The Salar de Uyuni was definitely on my top-5 list of places I wanted to visit in South America. Despite having slept only 1 hour on the night bus ride from La Paz, I was very excited to being so close to seeing the salt flats in person.
With the recommendation from my guidebook, Jakob, Owain, and I picked Red Planet Expedition as the company for our 3-day tour which also included the Reserva Nacional De Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. The price per person was 1200 bolivianos. The whole group would include 2 cars and 11 tourists, 6 in one car (mine), and 5 on the other one. The cars were two Toyota Land Cruisers.
We departed at 11am. It was a little bit cramped inside the car, especially on the 3rd row of seats where legroom was very limited. In order to fair, the 6 of us took turns throughout the 3 days to take the punishment of seating on the back. Aside from Jakob, Owain and I, we were also joined by Warren from New Zealand, Miguel from Peru, and Lewis from England. As usual in these parts of the world, you get an eclectic group. Our tour guide was Oscar, who was friendly, knowledgeable, and very motivated to show us a good time.
Our first stop right away was the trains’ graveyard right outside of Uyuni.
Next up was the highlight of the tour: the salt flats, or Salar De Uyuni. I was a little disappointed that the color of the salt was brownish instead of white. The color change is due to the recent rainfall.
With the help of our very patient tour guide, we took a few of the classic perspective pictures that everybody seem to take here. Oscar had an array of poses and made sure we got the perfect shot for each of them.
We then drove to Isla Incahuasi (Fish Island) which is right in the middle of the giant salt flats. The entrance fee to the island was 30 bolivianos, which is not included in the price of the tour.
After leaving the salt flats, we stopped at the village of Agua Quisa for the night. The walls and bed were made out of blocks of salt. I started feeling very cold and not so well right before dinner, so I skipped it and went to the warmth of my bed very early. I ended up sleeping over 11 hours and felt great the next morning.
Day 2 started with a visit to a group of rocky formations which included the Arbol De Piedra (Rock Tree) and a few lagoons with pink flamingos in them. We were already then in the Reserva Nacional De Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, which required a 150 bolivianos entrance fee (also not included in the tour’s price).
We also visited the steamy Sol De Mañana volcano.
The second night was spent in a rustic hotel next to some hot springs. The food had been great up to that point, but both the food and service at this hotel was sub par. We were given only wine to drink for dinner, no other beverage was offered. The next morning, we didn’t have enough utensils to eat our breakfast. I want to believe that this was the hotel staff’s fault, and not so much the tour company’s fault because the service up to that point (and after) was great.
After dinner and before going to bed, we spend some time in the hot springs by the hotel. The temperature was freezing outside, but the hot springs provided some of the much needed warmth that our bodies needed. What made the whole thing more spectacular was the clear sky full of stars above our heads. Apparently this tour company is the only one staying in this hotel, providing access to the hot springs in the evening. Most other tour groups arrive there in the morning, which can make the small hot springs pool very crowded.
The last day of our tour starts with a visit to the Dali’s Desert …
… followed by the Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), which wasn’t green when we got there.
The last stop of our tour was in a place of beautiful canyons and frozen river streams called Catal. We had a picnic lunch there. This was the most beautiful spot of the whole tour for me.
After this was a long drive back to Uyuni.
I really enjoyed our tour with Red Planet Expedition. I thought our guide Oscar made the extra effort to make sure we had a memorable time. The sights and spots we visited were varied and unique. The food was pretty decent except for the the dinner and breakfast we had at the second night’s hotel.
I would like to go back one day and visit the salt flats during the rainy season when there’s a thin sheet of water on top of the salt, making it look like a mirror.