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Bolivia day 11 – Salar de Uyuni

Posted by on June 28, 2011

All I can say about this day was wow! This was an amazing day to see Salar de Uyuni which I never thought was like. It’s one of the things where you have to go and see it for yourself! It is a must! The world’s biggest salt flats is a must see! And the best part of was that it was all part of a 3 day ordeal of Salar de Uyuni, Lagunas, mountains, desert, hostel stay, geysers, etc.

Map of Salar de Uyuni trip Sign, Bolivia

Here's a map of the Salar de Uyuni trip: 1st day - Salar de Uyuni, 2nd day - Lagunas, desert, rock formations, 3rd day - hot spring and another Laguna

In order to control the amount of tourists from doing stupid stuff or getting themselves hurt or killed, it has turned into a requirement to hire a tour guide to take anyone to go to Salar de Uyuni. The tour would be with a specialty driver on a 4 x 4 vehicle because otherwise you can get lost and die out there. I’ve heard from the guide I was with telling me that people have died out there before the rule changes so the government made it stupid-smarted so people don’t get all stupid about things. Otherwise, with the safety stuff off the side, have a lot of fun if you ever go to Salar de Uyuni because it was very much a one-of-a-kind place and with the pictures, well, they can show you some stuff, but it is a far better thing to go off and see for yourself!

The first place the tour guide took us was what looked like a junkyard of old trains. Apparently, in the past the companies that used to mine salt out of Salar de Uyuni utilized trains to transport the salt to Chile but when the venture was found to be never profitable, the trains were abandoned to a place where it is now called the “Cementerio de Trenes” which in English means Train Cemetery. It was kind of cool to go there and climb on the trains acting like a clown and to look out at the old scraps of metal which were now acting as a tourist trap but still, they were pieces of history. I had some fun playing around in the trains myself despite some of them missing chunks of metal.

Train graveyard, Uyuni, Bolivia

Train graveyard

Rusted trains of train graveyard, Uyuni, Bolivia

Yup, you can climb and have fun on these old, rusted old trains

Train graveyard, Uyuni, Bolivia

There I am with a huge missing pieces of a train

Afterwards, the guide got us back into the 4×4 land cruisers and we headed out to Salar de Uyuni but en-route, we stopped at a village very close-by. This village was basically a tourist trap that sold souvenirs to tourists but with an interesting aspect to it – they also sold salt for consumption and figurines made out of salt.

Bolivian shop stands near Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Many stands like this sold stuff like in this village

Store selling salt figurines near Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

This store was selling salt figurines inside

Taking a lick of salt crystals near Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

When the vendor wasn't looking, I took a quick lick of one of the salt crystals. Yup, it was salt alright.

The guide even showed us a place where people took the mined salt and prepared it for packaging for future selling.

Stal staging and packaging near Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salt staging and packaging

Well, enough of the village. It was time for the real deal and out to Salar de Uyuni, one of the places I had on my bucket list that I had to see in my lifetime. At first, it was nothing but driving and more driving through the desert. I really thought it was going to be another village but before I knew it, poof! We drove into some very shallow water, probably 1-3 inches deep, and right below the water was very white ground which I could safely presume was salt. What a view to see! Finally Salar de Uyuni!

4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

There it was! The start of Salar de Uyuni

Jeep 4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Looking back at another 4x4 at Salar de Uyuni

Trucks collecting, 4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

You can see truck mining some of the salt mounds while driving in Salar de Uyuni

This place was just simply amazing to look at and being on. One of the best parts was that I went during the wet season so the Salar was filled with water giving it an interesting reflection off the ground. You could see clouds and mountains being bounced off the water like a perfect mirror, like a big lake but in actually, it was not. It was just salt flats that made it look like one. It was just great to look at.

Reflection of clouds on the water, 4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

You can see the clouds being bounced back against the water of Salar de Uyuni

Skies and clouds reflected, 4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Great skies above Salar de Uyuni; some were even reflected on the water

Reflection of water, 4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

More reflections of water of Salar de Uyuni

Once the vehicles got to this building in the middle of nowhere which was considered the Salt Hotel, a real hotel, but not in business at the moment, that was when the fun began. Make sure you wear sandals or slippers as the salt can be sharp and painful to the human feet.

Water 4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Up-close shot of the salt and water

Salt Hotel building, 4x4, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

It's not Smackdown Hotel, it's the Salt Hotel, right in the middle of Salar de Uyuni

Walking around in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

At the Salt Hotel, before the fun began

One of the best things about the Salt Flats was the ability to do some interesting camera poses and shots by making things in perspective bigger or smaller by properly placing people and/or things from each other. See below.

Perspective photo, walking and stepping around in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Look, I'm towering and going to step over a very small person

Perspective photo, punching someone in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Now I'm punching a tiny person into the ground

A lot of people were having fun with this as they would put their friends on their shoulders or hands or even make them like little creatures to be stomped or punched or flicked off like annoying pests. Some even had good props making them look like small humans in a can or a pot or make the scene looking like someone was trying to run away from a giant stuffed animal. But in my opinion, the landscape was the best part. You could stay out there for hours and take great pictures and videos, but still, being there was the best part. One of my favorite parts was when the vehicle was driving, I would hang out of the window taking pictures and videos. The driver didn’t care and even allowed some people to go sit on top of the car and enjoy the view.

Hanging out in 4x4 jeep, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Just enjoying the view by hanging out of the car window

Salt mounds, reflection of skies and clouds, in 4x4 jeep, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

More salt mounds

Truckers and miners extracting the salt, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Truckers and miners extracting the salt

I would have thought that one day would be enough for just seeing the Salar de Uyuni but no, I was wrong. I am very much glad that I was wrong. This entire area has much to see and do and that several days were definitely required to see all what this place had to offer. So instead of going back to Uyuni, I stayed at a town called Alota where there was a hostel and it was part of the tour package. There definitely was more to see the next day.

Salt mounds, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

A salt mound up-close-and-personal

Reflection of skies and clouds, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

A great reflection from Salar de Uyuni

Salt beach, off-roading in the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

It looks like salt water and sand at a beach but it was just Salar de Uyuni