fellow traveller and videos of us running out of Pringle pots. Let your imagination run wild... we’re giving you notice, so have some original ideas up your sleeve!
Our last stop amongst the salt was a random spot where lots of countries flags have been left so of course, a photo with your flag is obligatory. There is also a really cool Bolivia sign here, made out of salt (shock!).
Not just a day at the salt flats..
We never wanted to leave but unfortunately it had to happen at some point but the experience wasn’t quite over yet. We headed to a market selling a wide range of the lovely patterned Bolivian goods. Of course, since this is a stop on every tour company’s journey, it is quite the touristy spot.
Our final stop was something quite unique, just about unique enough to distract us from the jealousy we were feeling at seeing the people who were just starting their journey in the opposite direction and were not yet fully aware of the awe they were about to feel.
We were located in a train cemetery. Due to a failed train system, a bunch of trains had just been left here and due to the salt winds, they have all now rusted. Everywhere you look there is an old rusted part of a train. It’s quite strange and random but where else are you going to see this?
Where else are you going to get to climb on top of a train or pose sitting in the nose of one? Exactly, nowhere.
So take a few photos and wipe away the tears that are trying to form as you remember this is the last stop.
We can promise that a visit to the salt flats is something you will never forget, a truly magical moment and one that can’t quite be put into words. It is something that in life, just quite simply, has to be done.
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