My next destination was the city of Uyuni in the south western part of Bolivia. I had been hearing about this part of the country ever since I arrived in South America. This is becoming a must see in SA and a big tourist destination in Bolivia. I arrived in the evening and met up with a couple of others who were on my bus and we set out in setting up a tour for the next day. There are numerous companies that organize these tours and I had heard stories of some bad companies and bad experiences on the 3 day trip. After talking to a bunch of agencies and deciding which one we thought would be the best value for the best price, we signed up with a company called Andrea Tours. We set out on Saturday in this 4 Wheel drive for the vast Solar de Uyuni. All of our gear was packed on top and there were 6 of us in all on our tour plus a guide/drive and a cook.
We were set to be in the truck for most of 3 days, with stops at different sights along the way and 2 nights spent in small towns in the desert.
The big highlight of the tour and the main attraction is what is called the Solar. This is the largest salt flat in the world with over 14000 square kilometers of salt.
One of the first stops were the salt fields where they are harvesting the salt. There were piles and piles of salt (and yes we tasted it to make sure it really was salt) with truck spread around working in the field.
Loading the salt
Here one of the ladies was scooping the salt from the piles into a waiting truck.
Our next stop was a hotel made of salt. The walls as well as the furnishings inside (tables, chairs, beds, etc) were all made of blocks of salt. Although we did not stay in this hotel, it is a real working hotel and anyone can stay there.
Isla de Pescadores
The next stop (and where we stopped for a lunch of llama and papas fritas (french fries)) was the Islas de Pescadores. This is an island in the middle of the salt plains. It looks out of place in the middle of the salt because it is covered with cactus. These cactus are very much like the Saguaro cactus of Arizona.
The views from the island were stunning and as you climbed around the island you could see more and more of these beautiful cacti.
and you can see the vastness of the salt plain from this picture which shows the island, the salt and a mountain out in the distance.
Did you know I can balance on a Beer bottle?
One of the things that many people do when on the salt is take fun pictures. This one is of me standing on a beer bottle.
One of the largest resources in Bolivia is the llama which is eaten throughout the country. There are llama throughout Solar, just waiting to be eaten by an unsuspecting tourist.
Beyond the Salt
While the highlight of the Solar tour is the salt, the scenery on the rest of the tour is absolutely stunning. We left the salt on the first afternoon and continued south on our journey around the solar. There were countless snow capped mountains and many of them were extinct volcanoes. We stopped numerous times to see rock formation left from when these volcanoes were active.
We also stopped at numerous lakes to take in the view.
A number of the lakes we visited were home to flamingos.
This is a group picture taken by a really cool rock formation in the middle of the desert.
From the left is Neer (Israel), Sven (UK/Switzerland), me, Lander (Spain), Martina (Germany) and Inylo (Spain).
The second night we stayed beside the Laguna Colorado which is a small town about 4800 meters above sea level and I have to say, very cold. We huddled under our blankets as the temperature dipped to about -10 degrees Celsius.
The Laguna was beautiful.... a stunning red color, and even more so at sunset.
Cold morning, Hot bath
The morning of the 3rd day was quite cold. Made even colder because we were awakened at 5am and had the truck loaded by 530am on our way to the hot springs. This area of the Solar is geothermal which causes geysers and hot spring areas. I dipped my feet and legs into the thermal pool while the rest of the group went for a full dip (all before breakfast).
The next stop was Laguna Verde which usually has a nice green color, but since most of the lake was frozen, it wasnīt quite as green as normal.
More rock formations
We dropped off 2 people who were heading to the Chile border (so they didnīt have to backtrack down there) and then proceeded on a path back toward Uyuni. We stopped to see one more set of rock formations which were at the edge of a large lava flow.
Back to Uyuni
We arrived back in Uyuni, cold and tired and dirty. It was nice to check into a hostal and have a nice shower and good dinner after being on the road for 3 days.
I stayed in Uyuni the next day and hung out. Not much to do here except eat and relax on a park bench. I wandered the markets and the most interesting thing of the day was the egg shop (which are all over South America).
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