Exchange Rate: About 6 Bolivianos for 1 US Dollar
Time Zone: UTC-04:00, Coordinated Universal Time
Booking Company: Kanoo Tour Company
Uyuni Tour Company: Al Extremo [Ask for Eddy to be your driver!]
Cost: 100-145 USD
Bus Company: Todo Turismo
LA PAZ > UYUNI / Bus: 10+ hours / Cost: 40 USD
UYUNI > LA PAZ / Plane: 1 hour / Cost: 150 USD
WHAT TO BRING:
- change of clothes [including warm and cool weather items!]
- 2 liters of water per day [there is opportunity to purchase throughout the trip]
- sleeping bag
- snacks [and snacks for the driver and others in the group]
- toilet paper [you’ll be using the bathroom in the outdoors a lot]
- cash [at least 200 Bolivianos for additional entrance fees, toilet fees, shower fees, etc.]
- wet wipes
- first aid kit
Shadi, my travel partner, and I decided to book a plane ticket to South America just three weeks before our one-month trip. Bolivia was never a destination I wanted to travel to but now consider it the best part of our entire adventure. I can thank the Uyuni Salt Flats for that.
The Bolivian Atacama Desert is breathtaking and each day is different on the 3-day tour. The salt flats are definitely a major highlight but there are so many things to see and do on the excursion.
When you first start out on the road to the salt flats it feels incredibly crowded and touristic. Everyone has the same start time. So you, your tour group of 6, and about 50 other Land Cruisers [with the same amount of people in it] are hitting the road at once. But eventually everyone spreads out and there are even times when you feel like you’ve got the place to yourself.
DAY 1: Start time is at 10am from the town of Uyuni. After meeting our driver, Eddy, we head out to the rusted train graveyard. Then we hit the real deal. Miles and miles of flat salt stretched before us. There are two parts to the flats-- dry and wet. Both are incredibly unique and beautiful in their own way. We roam, have lunch, and take photos for most of the day. It feels like we were sitting on a cloud. On our way to our accommodations Eddy let Shadi and I sit on top of the jeep. It might have been because we got conveniently covered in salt. Either way, it was an added bonus to the trip. I suggest asking your driver if you can do the same!
During the dry season we would have stayed at the salt hotel, Samarikuna, but since we are still in wet season we found an alternative hostel in a neighboring town.
DAY 2:After a 5:30am wakeup call we start heading south. Before we leave the hostel a herd of Llama graze pass and I make my way amongst them, seemingly unnoticed. It was my first interaction with Llama’s and I am in heaven.
Fun Fact: The tassels and pompoms you see on Llamas and Alpacas are used as markers for the herd [sort of like branding]. Each herd has a different combination of colors and tassel placement.
Most of the day is spent stopping at Mountainous viewpoints and high-elevation lagoons. They are all amazing. We also get to see flamingoes, Vacuñas, and Llamas throughout the day. After having lunch at a pretty remote lagoon, we explore the Siloli desert and stop off at the “Tree of Life” before heading to the national park for the night. Upon entering the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve we stop off at the Laguna Colorada to check out the pink lake. We don’t stay long as it starts to hail..
DAY 3: It is the shortest day on our trip but with the earliest wakeup call. We try our best to keep the energy up as we climb high elevations to the Sol de Mañana geyser. Some of our travel mates get altitude sickness and have to stay in the jeep. We jump out and marvel at the steam spewing out of the ground and quickly hop back in to avoid the cold.
Fun fact: A natural remedies to help battle altitude sickness is a simple combination of water, lemon, ginger, and honey. Coca leaves and Coca tea are also supposed to help aid altitude sickness [a staple in most traditional Bolivian diets.]
The highlight of the day is relaxing in the natural hot springs. You will be in the company of many other tourists but it is worth it after having not showered the night before. We take it for what it is and enjoy every minute of it. We spend the next hour or so driving through the Dali Desert and Laguna Verde. As it’s name suggests, Laguna Verde is green lake [when the conditions are right].
The trip ends at the border of Bolivia and Chile where some travelers will continue on across the border. We decide not to go into Chile and take the three-hour ride back to Uyuni before catching a flight to La Paz. We exchange information with our new friends and say goodbye. We spend the next few hours in the jeep getting covered by dust from the trek back.
This marks the end of our trip. We are dusty, dirty, tired, and looking forward to our next adventure. Bolivia’s desert and unique landscape prove to be a phenomenal experience.
And if I could do it all over again I would. Salar de Uyuni. A dream.