The strangest and most mesmerising place I’ve ever been to. Welcome to Salar De Uyuni.
Nothing but blinding white for miles in every direction; the far-away horizon blending seamlessly into the turquoise sky. It feels like a desert, yet looks like an ocean. Located in South
Located in South Bolivia and bordering Chile, this a must-do on the tourist trail through South America. People from all over the world head here to admire this natural wonder – but perhaps more importantly – capture some crazy perspective-destroying photos.
I visited the salt flats as part of a three-day tour; the salt flats on day one, and then traversing South West Bolivia in a 4×4 seeing spectacular mountains, deserts, multi-coloured lakes, geysers and natural thermal baths.
One of the downsides of traveling alone is that when you join a group tour like this one, much of your experience is based on the people you are put with. I’ve not had any bad experiences as such, but there are definitely some people you have a good time with and some people you have a great time with. This trip was by far the best group tour I’ve ever been on – because we chose the group ourselves.
Kate came with me from Peru (we’d met volunteering together)and we met up with Heather (also from the UK), who I had met in Lima. We were joined by three guys, Jatin (who Heather knew) and Jean-Luc, both from South Africa, and finally, David from Germany. I knew we would get on well when someone suggested buying rum for the trip! It became our go-to beverage for the next three days, each trying not to spill from our plastic cups as we lurched across the terrain in our beaten-up landrover.
I knew we would get on well when someone suggested buying rum for the trip! It became our go-to beverage for the next three days, each of us trying not to spill from our plastic cups as we lurched across the terrain in our beaten-up landrover.
By the end of the first day, we all had nicknames and were throwing banter around like we’d known each other for years. The first stop from Uyuni where the tour started was ‘The Train Cemetery’. It didn’t sound too appealing but was actually really interesting. Abandoned trains sit decaying in the sand,graffitied and rusting in the sunlight and a symbol of Uyuni’s refusal to send their children to war.
After a quick stop there, we headed to the main attraction. It turns out Jean-Luc is pretty handy with a camera, and he took some amazing photos of us all on the salt flats; sitting buddha-style on each other’s hands, treading on each other’s heads and being chased by dinosaurs. It was rainy season, so our driver also drove to the ‘mirror’ where the rainwater gathers, reflecting the skies above.
The best part of day one by far was the sunset. We asked our driver to pull over just as it started to get dark, taking more photos and watching in awe as the landscape turned from bright, cold white to warm shades of burnt orange, before plunging into darkness. The dramatic lightning storm in the distance made it even better.
The accommodation on night one was a six-bed dorm room in a hostel in the middle of nowhere, with a warming dinner of soup and chicken. The first day had flown by, but it turns out we were the lucky ones. There were two other cars that left with us and one had gotten stuck in the wet salt, and they weren’t rescued into 3am in the morning. By which time we were (thankfully) tucked up asleep.
Because of this, there was a slight delay on the second day, but we were soon back in the 4×4, leaving the salt flats in our wake and heading off to explore desert rock formations and a red lake, where flamingoes can be seen in every direction.
That night we stayed in another very basic accommodation. Despite a lack of electricity, no shower, and some minor disagreements with the owners over the rooms, it turned out to be great fun.
As well as our group, there were two other cars’ full of people and we stayed up far too late playing drinking games I’ve never heard of before. They all seemed to involve making lots of noise, much to the disdain of those who wanted to sleep (sorry!)
Unfortunately, the guide who was due to wake us at 4am to see the sunset also indulged in a little too much vino…and as a result didn’t wake us until 6am. We were on a backfoot, but headed out as quick as we could. First stop – the thermal baths!
I was the only one to go in from our car, getting a bit over excited, tripping up and pretty much falling in head first. I fall over a lot, so luckily the embarrassment didn’t last long. The bruises and grazes on my knees and elbows did though.
But it was worth it; sitting in the warm waters looking out over yet another amazing landscape was the perfect end to the trip.
Once I’d made it out of the thermal baths in one piece it was time for our group to say our goodbyes. Heather, Jatin, David and Jean-Luc were crossing the border to Chile, while Kate and I were heading back to La Paz to fly up North to the jungle.
If you ever get the chance to visit the salt flats, do it! And fingers crossed you’ll get a group as good as mine.