Arrival in Uyuni
Most people arrive in Uyuni either by air or by bus – we’ll help you arrange whichever option you prefer – and once you’ve checked into your hotel, the rest of the day is yours to explore. Uyuni is a dusty little salt-mining town at 3700m altitude, and to be honest there isn’t too much to do here, but there’s a scattering of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained for the evening. We recommend getting an early night anyhow, since the real adventure starts tomorrow.
Across the Salt Flats to San Juan
This morning you’ll be picked up in a sturdy 4×4 – you’ll usually be joined in your jeep by some other travellers, depending on your group size, as well as an English-speaking guide and a cook. The trip starts off with a bang, as you’ll be heading straight to the famous Salar de Uyuni. During the dry months, the Salar is an seemingly endless sea of perfectly flat salt plain, and in the wet season a thin layer of rainwater produces an incredible mirror effect. Either way it’s a spectacular sight as you drive across the surface – just don’t forget your sunglasses!
After a while you’ll reach Isla Incahuasi, an island in the middle of the salt flats which is covered by cacti – one of the only plants which can survive in this environment. Here you’ll stop for lunch with views across the expanse of the Salar, before a short trek to the other side of the island. Back in your 4×4, you’ll head to village of San Juan, on the edge of the Salar, where you’ll spend the night in a basic lodge.
South to the high Altiplano
The next day you’ll begin to ascend further into the Atacama – one of the driest places on earth and home to some bizarre and spectacular sights. You’ll need to take it easy and stay hydrated, to make sure the high altitude doesn’t take its toll. Today you’ll view the huge and active Ollagüe volcano (from a distance!), and see rock formations formed over millions of years which are often likened to a Salvador Dali painting. It’s really as close as most of us will get to experiencing another planet.
It’s a strange quirk of nature, but flamingos thrive up here since they feed on algae which would be poisonous to most other creatures. This algae also colours the lagoons a variety of striking colours, from deep red to bright green, and it’s a fascinating sight to see these birds living here. You’ll pass by a few of these spots on the way to Laguna Colorada, at 4,300m, where your lodge for the night is situated. Again, it is very basic, and it does get very cold here at night. However, you can console yourself with one of the clearest star-filled night skies you’re likely to see.
Lakes and geysers on the way back to Uyuni
It’s an early start today, so you’ll get to see the sunrise over this lunar landscape. You’ll be ascending to around 5000m this morning, taking in the geysers at Sol de Mañana and taking the chance to bathe in 30 ºC thermal pools nearby. Next, you’ll continue to Laguna Verde – an iron-rich and vibrantly green volcano lake near the Chilean border – and the crystal clear Laguna Blanca. You’ll descend back to Laguna Colorada for lunch before you begin your journey back towards civilisation. It’s a few hours drive through the same startling landscapes, and you’ll arrive back in Uyuni in the early evening after a quick visit to the eerie train cemetery.
Departure from Uyuni
After a sound and well-earned sleep in your Uyuni hotel, it’s time to move on to the next stop on your Bolivian adventure….
*The itinerary described above can occasionally be a little different due to weather conditions.
A peek at your accommodation
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Stay in a Salt Hotel
Instead of staying in Uyuni itself during your time there, and for something a little bit special, you can choose to stay in a hotel situated outside of the town, on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni. The hotel has all the amenities and comfort of a normal hotel, but has been built using blocks of salt, and boasts views across the empty expanse of the Salt Flats.
Prices from: £ 595 - per person - Special Stay accommodation
Combine this trip with...
Where to next? This trip goes together perfectly with this: