Posted by: vivalatinamerica | March 9, 2012

Salar de Uyuni – Tupiza to Uyuni, Bolivia, Part 3

This is the final part of a three part account of a Salar trip from Tupiza to Uyuni, Bolivia.  Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for the full story!

Day 3

We get up before dawn to pack as much into the day as possible. As the sun rises, it’s a stunning drive. Every turn demands another photo to be taken – majestic mountains, tranquil lakes and sweeping landscapes. Pink flamingos grace the water and fluffy clouds catch the early light.

We arrive at Rio Amargo and strip off to take a dip in the hot springs. We lower ourselves into the soupy bath and gaze out into the lake. The steam is rising and everyone is giggling in this warm and soothing natural bath.

Feeling totally relaxed, we dry off and hop back into the cars for more flamingo watching. There are thousands of these birds nesting and we find some discarded eggs that have been washed ashore. (The eggs are white, sadly, not pink).

Each lake is more beautiful than the last and we are sad to leave their watery reflections and calming effect.

The landscape is starting to feel more desert-like. This is a place of intense volcanic activity, and we stop to check out steaming geysers and bubbling mud. It’s also our highest point, at 5000m above sea level; and we’re feeling on top of the world.

We carry on into the desert, to find amazing rock formations and ancient volcanoes. It’s like a lost world and we all feel truly lucky to have found such a magical place.

Day 4

At 10,500km2, Salar de Uyuni is the biggest salt flat in the world. Cars have been known to get completely lost in its vastness, requiring helicopters to form a search party to retrieve them. We stick carefully to the path, and although I don’t fancy being airlifted out of the white abyss, I’m a little disappointed that so many other tourists have decided to join us at the salar this morning.

The cars splosh along in about a foot of water while taking us to a slightly dryer patch. In dry season, the salt flats are bare and their dazzling whiteness inspires countless photo opportunities where gleeful tourists play with the lack of perspective.

As it’s rainy season, we can see the horizon, but we’re thrilled to see that the layer of uninterrupted rain water mirrors the sky perfectly. It’s like folding a wet watercolour painting in half. Inky blues and blacks stretch out as far as the eye can see, and we gawp at the ever-changing masterpiece.

With all the drama of the first couple of days behind us, our cars take one last victory lap, sending endless ripples across the surface as we glide back towards dry land. It’s a perfectly surreal ending to our unique and action-packed trip.

Cath Millman

The Salt Flats are a popular edition to any Bolivian itinerary, and there are countless tour operators and routes to choose from. Tour groups head out there every day (weather permitting) and we booked our trip the day before. Listen to other travellers and their recommendations to get the latest advice. Spend as much as you can afford to get the best quality tour. The drivers and cooks deserve a fair wage and the last thing you want to scrimp on is the quality of the car or the equipment.

Bring warm clothes, bottled water, waterproof shoes and sunglasses. Coca leaves help to ease the feeling of altitude sickness and you will need plenty of sunblock. You’ll need some change for the toilets and you may want to buy some bits and pieces along the way, so take a bit of cash. Shorter trips start and end in the down-at-heel town of Uyuni.

Visit for more information.

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