Last updated on: Nov 30, 2020
If you’re looking for an amazing outdoor experience that is not [yet] plagued by overtourism, an Uyuni Salt Flats tour is in store.
After transiting across southwestern Bolivia, my small group arrived in Uyuni, Bolivia, where we spent an amazing day exploring the epic scenery of Uyuni, and we were not disappointed!!
Our base was the Hotel Palacio de Sal, which is located in the town of Colchani, about 22 kilometers north of Uyuni. As its name indicates, this hotel, which sits on the edge of the salt flats, is constructed mostly from salt blocks.
Since we visited in the Bolivian winter, nights got extremely cold, so we were provided electric blankets and advised to layer our clothes when we went to sleep. The reason is there was no in-room heating.
The next day, our first stop was the Train Cemetery, or Cemeterio de Trenes, a ‘graveyard’ of more than 100 abandoned trains.
In the late 1800s, the British built rail lines in Uyuni to facilitate the transport of minerals to the Pacific Coast, but due to the decline of the mining industry, the rail system was abandoned in the 1940s. Now, the train cemetery is a tourist attraction.
The train cemetery felt like an adult jungle gym, and the altitude of 12,000 feet above sea level made climbing the train cars a lot more challenging!
After leaving the train cemetery, we visited a salt production facility and learned how the raw material is scooped into mounds and allowed to dry before being processed.
We learned that the lines in the salt blocks represented the rainy season and sediments in the salt. And it was cool to actually hold a block similar to the ones used in our hotel.
Next, we ventured into the salt flats, where there was nothing but salt as far as the eye could see.
After a short drive, we got out of our SUV and began biking to the Dakar Rally monument, which sits next to the first salt hotel built on the salt flats.
The Dakar Rally (formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally) was an annual off-road car racing event, which traveled from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. However, due to security concerns, the event was moved to South America, and the route travels from Salta, Argentina to Uyuni.
Although it’s no longer operational, tour groups use the original salt hotel as a place to sit and have lunch. It’s also an important restroom stop, too.
We had an outdoor lunch with portable tables, stools, and table cloths to complement the delicious meal provided by our guides from Quechua Connection 4WD. I can’t speak highly enough about them and highly recommend them. They were AMAZING and so was lunch!
After lunch, we headed deeper into the salt flats for some iconic shots. The uniquely breathtaking terrain was otherworldly, and provided the backdrop for some amazing photos. Stepping on the salt felt like stepping on very compact snow. It looked like snow, too, or some place on the moon.
We stopped at Incahuasi Island, which means ‘Inca house’ in the Quechua language. This rocky ‘island’ in the middle of the salt flats sits atop the remnants of an ancient volcano and was submerged under a giant lake thousands of years ago.
It was here that I took a short rest at a salt table and bench after an even shorter walk among the giant cacti. It was a brief visit, because walking at any incline at this altitude is extremely difficult.
While sitting on the salt chair, I took in the scenery and found there to be something very intimate about the angle of the light and the shadowy effect it created against the giant cacti.
To cap off this amazing adventure, we drove further inland to have a safari-style sundowner while watching the sunset.
The streaks of pink and gold hovered over the horizon like a halo and beautifully contrasted the white sand below and the pale sky above.
This sunset was definitely one of the most memorable sunsets I’ve ever seen, which is saying a lot! But it got downright frigid after the sun went down.
On the whole, this entire experience was so much fun, and I was so happy to share it with fellow travelers.
Upon departing Uyuni, if you fly to La Paz, you’ll be treated to some spectacular views from the wing!
Have you done an Uyuni Salt Flats tour before? Or, is it on your wish list?