Salar De Uyuni
I’m very excited to cross the boarder from Chile to Bolivia today to begin my tour of Salar de Uyuni. Driving across the world’s largest salt lake is a must-do for every South American traveller. This 3 day trip is simply bursting with natural wonders: coral islands at over 4,000m multicoloured lakes; rocks sculpted by the wind; craters bubbling with lava; volcanic landscapes giving way to the eerie stillness of the desert. (125NZD inc. meals & access).
Laguna Blanca is where my tour was due to start, a lake that is white in colour caused by the high amount of minerals suspended in it. I arrived early and had breakfast with the one other person who was on the same 4×4 tour as me and took some photos of the beautiful lake and mountain range (possibly the Alps) where you can see Mountains in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia fro the same location. Stunning!
The first photo stop on our tour was Roca de Daly, a wonderful rock formation. We moved on quickly to Aguas Termales (volcanic hot pools) which looked amazing. I wasn’t dressed appropriately so only stood in the water up to my knees but it was lovely and hot.
We spend a lot of time driving in the 4×4 but the scenery is spectacular particularly as we approach Sol de Mañana Geysers, and see craters of boiling lava before continuing to the Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) where the water is the colour of jade… and arsenic-laden! It is here that I first feel the effects of the altitude (4900m) with a throbbing headache.
We continue through the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve of Andean Fauna: another highlight is the Laguna Colorada (Coloured Lagoon), so named on account of the striking contrast of the white shores, encrusted with salt and borax, and the flaming red of the algae-rich waters. This lagoon is also home to the world’s largest population of the rare James Flamingo. There were hundreds of them, beautiful. There were also llama around the lake so I hope to have secured some good photos.
It’s here in Huayllajara that we spend our first night. The accommodation is very basic, no showers and only electricity for set hours. The temperature dropped to -15 last night, thank god for my thermal sleeping bag.
After leaving Huayllajara we are excited about the day ahead as we will be spending most of the day travelling across the world’s largest salt lake (salar). We stopped at Arbol de Piedra (the stone tree), a giant rock that has been eroded by the wind at the base so its has formed the shape of a tree – amazing.
There is an estimated 10 billion tonnes of salt contained in the Salar de Uyuni
After an afternoon in an airy deserted village (our driver dropped the 2 of us off here while he visited his family, it was derelict, a very strange place to be left for an 1.5hrs) we arrived at our 2nd night accommodation which was a little more equipped than the previous night.
Our 3rd day is spent driving across the Salt Lake which is so impressive. It’s confusing, because it looks like snow and crunches like ice under your shoes but it is 100% salt. It can be up to 1m thick in some places and you can see nothing else for miles and miles.
The next stop is Fish Island (Inkawasi), a solitary outcrop of rock in the middle of a white ocean, where hundreds of giant cactus blooms (some over 1000 years old) – the only vegetation to be seen. This was one of the highlights I was looking forward to and it defiantly lived up to my expectations. We moved on to Hotel de Sal which used to be a hotel but is now a museum made entirely of salt. The be, chaired, tables and walls are all salt – amazing! Just as we were about to leave a truck approached with a blind folded llama in the back. `his legs were tied up under its belly an many locals in traditional costumes who placed the llama on a ‘table’ (which I later recognized it as an alter). It was at this point that I realised the poor animal was about to be sacrificed. I was mortified and concerned it was been done as a tourist attraction but the guide of our tour explained that it was been sacrificed by the local people to ensure and event that would be filmed there later in the week went smoothly. Bolivians are very superstitious and maintain many of these traditions. It was one of those moments that you can’t bare to watch but you can’t stop looking.
Thankfully we quickly moved on. We stopped at a small village where there was a market and another salt museum. This time there were cute baby llama’s everywhere, one particular one by the name of ‘hots’ caught my attention, she was just gorgeous and very friendly. This was our final stop before arvin gin Uyuni.
An absolutely unmissable trip for anyone visiting Bolivia.