Spread over 10,000km², the Salt Flats of Bolivia, flocked by photographers and tourists offer some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet and not to be missed. The salt is over ten meters thick in the centre and is really spectacular during the wet season, when it is covered by a thin sheet of water causing it to reflect against the blue sky.
Most will start their trip in Uyuni, a small town with not a lot to do but offers cheap accommodation if you are too tired to start the same day after getting off an overnight bus or want an extra night to relax before leaving once you’ve seen the salt flats. It’s also the best place to book tours as guides are more knowledgeable and it’s cheaper to book here than in another town or city. Tours run between a day and four in length. The one day tour will give you the gist of the vastness but you’ll miss the experience of staying overnight and watching the sunset and rise. The four day tour doesn’t add much to the two or three day option but will take you to the Chilean border so works well if that’s where you’re intending to go next.
Most agencies are the same price and offer almost exactly the same trip so don’t worry about shopping around for price, instead see which guides you prefer more or which food options sound better. It’s always best to ask fellow travelers which company they booked with or look at up to date information in the newest guidebooks or on the web to see if there were any accidents or incidents with a particular company.
I went for the two day option and was not disappointed, well, except maybe for the food. The trip starts off at the train graveyard, fun to climb on but where almost all tours start so very crowded. After that we headed to Colchani, Bloques de Sal, a small village seven kilometres north of Uyuni that survives off of the processing of salt. Again, very touristy but interesting to see carvings of animals created with salt and buy a souvenir if you wish.
The third stop is the salt-mining area where salt is dug from the plane into piles weighing a ton each, and left to dry in the sun before being bottled and sold. From there, we went to the Salt Hotel, which ironically isn’t a hotel anymore but this is where most tours had lunch and gave each group an hour or two to take pictures with some toys.
We then drove to the edge of the flats, walked along with the flamingos in a lagoon, visited a llama farm and watched the sun set with dinner and slept in a salt hotel.
We woke at 5am to see the sunrise before having breakfast and visiting a small museum before climbing the ominous Volcano Uturuncu (6020m) to see a mummified family left intact in a cave.
We had lunch and then made are way back to Uyuni, stopping at Isla de los Pescados, originating from the fish-like appearance of the island’s reflection in the wet season. There is a fee of BOB30 to visit this island of fossilized coral covered in 1000-year-old cacti in the middle of the Salar. The cacti are nine or ten metres tall and grow at a rate of one centimetre a year despite being surrounded by salt. The last stop was a small volcanic pool and then around an hour drive back to town.
Overall the trip was fantastic and everyone was very happy with the amount we saw over two days, unfortunately, not everything is included in the price, you’ll have to have change every time you need a toilet and some entrance tickets weren’t included either but for the price, it was a truly whimsical experience being surrounded by endless salt.