(This is NOT a sponsored post, the companies I mention are small local companies that I recommend looking up instead of going through a 3rd party vendor)
Since I returned from my South America trip, I’ve been asked many times what was my favorite part. The whole trip was so different from hiking mountains to scuba diving. But one of the most unique things I did on the trip, or even in my life, was visit the salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia.
Uyuni is home to the largest salt flats in the world running across 4,086 sq mi. Thousands of people flock to this area each year to get a chance to take mind boggling photos.
How To Get There
The main port to get to Uyuni is from La Paz. I suggest spending a few days in La Paz since there are a lot of cool things to see (future post to come). Taking a flight will set you back around $150 (when I booked), but was only a 40 minute flight. A taxi from the airport to my hotel was 15 Bolivianos.
Another option is a sleeper bus. Much cheaper around $30, but will take you around 8-10 hours. Many people I met took an overnight bus and joined a tour group to the salt flats and the southern loop to the red lagoon as soon after they arrive.
Uyuni Option 1
There are a couple options you can take when visiting Uyuni. The main option most people do is to go on a day trip to the salt flats and then take a 3 day ride down to the Red and Green Lagoons, Geysers Sol De Mañana, Polques, Dali Desert, and the Uturunku Volcano. So you don’t even have to spend the night in Uyuni except maybe the night you get back. The only downside is you are stuffed in a beat up car driving for 12 hours a day and once you make it down to these beautiful sights, you end up staying at dingy hostels.
Uyuni Option 2
This is what I did. I flew into Uyuni at night and took at taxi to my hotel, La Petite Porte, which was one of my favorite places I have ever stayed. My reservation was made online and paid via pay pal. They were the winner of the Trip Advisor Hotel Awards 2017 and they definitely deserved it! Every night you are given a menu where you get to pick what you want for breakfast and the time it will be delivered to your room (definitely try the French toast and hot chocolate). The beds are comfortable, the rooms are spacious, and I never had trouble with the wifi.
I took a day trip to the salt flats with a local travel company that wasn’t great so I won’t mention them. We started at the Train Cemetery, visited Dakar, the first hotel made out of salt, ate lunch on the flats, went to a salt facility where we learned how salt goes from blocks to the salt we put on our food, ventured out to the flats, checked out the cactus island that holds 30 species of cacti, and finally ended the day at the reflection salt flats.
I decided I wanted to do another trip out to the flats to do some stargazing. With miles of nothingness, the uyuni salt flats are a great place to see the stars in the dark sky.
So my second day I went on a trip with another local company called Hodaka. Side note, the salt flats picture only come out well with an iPhone… I think it has to do with the settings. I own a Samsung so I asked someone in both groups to take pictures and send them to me. It was July aka winter in Uyuni, so I came prepared with a hat, gloves and lots of layers. We were given rain boots for the water salt flats, but I highly recommend bringing wool socks because after the sun set it was FREEZING! Totally worth it! The numbness in my hands and feet eventually went away, but the views I saw will last a lifetime.
Uyuni Option 3
Now that you’ve done your Salt Flat excursions, let me tell you about a new trip that not many people know about. Two guys, Johnny and Jesus, who use to be tour guides decided to open up their own private company. They will take you to all of the usual destinations in Uyuni, but they have a little secret up their sleeves. They’re a two man one car company is called Bolivian Salt and they are the only company to go north up to the small village of Tomave.
About 5-6 years ago the people of Tomave were starving. This was a very poor village without electricity or running water. Then quinoa became popular in the US and Europe. Would you believe one of the biggest exporters of quinoa comes from this region? Soon the village came into wealth, but you wouldn’t know it as the town’s people choose to live a simple life.
The ride through Tomave is short as there isn’t much to see there. The excitement begins on the other side. This tour is so new that there aren’t names for many of the things you will see. Your English speaking guide, Johnny, will tell you all about the history of this region, point out the different animals you will pass, and take pictures for you along the way. By the way, you get all of this land to yourself! There is literally no one around for miles. See bright turquoise lagoons in between rainbow striped mountains, experience the desert that hasn’t been walked on since the last time Bolivian Salt took a tour group up there, eat a home cooked meal with llamas grazing off in the distance.
I’m all about transparency when I review a company to my readers. When I went on this trip there were no bathrooms. We were gone all day, so I ended up peeing behind a rock. But to me I didn’t mind, with all the hiking I do it wasn’t the first time I’ve had to squat in nature. Johnny did say he was looking into getting a porter potty placed up there in the future.
*Remember when you visit non wealthy countries that you try to find the small local business and support them by giving them your business and promoting them on your social media*
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