3 Day Salar de Uyuni Tour
The salt flats have been a lot of people’s favorite thing in South America so it was definitely on my bucket list and also really looking forward to heading out of Chile and into Bolivia. Like I mentioned in my previous post, we spent a lot of time looking for a good reliable tour since we would be spending 3 days with them. I am soooo glad we went with Lithium Aventura. It was overall an amazing experience from the people, driver, food, sights, to everything in between. The actual salt flats were definitely amazing but it was everything leading to it that made the 3 days unforgettable.
Since this tour was one sold through the hostel, many people from our hostel in San Pedro were up early at 7am waiting for our ride. We were driven to the Chile border to get our exit stamp then the Bolivia border where I was charged $160 to enter the freaking country. Ugh that was a hefty load and again not helping the budget crisis at all. We had breakfast of bread, cheese, salami, avocado, coffee, oj, and some pound cake. We were then split up into different 4x4 of 6 people. My car had me, Doug (Canadian), Ben (Brit), Alejandra (Colombian), David (Colombian), and Carlos (Brazilian). We visited:
- White Lagoons
- Green Lagoons
- Saw flamingos (like tons of flamingos so that was pretty cool and the surrounding was absolutely beautiful. Green grass in front with red and white water, blue skies, and mountains. It was a total visual overload!)
- Hot springs (I thought the 40 minutes would be too short but definitely after about 25 minutes or so in the water, you're ready to head out but it was still really nice and relaxing)
Coming out of the hot springs made me really freaking dizzy. The altitude really affected me badly the first day especially after going into the water. We had lunch at the hot springs area which consisted of this really good chicken veggie mix and mashed potatoes. I thought I would feel better after eating but I actually felt worse. I tried chewing coca leaves to help with the altitude but it didn't work. My head was just not having it and the bumpy drive after didn't help. At least I didn't throw up like some others I met. Altitude sickness is an actual thing, not some myth. Being 4,000+ meters above sea level really affects your breathing. I was panting and having a hard time just walking fast or for a long distance.
We talked all sorts of random stuff in our car from movies to crazy drunk stories. Alejandra became my "mi amor" haha because I made fun of her and David for calling each other that. They're just a fun and cool Colombian couple. And of course it helped to have them translate for us since our driver, Orlando (Bloom), didn't speak any English.
I've heard from others that accommodations aren't the greatest and they are just basic places, sometimes without outlets or bathrooms. But our first night was way more than I had anticipated. The beds were comfy and they had working toilets and showers. Well we had to pay for a shower so I just dipped my hair in the sink to wash. Gotta do what you gotta do! I was pretty content with what we had! Dinner was delicious as well. We had soup, salad and this fries and meat thing.
Right before dinner Carlos, the Brazilian, traded cars with Manon, a Dutch girl, because the other car she was in only spoke in Spanish and she didn't understand any. We felt pretty bad for her because you're with the group for a long time, driving for hours so not being able to communicate with your group makes it not as enjoyable. So they switched and to be honest, I was pretty happy. Sorry Carlos if you ever read thing, I doubt you will, I enjoyed Manon's company a bit more and I think we had more in common.
Doug, Ben, and I bought 2L box wine for the tour and we might have drank a bit too much... well I know I know. But nonetheless it was still a great time. The stars were out and about this night and even at a tipsy/drunk stage it was beautiful.
We had breakfast at around 8am and headed out at 8:30 for another full day of sightseeing. So today's main attractions were rocks shaped of different things and llamas, lots of them. But the good news was that I was starting to get used to the altitude because my headache was gone, just a bit hungover...
We saw a huge rock shaped of the World Cup and another one of a camel. We saw a few other Lagoons and miracles. We went to the Black Lagoon and it was home to a giant herd of llamas. I guess they're used to tourists because they didn't mind that people were taking pictures of them, getting up close for selfies, and walking through their eating area.
Lunch today was the best! We stopped in this huge open field with hundreds of llamas and had a picnic. It was freaking neat! Our lunch again was pretty good with rice, salad, tuna, and egg potato baked dish. The even better part was that was had front row seat to a few llama sex show, or a few. I mean I'm not sure if that's what they were actually doing but it was looking really close to it. Dinner and shower! You usually have to pay more for that haha
We went to a few other sights before heading to a hostel made entirely of salt. We even stopped by our drivers house so we met his wife and son. Since we had to get up really the next day to catch the sunrise on the salt flats, it meant an early dinner and bedtime. We got to the accommodation around 5:30pm. It was actually a pretty sweet place! Again, exceed my expectations. This was a lot nicer than last nights. However, they had to split us up into 3 different rooms. The Colombian couple got the matrimonial suite, which was fitting because it was their 3 year anniversary. The other two guys had the room right next door that was a lot bigger with a window to the outside. Manon and I got stuck in a much smaller room with no window to the outside but instead to one facing the hallway of the bathroom and shower. So through the night multiple people opened our door and thought they were going to the shower or bathroom lol the freaking guys weren't gentlemen at all!! They wouldn't even offer to trade with us. Ugh! I mean it wasn't a big deal haha the beds were comfy and I was warm so that's all that matters. I was just being a brat haha
Dinner tonight came with a bottle of wine, so a really nice touch. We had soup, salad, friends, and this sweet grilled chicken that was absolutely delicious. It made me miss home cooking so much. I don't eat this exact dish at home but it felt very homey and not one of the three meals I cook. We all headed to bed around 9-10pm for a 5am wake-up call.
SALAR DE UYUNI IS TODAY!!! This is what the 3 days tour has been leading up to. We all sluggishly got up and headed out by 5:30am towards the salt flats to catch the sunrise.
Some facts about the Salt Flats in Bolivia:
- 12 km long
- The biggest salt flats in the world
- The deepest point is 150 meters
- Salt can really damage cars so the 4x4 that drive through and do the tours have to be older cars
- Our driver orientates himself using the mountains because without it, it would be extremely easy to get lost
The sunrise was one of the brightest and best one I have ever seen. Since the salt flats is so vast, you can clearly see the sunrising up in full spectrum and behind us the sky was a beautiful blue and pink cotton candy color. Soooo worth the 5am wake up call. The only disappointing thing was that it hadn’t rained so we couldn’t get cool reflection pictures that the salt flats are known for. However, we did get some cool perspective shots.
Okay, perspective shots are sooooo much harder to do than you think. With the sun beating in your face, and you are trying to navigate everyone in the picture to be perfectly lined up. For one picture, it would like like 10 minutes at least to set everyone up. For one person it was easy, but for multiple people, it got pretty difficult. For example, one person would be perfect than the other would move than vice versa. Getting the whole group to be exact took a lot of time and patience. However, it was all worth it!
Then we headed towards Uyuni, Bolivia stopping at a few different places such as the train cemetery and a small souvenir town. Uyuni isn’t much of a town, it’s just a tourist town where people go to at the end or start of their tour so the city is pretty bare. From here we took a bus to Potosi. Somehow we ended up convincing other people who didn’t have exact plans to head there with us. So when we got into town, we were rolling with 8 people hoping to get a hostel that would fit us all.
Do your research with what company to go with. Although they all seem to be the same, it does come down to how the driver is (safety, knowledge, reliability), what your accommodation is like, the people who are in your car, and always bargain (don’t just go with the one your hostel recommends because you can get it for cheaper if you go straight to the company office. We were able to get it down from 115,000 CLP to 100,000 CLP. We stayed at some really great hostels and we also were able to make sure our car was a mix of people who spoke a common language. I’ve met two separate group whose cars only spoke Spanish and they spoke none so it made it really hard to connect with them.
I’m so happy with my experience and it has been one of the best besides going down to Patagonia.
** Pictures will be posted soon! Wifi in Bolivia is sooo spotty. My homestay in Sucre doesn’t even have wifi. So I can edit all the pictures but not sure if I can actually post anything.