The Uyuni Salt Flat tour showed us an amazing side of Bolivia we’ll never forget as long as we’re alive. The sights were so incredible and the colors so crisp and intense that we often wondered if it was planned, painted, and dyed like an amusement park. Most of the famous museums, huge statues, and hyped-up tours we’ve been on we forget before the year’s out, but this place won’t get wiped away. My goal with this post is to show you why the Uyuni salt flat tour will never be overrated.
Amazing Sights Along the Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
The 6 of us were shivering with cold and excitement as we bounded away from Tupiza in the Land Cruiser that was to be our home for the next 4 days. The road turned to dirt as soon as we left downtown, and we soon forgot what a paved road felt like.
Within just a hour of leaving town we were at our first photo-stop, overlooking the carved mountains just outside Tupiza. I thought we’d be on the road a day before seeing anything interesting, but our faces were glued to the window the entire time!
Click here to read more about how we chose the tour company for our 4 day, 3 night tour and why we decided to leave from Tupiza instead of Uyuni.
We were so excited when we stopped at the first red lake we came to. There were flamingos in the water, more flying off in the distance, and nobody else in sight. What a beautiful place! (Click the pic below for the full panorama.)
Little did we know that there were thousands more flamingos waiting for us in the next few days.
We even found some looney ones!
This tour was action-packed thee best part about it was there was always something to see. We stopped to walk by almost every lakes and lagunas we came to! We were never bored or waiting for something neat to come along.
There Were Llamas Everywhere!
I love watching these funny creatures, a funny mix of sheep, camel, and goat. It’s totally different to see them when they’re out roaming around not in a cage at a zoo.
They cruise around in packs and rip up tiny sprigs of grass by the roots, always pausing to eye us curiously as they chewed away on the grass they just pulled.
Home-Cooked Eating in the Altiplano
We really enjoyed the lunch stops where we could walk around in the quietness of the mountains and just absorb the beauty of it all. Here, Alyssa and I are picking out a good place to build a house and raise a family while we waited for lunch.
The cooks sometimes aren’t as careful as we would have liked with keeping cold food cold, so we were sure to eat lots of yogurt and probiotics before the trip. Even still, Alyssa picked up some stomach bug soon after this photo was taken. Hard to know what it was from though since I didn’t get sick, even though we had eaten the same food.
Stone-Houses in Abandoned Mining Towns
We had a chance to stop in this old ghost town where they once mined silver from a nearby mountain. Most of the old house walls were in an amazing condition for being a few hundred years old. Some of the doorway arches were even still intact! Now that’s some good stone-building!
I could have spent all day exploring these ruins and taking pictures.
Llama Nursery Pen
So THIS is where all the llamas have been coming from! There were hundreds in this group pen! They put the pregnant llamas in here to have their babies, and care for the sick ones until they’re ready to go out and pull grass again.
They were really friendly, and nobody even got spit on. I was always worried my camera would get blasted!
They told us that the different colors of yarn on their ears tells who owns which animal. They let them roam free in the hills and gather them up every year or so to sell them for meat or use the fur for clothing, using the yarn colors to sort them by owner.
On the Road at 5,000 Meters!
The high altitude made this trip more tiring than we expected from driving around on curvy, bumpy dirt roads all day. Most of the trip was above 12,000 feet, and pushed up to 15,500 feet (5,000 meters) a few times, higher than the tallest mountain in the Continental US!
Our driver told us to chew on some coca leaves to help with the altitude effects, but having that taste in my mouth all day got old. His taste buds were probably worn out since he chewed leaves non-stop the whole trip. I guess it helped me though, because I didn’t have to join the half of our group of 9 that got sick on the first day of our trip.
The mountains and soil had beautiful pastel colors everywhere we looked! There were no trees and the vegetation was pretty small because of the high altitude – just enough for the llamas to rip out with their teeth.
Once and awhile we saw a group of Vicuñas in the hills. They’re smaller and more timid than the llamas, and their fur is much softer! Our guide told us that the first cut of fur (when it’s the softest ever) from a young Vicuña costs about $1,000 a kilogram! Uy! That’s just for the fur, and then they have to spin it and make a sweater or hat from it!
Pictures hardly do this place justice because the colors were so amazing. Such a green lake in the middle of a desert of nothingness! The sun was super bright, but it was still chilly because we were at such high altitude. A few rock piles over from this picture we found a geocache and logged our find with people from around the world.
A Hot Tub in the Middle of Nowhere?
Some locals pipe the hot water from a nearby hot spring into this pool and charge us tired travelers a few dollars to soak up some healing minerals in their spa. The hot water combined with the high altitude makes for a pretty potent hot-tub, and we could only stay in 15 minutes or risk passing out.
What a beautiful landscape to enjoy!
Geysers & Mud Pots
These mud puddles gurgled and burped excitedly as we were careful to not step on a hole that might collapse! The geysers were spewing hot steam that reeked of week-old eggs. We heard stories of travelers falling into the holes and being left behind by other tour companies! Eeep!
Blood Red Laguna Colorado
This was the most colorful lake I’ve ever seen in my entire life! I was so excited I couldn’t stop doing acrobats!
Hundreds of flamingos were feeding away in the lake, getting their red-orange color from the beta carotene in the red algae. They make a weird clicking/buzzing sound as they strain the algae from the water, and it’s eerie to hear hundreds of them buzzing at the same time! Our tour guide said they have to feed for around 10 hours each day to get enough algae from the water to survive! Now that’s patience!
We’d see a flock of them fly by in the distance like a big group of seagulls soaring by. It was unreal, watching these tall, long-legged creatures fight against the stiff wind as they stood in foot-deep water clicking for their supper.
We stayed 2 nights in little cabinas like the place below and one night in a hostel in the city of Uyuni. These little mud-brick houses were pretty basic, but they had comfortable beds and lots of blankets!
I was surprised at how cold it got at night, and we were even visiting in their summer! They didn’t have any hot water, and just a few hours of electricity, but it was a cozy place to spend the night and eat a meal with our group.
The local kids down the block watched us curiously from a doorway.
Arbol de Piedra – Tree of Rock
The famous Arbol de Piedra rock sculpture seems like just a pile of rocks from pictures, but it’s pretty amazing to see this 20 foot high lopsided monster in the middle of an empty desert. Our guide told us that the wind whips through this area and slowly erodes the rock by sandblasting it over thousands of years. It won’t last forever, and may be sandblasted away or fall over soon. There’s a few rocks nearby that had another geocache, so don’t forget to look for it too!
The mountains and lakes give stunning views throughout the whole trip!
This particular lake was pretty rank-smelling from all the flamingos. Good thing the wind was blowing the other way! We noticed this hilarious little sign with some rules, but weren’t quite sure where to find the skull and crossbones or toilets.
Laguna Negra – Black Lagoon
I was excited for a chance to explore this lake a bit more while we waited for the cook to make lunch. It was full of wildlife! Birds screeching as they chased each other through the lilipads. Llamas roamed around it and drank from the banks.
The rock sculptures at Laguna Negra were unreal too! This was my favorite – the Head Rock watching over it all. There were mushroom-shaped rocks, arches, and pillars – a climber’s paradise! I wish I had my climbing shoes to try out a few of the chunky rock sculptures.
The headless condor was just waiting for its next rider.
Just before getting to Uyuni we stopped to play on the old trains that had been left here to rust. It was quite the museum of old trains!
This place was in a popular music video filmed all over Bolivia – “La La La” – Check it out in Youtube!
We could climb on trains and play conductor to our heart’s content! This would be a good place to practice the ol’ jumping between trains move, haha.
The heavy beasts sit waiting for the next group of photographs.
Breathtaking Sunrise at the Uyuni Salt Flats
Our group rolled out of town in the morning before the birds were up so we could get to the salt flat before dawn. The sky was amazing that morning as it rose over the shimmering landscape, full of pink, deep orange, blue, and purple!
We made it to the Salar de Uyuni at last! Horray!
The salt flat was like a mirror from a thin layer of water on it, making the sky doubly amazing!
Someone thought it would be a good idea to build this Hotel de Sal completely out of salt blocks! I guess the salt doesn’t erode as much as normal table salt, because it’s still in great condition! The floor is salt, the beds are salt, and they even have salt chairs to sit on.
Funny Salt Flat Pictures
This is the reason why 90% of people come on the tour – to take funny pictures! Everyone comes with props and a wild imagination.
We found a dry area and took some famous optical illusion pictures with the perfect backdrop of a never-ending horizon. Here I’m barely hanging on to Alyssa’s umbrella as the wind whips me away.
Alyssa balancing on the top of a huge ladder.
Taking a ‘birdie’ from a giant water bottle.
We had finally reached the end of our trip. Sad for it be over, tired, and smelly we headed back to town and on our separate ways. This is certainly a trip that we’ll always remember, and now we know why everyone who comes to Bolivia passes by and visits the salt flats.
The places and wildlife we saw were so beautiful and unique, we’re confident that the Uyuni Salt Flat tour will never be overrated!
Click here to read how we chose our tour guide company and which city to start in.
Leave a comment below if you’ve been here!