We reached Uyuni within four hours from Potosi. Again due to the high altitude the route was very scenic. Due to Potosi’s thin air we were happy to descend 400m which helped a lot in terms of sleeping quality. After filling up our tank with two rounds of 10l for the local price 🙂
After checking into our hostel (300 BOB for a family room with three beds and a private bathroom) we went straight to the office of “Salty Desert Aventures” the tour company we picked for our 3 days / 2 nights expedition into Salar de Uyuni and Reserva Nacional Andina Euduardo Avaroa (RNAEA) . They were recommended to us by a British couple in the Amazon lodge. There are uncountable many tour companies in Uyuni and the choice is not an easy one although most offer an almost identical itinerary. What often makes a difference is the quality and state of the driver. There are a lot of reported drunk drivers and Salty Desert Adventures received in this respect good reviews on Tripadvisor.
We paid the negotiated 800 BOB per person (initially 850 BOB) – a fair price for two nights of accommodation and three days of food. However, it was the first time in South America for us that the kids had to pay the full adult price.
We met the next day at 10am at the office. We brought snacks, sun screen, warm clothes and three bottles of wine which all were clever choices 😉 It was just the six of us in the car plus our driver Wilder. We refrained from booking extra an English speaking guide (USD 150 extra) and hence our driver turned out to be our driver and Spanish speaking guide which was fine for us. We took the two child seats with us and off we went in our Toyota Landcruiser with our driver Wilder.
The first stop was the cemetery of trains, a collection of decommissioned vapor driven trains from the 1940s and before. Our group had mixed feelings about this visit – some liked it and some not. Nevertheless, the mountains in the background gave pretty good motives together with the trains. Furthermore, there was a small Bolivian clothes market where Julia and Irina could not resist from purchasing scarves 🙂
Next we visited a small village where a small salt plant was located. The kids liked it it a lot and tried to grain the salt themselves. We bought some salt as a souvenir for our parents and this time Leonard and Lothar could not resist from buying some Alpaca clothes from the adjacent market. The salt is taken from the salt flat and is mainly consumed nationally.
Then finally we entered the sand desert! The road changed from a dusty and rocky brown to a shiny white. There were we: Salar de Uyuni 🙂 Our first stop was at a decommissioned salt hotel which functioned as our lunch spot. Our driver Wilder brought some yummy Quinoa, potato mince casserole and salad.
In front of the salt restaurant stood a huge memorial of the Rally of Dakar which took place here in 2015. When asked why only once our driver told us that the salt caused to much trouble to the vehicles 😉 Apart from the statue we came across natural springs which were to our surprise cold:
After lunch we continued our drive through the salt desert and stopped in the middle of it for a funny picture session. All drivers and guides are well-prepared for this part and we had a lot of fun posing with beer and wine bottles, escaping from dinosaurs or playing dwarfs in the hands of our beloved ones. Through the unique white (salt) and blue colors (sky) and the lack of contrasts this all turned out to be pretty authentic 😉
At late afternoon we visited Isla da Incahuasi (35 BOB per adult), a bizarre island in the middle of the salt flat. It’s basically a huge rock covered with sand and cactus. Apparently, the Incas used it as a hideout for a night to rest when crossing the desert.
Shortly before the sunset we crossed a part of desert which was partly flooded and where a good suspension and good tires were really helpful. It was the first time that we thought that we did not try it with Oscar. In the car mirrors we could see how the sun slowly started to set and as it began to hide behind the surrounding mountains we stopped in order to watch it.
It was an amazing sunset with reddish colors on the mountains and a mix of magenta, white and baby-blue on the other side. Magic! Some brave ones even stepped into the ice cold water!
With the sunset the temperatures immediately dropped and hence we continued to our salt hostel in a small village. We got lucky and got one of the better rooms (kids bonus!) although the owner refused to open the private bathroom without paying extra. We denied. The rooms themselves were quite authentic and cozy though there was no heating but sufficient blankets. The night was cold and all of us had dry mouths the next morning – clearly the salt effect 😉
The next day we headed to RNAEA. The route led us through a dry desert which was surrounded by volcanoes. We stopped at railways and took again fun pictures with great perspectives in the back. A couple of miles south we reached the main road to the Chilean border. From here it was just a couple of minutes to Valle de Rocas, a weird landscape of ancient volcano rocks. In the back we observed steam ascending from volcano Lincancabur.
Later we stopped at huge rock in the middle of the desert and saw a species of animals we had never seen before: Mountain viscachas, some kind of XXL hamsters 😉
Then we drove up a very rocky path which finally convinced us that it was good that we had not tried it with Oscar 🙂 We arrived at two beautiful Lagunas Altiplanicas (Laguna Colorado) where we were able to spot many flamingos. The mountains showed themselves in the reflection of the water – a mind blowing picture!
At the second lagoon we had lunch and then continued to Laguna Rojo. This lagoon resembles red due to the sun beams which shine on the alga contained in the water. Another magnificent view!
Then we headed to our hostel which was quite basic and again the night got quite cold (below 0). But that’s the price you pay if you want to experience something special.
The next morning we had to get up super-early at 4:30am in order to see all things according to the itinerary. The sky was super-beautiful and one could even see the milky way! First, shortly before sunrise we arrived at a field of geysers which was nice but not spectacular. Much nicer was the stop at the Termas de Polques where we had to bring ourselves to jump into the warm waters at an outside temperature slightly above 0! It was worthwhile the effort and very rewarding 😉
The next stop was Desierto de Deli, an obscene desert with red=brown mountains. Afterwards we visited Laguna Blanca and Laguna Verde which due to the lack of wind unfortunately hardly looked white or green – a bit of a disappointing stop.
Before heading back to Uyuni we got to see two more things: A weird rock formation created by strong winter winds called “Arbol de piedra” and a beautiful, hidden lagoon where we even got to walk to for a couple of minutes. Finally, we had lunch and got very close to some Alpacas:
Around 5pm we were back in Uyuni and fully satisfied. Salar de Uyuni and the Reserva Nacional are very special places and definitely among our top 5 on this journey! A must-see when in South America!