Thursday June 9, I left Potosi with three new people I’d met in the hostel : Barbara from Brazil, Christine from Germany and Christophe from Mauritius. We took the bus to the city of Uyuni, a four-hour journey. Uyuni isn’t the most interesting city; we needed to get there for the start of our three-day tour.
When we arrived, we looked for a hostel and managed to find four beds in the hostel La Piedra Blanca for 75 Bolivianos per person with breakfast and hot water. Uyuni is an expensive city for tourists. We dropped off our bags and went to look for an agency to book our tour. As all four of us wanted to get to San Pedro de Atacama in Chili we decided to stick together. After asking a few agencies we finally booked at Cordilliera Traveller. The price of the tour is 900 Bolivianos per person, all included for 3 days and 2 nights : transportation, meals, accommodation, sleeping bags and transfer to San Pedro from the border. Some advice : don’t take cheaper agencies as the cars are often in a bad state and drivers tend to drink. Also, do not hesitate to ask for a discount if you’re a travelling in a group.
The same night we cooked at the hostel. We had a few bottles of wine and we even went to buy some for the next nights to take with us.
On Friday, we had to meet up at the agency at 10:30 am where we were joined by French couple, Antoine and Manon. Our driver, Hugo, arrived with the jeep, loaded our bags on the roof and then we set off to visit the train cemetery situated out side the city. I really enjoyed this place as I love trains and we managed to take some pretty cool pictures on the locomotives.
When we got back in the car, Hugo drove us to the Salar de Uyuni, the salt flats. When we got there we first did a photo shoot then we went to eat lunch in the Salt Hotel. Everything in this “house” in the middle of the desert is made out of salt : walls, tables, chairs.
After lunch, Hugo found another place where we could do a second photo shoot with all the group. Then we went to Incawasi, the only island on the salt flats which is open to visitors. In total there are 72 islands and all the others are protected and no visitors are allowed. Thousands of years ago, the Salar was a lake, now it’s the biggest salt reserve on the planet. The Salar measures about 12’000 km2 and the layers of salt reach 110 m deep. There is also a reserve of lithium which hasn’t been exploited as yet. On Incawasi, we were able to walk between the giant cactus to the highest point. At the top, we had a 360° view over the desert.
At the end of the afternoon, Hugo drove to our hostel outside the Salar situated at 3’600 m above sea level. The hostel was also made of salt and we literally slept on blocks of salt. The good thing was that we had hot water in the shower and didn’t need to pay 10 Bolivianos (as wrongly stated in some blogs). When we arrived, we had a cup of tea to warm up then we opened the first of four bottles of wine. By the end of the evening, there were a few overturned glassed on the table. Thankfully, we were in a salt house, so we used salt to absorb the stains.
After a very fresh night, we left around 8:30 to follow our programme. We saw multiple volcanoes, lagunas of different colours and we crossed an entire desert. The landscapes were incredible. At night, we slept in a refuge at 4’300 m and I must tell you that it was freezing. However, sleeping bags were very good as I was never cold; the beds do have a extra covers, just in case.
On the third day, we had an early start. We left the refuge at 6:30 am and we went up to 5’000 m to see some geysers and bubbling mud. We were all frozen when we got back in the car. The temperature was -10° Celsius. Barbara, the Brazilian girl (not used to cold) freaked out because she couldn’t feel her toes and thought they were about to drop off. With Christine we reassured her and said it would take a little while to warm up. And of course, half an hour later everything was back in order. The next stop was the hot springs but none of us had the courage to go for a dip as it was too cold. On our way to the border we stopped at the Salvador Dali desert, site of inspiration for the famous artist. We arrived at the Bolivian border situated in the middle of nowhere, it’s a no-man’s land. We got our passports stamped then took the bus to San Pedro.
These three days were absolutely amazing. I saw incredible landscapes, each new one just as beautiful and impressive as the last. This trip is clearly one of the top things to do in Bolivia and I highly recommend it, you will love it ! It is also possito do the tour from San Pedro to Uyuni.