Sunday, December 18, 2011

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia 13-15 Dec 2011

Day 1

Arrived at Uyuni 8am in the morning, it was cold and raining. The bus ride was again bumpy and uncomfortable. Mary from New Continent Agency was also going for the 3D2N Uyuni trip. I followed her to the Hostel where the Agency in Uyuni is located. I was told there were no other people signed up for the 4D3N trip to Tupiza, so I will have to go with the 3D2N trip which returns back to Uyuni. :-( We are still waiting for a group of 3 french gals and a Peruvian whom will arrive later. We have time till 10:30am before we take off. Our jeep has 7 people in total, 3 French gals, 3 Bolivian, 1 Peruvian and me. I was not very happy with the arrangement because 7 people will be tight. Mary quickly resolved the problem, she let me sit next to the driver. :-) We repacked our bags to bring just the necessities for the 3 days. We finally left around 11am.

Our driver Emilio is our superman, he is the driver, the guide, the waitress and the chef. We first got out of Uyuni town, saw tons of plastic bags littered on the ground…awful! We drove 3km out of town to the Train cemetery, it looks more like a junkyard to me. The trains were mostly used by the mining companies. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed, partly due to the mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned thereby producing the train cemetery.
Next stop is a small town called Colchani where the locals earn their living from selling salt souvenirs and harvesting salt.

After this we headed to the world biggest salt lake, Salar de Uyuni at 10,582 square kilometers. It was like driving on a frozen lake. Due to the heavy down pour the night before, the lake has been flooded with 2-3 inches of water. It looks like a mirror to the sky with the reflection of the cloud and mountain nearby. Amazing!

We stopped by the very first Salt Hotel, the hotel is built by blocks of salt in 1993-1995. However, its location in the center of a desert produced sanitary problems, as most waste had to be collected manually. Mismanagement caused serious environmental pollution and the hotel had to be dismantled in 2002.
We continue to drive to Isla de Pescado or the Fish Island, it is called the fish island due to its fish like shape from far. The terrain is harsh, rocky, hilly and full of cactus. We stopped here for lunch. To ascent to the top of the island, we need to pay B30. I didn’t climb up. Here is the only chance to take our best photos in the Salar due to the flooded water in the lake. After this we continue to Atulcha where we sleep in the Salt Hotel. Almost everything is made out of block of salt, tables, chairs, bed, wall. :-) Despite the cold temperature outside, the salt block actually keep the interior warm. Tonight we had meat for dinner, it was very tough, I thought it was mutton until Emilio told us at the end it was Llama meat. :-( I ate Llama!

Day 2
Woke up at 5:30am hoping to see sunrise but it was too cloudy so I went back to sleep. We departed at 7:30am and left Salar de Uyuni to the south. The landscape changed from Salt to sand, mountain, lake and volcano. We stop at Laguna Canapa @ 4138m for lunch, here we saw some birds and Flamingoes, there are 3 different species of Flamingoes here - Chileno, Andino and James. A fox was looking for food around our picnic site, so we fed him some chicken bones. After lunch we left for a long drive to Laguna Colorada where we will sleep for the 2nd night, along the way we passed 4 other beautiful lagunas surrounded by volcano and mountains. The landscape was mine blowing!

Arrived at Laguna Colorada at 4pm, we have to pay B150 for the National Park fee that is not included in the package. Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) is a shallow salt lake, contains borax islands, whose white color and  the reddish is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae. This is why the flamingoes are here. We walked around the lake to the view point, from here we could see thousands of flamingoes living in the lake. I have never seen so many flamingoes in my life! :-)

This night, we slept in a “home stay”, we have to pay B15 for a shower, none of us take it. :-) The room has 6 beds to fit us all in and it was colder then the Salt Hotel. It was cold outside but I couldn’t resist standing outside for couple of minutes to enjoy the view of millions of stars above the horizon of the lake.

Day 3
We had an early start today at 5am. It was great for me because I could watch the sunrise. The sky was clear, I could see lights slowly brighten the horizon of the lake. It was probably 0° outside and I was freezing my ass off trying to take some photos. :-) Emilio hurry us to leave at 5:30am, first we pass by the Geisers. We run out of the car to take some photos then run back in coz it was cold!

We drove over 5000m high across the mountain and arrived at Hot Spring, there was a small pool with hot water flowing thru. I couldn’t wait longer and jump in the pool, it was cold outside but 28° inside! Ahhh! The feeling is inexpressible!  Now I understand why the Japanese enjoy the Hot Spring in Winter. :-)

volcano Licancabur

Another 2 hours drive, we reached our final destination, Laguna Verde. The view was incredible! The blue sky with Volcano Licancabur at the background and the green lake, any shots taken here is a picture perfect! :-) After here we returned to Uyuni, it was a long 7 hours drive back with beautiful landscape.
I think everyone who visits Bolivia can’t leave without doing this trip. It is the Best of Bolivia!

Included in the package

Jeep transfer included in the package
Bus from Uyuni to Villazon – B90

3D2N to Salar de Uyuni – B650
Entrance fee to Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina – B150


  1. Hello Alice!
    Could you please tell me, is this a picture that you took 4.bp.blogspot
    or is it a stock image?

    Many thanks and all the best to you in your lovely travels !