Uyuni’s salt flats were one of the main reasons for choosing Bolivia as destination for my backpacking trip. Everyone has already seen them in car commercials, “The 25 most amazing/beautiful/special places around the world” lists and I personally have been wanted to go for quite a long while.
So I was finally there, 7 am, after a 14h bumpy, freezing bus ride from La Paz. Two hours later we were already sitting in a jeep on the way to Uyuni’s train cemetery, where hundreds of old trains are stored since the beginnings of Bolivian coal mining and used to repair other trains coming along the way.
The whole region of Uyuni and Potosi is incredibly rich in natural resources such as gold, minerals and also has one of the largest collections of lithium worldwide. On top of that, it is an extremely beautiful region: The next stop of our tour was on the world’s biggest Salt Flat “Salar de Uyuni”, the endless white which gives endless opportunities for creativity in playing with the perspective – people are hunted by dinosaurs, build human towers or drink out of beer cans bigger than their houses. Back to the jeep racing over the salt crust, we are about to arrive at the Salt Hotel, which is entirely built out of salt blocks, but is out of function for many years now because of its negative effect on human health and big environmental issues. Nowadays, the building with its salt furniture is still there and can be visited by tourists crossing the salt flat.
Other stops on the way include a cactus island, volcano viewpoints, tree-, parrot- or man-shaped lava rocks and dusty deserts. All of them are situated between 4000 and 5000 meters of altitude, which even though we have been traveling to places above 3000m the last week and expected our bodies to be acclimatized still had a great effect on us, so we are all more than grateful for the beds we found in a simple hospedaje after a three hour search. The next morning, we get up early and start heading south, towards seven-color-mountains, another salt flat, and colorful lagoons with pink flamingos and end the day with amazing shots of the milky way, that I have never seen that clear with my own eyes ever before (and were totally worth staying out in the freezing cold).
Our third and last day starts when the sun is not even up and leads us to the highest point of our trip: The geysers, steaming hot holes in the ground that combine magically with the sunrise. After already seeing the colorful, the blue and the red lagoon we finally cross the green one of our list and start going back to Uyuni, but not without jumping in the hot springs of the volcanic region, which reach 40°C even though there is snow right next to them. Personally, that might have been one of my favorites of the three-day tour, even though of course the vast wide Salar definitely deserves being on all these “top places of the world” lists. All together, I totally agree that you should visit the Uyuni region once in lifetime, even though the tour is very exhausting – but “who wants to see the beautiful, needs to suffer first”, like a German saying explains.
by: Clara Bütow