One of the most surreal places on the planet, the Salar de Uyuni (the worlds largest salt flat) is surrounded by volcanoes, dry desert climates and ancient lagoons home to Flamingos. The best way to experience this place is to take a 3 or 4-day tour, which covers the Uyuni as well as the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve and many lagoons and other smaller, lesser known Salt Flats located in this protected area of Bolivia. All at a stunning altitude above 4000-meters (13,000-feet) above sea level. It takes your breath away.
We began our tour early in the morning in Uyuni after an overnight bus from La Paz. We found a group that was leaving in a few hours and off we went. We spent 2-nights in the ultracold high altitude deserts, driving around these amazing landscapes in a Land Rover. It is definitely one of the highlights of our visit to Bolivia. It is also very convenient for most backpackers, as it acts as your transportation to Chile, finishing on the 3rd day in San Pedro de Atacama (or vice versa, if you chose to begin in Chile). Otherwise, it’s possible to end up back in Uyuni.
The tour begins in Uyuni, with the first stop being the Train Graveyard (a bunch of trains that sit rusting in the harsh climate) which is especially cool because you get to climb around on broken trains. It was like an adult playground. We stopped for lunch at an old salt hotel – which is also an important stopover point for the Dakar Rally – before heading into the salt flats propper. The salt flats are famous for being an amazing place to take perspective photography; we snapped a few pictures with a toy dinosaur we bought and captured a few videos with our crew of travelers. We finished the day with a beautiful sunset over the vast expanse of the Salt Flats as our backdrop.
The second day we crossed into the Salar de Chinguana and across the desert plains, with several stopovers at some of the massive Lagoons (such as Coloradas and Canapas). There are several towering volcanoes that dominate the landscape, and many of these massive lagoons are home to three different types of Flamingos. We entered the southern national park – the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve – and finished the day with a visit to some of the exposed Geysers that sputtered gasses and steam into the cold desert before spending the night in a beautiful hotel overlooking a lagoon. We sat in the nearby hot springs and watched the sunset over the lagoon.
Day three is short for those of us heading to Chile (and skipping the 7-hour drive back to Uyuni). We drove through the aptly named Salvador Dali desert before our last stop at Laguna Blanca, from where we were dropped off shortly after at the border between Bolivia and Chile.
The Salar de Uyuni is one of the most famous desolate landscapes in the world. It was blisteringly hot during the day and shockingly cold at night. The different colours of the shine brightly in the sunshine – the whites of the salt flats, the pink of the Flamingos, and the orange, red and yellow of the sandy desert. It was absolutely beautiful and highly recomended to those who want to visit another planet without having to leave Earth.
Driving Across the Salar de Uyuni:
The 3-day Salar de Uyuni tour is the best way to see one of the most surreal places on the planet. Located in the south of Bolivia, it is home to the worlds largest salt flat, as well as desert plains, beautifully coloured lagoons, flamingos, and Volcanoes. All sitting well over 4000-meters above sea level. It was blisteringly hot during the day and shockingly cold at night, but it was a highlight of our 6-week trip to South America. It was a magical experience.
Bonus: Giants of the Salar de Uyuni:
Here is a little bonus video that relates to the Salar de Uyuni. While exploring the vast expanse of the Salt Flats – the Famous Salar de Uyuni in southern Bolivia – we encountered one of the very rare Uyuni Giants that call this strange environment home.