Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia & San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
I’m not sure why, but despite being one of Bolivia’s main tourist attractions, we were not particularly excited about visiting the salt flats of Uyuni. We should have been though as it was brilliant.
Uyuni itself wasn’t even as bad as we’d read but restaurants were seriously overpriced. We stayed at Reina del Salar which felt more like a hotel with shared bathrooms than a hostel and was perfect for the one night we needed. We arrived in Uyuni in the evening but it only took an hour to visit a few tour agencies and book a 3 day tour to the salt flats. In the end we chose a tour with Andrea Tours that were recommended in the guide books. Makes no difference who you book with though, you all do the same tour. We ended up with a group who booked via three different tour agencies and were pooled together.
Our driver Matteo was a legend. Friendly, speaking slowly and clearly (in Spanish, an English speaker is hugely more expensive) and with some banging 90s tunes. He was a very safe driver too.
Along with Ashleigh and I, the group was comprised of Merryn (from Australia), Alex from Germany and Ryam and Alessandra from Brazil.
The first day began with a trip to an old train graveyard. There used to be a train line in place for transporting minerals from a mine, but now all that remains are the old trains, dumped in the middle of the desert.
Next, we spent driving around the famous salt flats.
Vast whiteness for miles and miles. Felt like a Trump rally (whey – topical!). It was amazing to see such a vast area of flat nothingness. Your brain told you that it was ice and you had to keep reminding yourself that it wasn’t and you weren’t freezing cold.
We stopped at an island in the desert which was packed with cacti.
We stopped for lunch at a random building in the middle of the salt flats. The flags of many countries outside making your feel like you’d reached base camp at Everest, or the moon in 2071, with lunar tourism at its peak.
We did a few perspective photos and then headed to a salt hotel (floor and walls made from the stuff) for the night.
The next day we headed further south, towards Chile’s Atacama Desert. We had the chance to stop at beautiful lagoons packed with flamingos and extinct volcanoes.
We saw the ‘tree of rock’, which is this random rock formation:
We saw more trains, (amazing) lagoons and landscapes before finishing at a basic accommodation in the desert, where we played drinking games until there was no more booze.
I took this pic outside the accommodation on day two:
On the third and final day, we were up early to head even closer to the Chilean border.
One of the highlights was Lago Colorado, a deep red lake coloured by the minerals in the water.
I’d never seen geysers like this before. It was amazing to see these steaming, bubbling pools that were like something from a different planet, spewing out clouds of pongy sulphur and spitting a thick black paste.
You had to be careful not to get too close and inhale too many fumes.
The final stop before crossing the Chilean border was at the thermal pools which were so relaxing with the hot waters juxtaposed against the chilled air.
Of all the tours we’ve done on the trip, this was right up there with the Inca Trail and was excellent value at about £80 for 3 days – food, transport and accommodation. Recommended!
Just over the border was San Pedro, a funny little town that felt very different to the rest of the places we went on to visit in Chile. It was a desert town with nice (but dusty) little streets with a big tourist scene and stupidly high prices. We stayed at Sol Atacama hostel, which was cheaper than most in town and nice and chilled.