Bolivia was our side trip. We were going all the way to Peru to hike the inca trail, so we wanted to be there for at least 2 weeks or so. Trying to figure out and plan the holiday, I sat with Google maps open on my computer screen trying to figure what works. Bolivia seemed like an obvious choice but seemed like a surreal idea. I don’t think DJ took me seriously when I first suggested Bolivia to him. And then I saw the pictures of the salt flats in Bolivia on Instagram and my mind was made up. You can see our complete itinerary.
I am not going to make the mistake of making promises but I might do a separate post on La Paz which is the capital of Bolivia and the highest capital city in the world. For now, this post is about the salt flats in Bolivia and since this is going to a majorly picture heavy post I am going to break down our visit to the salt flats by day.
If you see pictures of the salt flats in Bolivia, the salar, the first reaction is always wow. This place is nothing like what you have seen before.
But this is not all of what you find in the salar. Although there are one day trips to the salar, I am extremely happy we opted for the whole three day experience. I do think the full three day experience gives you a complete idea of how vast and amazing the salar is which you miss out if you go just for a day.
We took a bus to Uyuni where the salar starts. This was a overnight 16 hour bus. Once we reached we found out Uyuni has a fully functioning airport with frequent flights to and from La Paz – this was not mentioned in our travel agent’s website. We felt extremely silly and DJ and I cursed ourselves since even after all our research this is not something we were able to find out. But then thats travel for you and more so, that’s Bolivia for you – not exactly touristy.
The bus tickets can be purchased online from Todo Tourism – make sure you get tickets well in advance since our bus was completely full even in the cold winter season. This bus was probably the most number of tourists we saw in Bolivia! Please check your tickets in detail and make sure your information is correct – their drop down menu is not the easiest to maneuver and its easy to make mistakes.
Similarly you can take a flight out from La Paz which is about 45 minutes to Uyuni. We skipped the bus on our way back and took the flight out. Its a pretty small aircraft, not a tiny one but smaller than the normal commercial jets we were used to, in case this is something you need to consider.
if you are going to do the salar, I would highly recommend Hodaka Mountain Expeditions which was the agency we used. You can email them on: firstname.lastname@example.org (we would not recommend calling them on the phone unless you speak good Spanish. Ability to say un, dos, tres and Maria does not count as Spanish proficiency). They were excellent, our guide Evar was amazing!
We went for the 3 day, 2 night private tour where there were only four of us – DJ and me and a couple friend who came along. I was being cheap and wanted to go for the group tour but I am glad DJ and our friends shut that down – our tour was perfect and gave us so much flexibility. If making small talk with strangers is a strain for you, please go for the private tour. You will be spending a lot of time in the jeep so might as well make it as easy as possible.
Make sure you see all the videos and pictures in this post – almost all of the photos which look amazing and look to be of professional quality have been created, directed and shot by our amazing guide Evan. I have no idea how to had the creativity to think of these shots and videos but our pictures from the salar were just gorgeous – of course, the location helped.
Now we didn’t want a separate English speaking guide along with us and didn’t opt for a guide. But with Evar we actually didn’t need one since although he said his English was not good, it was perfectly understandable. Also his knowledge of his country was as proficient as we would have expected of a professional guide. However, in hindsight, we got really lucky with Evar but I would recommend having a guide along with you.
I also wanted to mention this: I would not recommend going into the salar on your own without a driver / guide. There are few marked roads, internet is hopeless at best and trying to drive on this terrain without training may not be the best plan.
First Stop – Train Cemetery
Our first stop on the tour was a train cemetery. This place is as odd as it sounds. These are basically old British steam engines that have been junked in the salar and has now become a tourist spot.
Its a bizarre sight but extremely fun. We ran around the whole place, climbing on the trains and pretty much behaving like we were at the jungle gym.
We then went to have lunch at a salt hotel. So the only problem with our tour was the food. Now the salt hotel had tables and seating areas and our guide brought our food for us.
Food in the salar was nothing to write home about. It was pretty basic – some veggies, pasta, beef, chicken and tuna. I have to say I wish the food was better but since we were in the middle of a desert I am not sure how much more we could or should have expected. When it comes to food in the salar please lower your expectations.
Isla Incahuasi (Fish Island)
In hindsight I don’t think I managed to find out why this was called Fish Island but there is some explanation available on various other websites.
This was actually our third stop (after the train cemetery and the dry salar) which we found on our way to the wet part of the salar.
The Salar de Uyuni was actually our third stop on our tour. The desert is made is salt – its all salt. Its an extremely surreal place. We drove way in the desert to run around and take crazy pictures and videos. Like this one.
And please don’t miss our star performance of a Bollywood classic.
We then drove even further to a side of the salar which was wet and had standing water till about your ankles. It was with the standing water that you actually saw how surreal the salar looked.
It was in this water area that we waited for sunset – which was spectacular. I mean, there are very few sunsets that are not beautiful but because of the reflection of the sun and sky in the water, this was another level of spectacular.
Ok. That was only Day 1, believe it or not. I am not sure yet but Day 2 and 3 maybe a combined post or two separate posts. Its all depends on how many photos there are since if there are too many photos in one post it may be difficult to load. Sorry if I over did the photos in this one but I always think more photos better than less! I will end with the obligatory crazy fun salar photo!
Really hope you enjoyed this post and please leave us a comment – we really enjoy reading through and answering the comments and having a little chat. There are more photos from the trip on our Instagram so make sure to follow along – it really helps us out!
Now read the second part of this post.
All photos on this post have been taken on iPhone 6 and 7 and none in this post have been edited or filtered (at all!).