Bolivia – May 7 to 14
Uyuni >> La Paz >> Copacabana
Uyuni (Tour and City)
Time to start one of the things I was most excited for visiting in my entire trip! The Uyuni Salt Flats (and what comes before).
Tour Day 1:
We woke up early to get a transport to the Bolivian border. This was extremely windy and cold (I’m sure that, with wind chill, it was below freezing). Once all the immigration items are taken care of, we head off in two jeeps (a guide and 6 passengers each)! Barely a mile or two up the road we run into two lakes—Lago Blanco and Lago Verde. Wow, the colors are insane. Lago Blanco literally looks like clouds of white paint are below the surface (which makes sense since the material that’s naturally in the lake is used to make paint with). Lago Verde is a brilliant green color that was caused from a substance that is harmful to humans that is below the surface. The combination of sun and wind allows the intense green color to show through strongly. After this we stopped by some hot springs, but considering I did this the day before, which was prettier and more natural, and it wasn’t like 40 degrees outside with heavy winds, I decided to relax and enjoy the landscapes.
From here we got to see some volcanic activity that was about 16,000 ft high (highest I’ve been yet on this trip) before we headed to Lago Colorado, one of the most amazing lakes I’ve ever seen in my life. Flamingos are in this lake year-round, and thanks to the food that lives in this lake (a pink micro shrimp), the lake itself has a bright pink color. Unfortunately my photos don’t do it true justice, but the color was amazing. And yes, there were hundreds of wild flamingos relaxing in the lake.
Now we headed off to our first stop for the night. I was ready for warmer areas and some hot food. As much beauty as I saw on this day, the cold was really getting to me. These temperatures were equal to or maybe slightly higher than Patagonia, but the wind and lack of hiking (to keep my body warm) made it feel substantially worse.
Tour Day 2:
Honestly, for me, this day as a whole was certainly my least favorite. We saw some really interesting red rock formations, got to (very) dangerously climb them, and finished the day with Laguna Negra. Laguna Negra was very pretty, but nothing like the previous day. The rock formations were really interesting and worthwhile if you haven’t seen anything like it before, but honestly, Utah and Arizona are much more interesting in my opinion.
That evening we stop right on the edge of the Uyuni Salt Flats to a hostel that was, literally, made of salt. It was surprisingly nice and really interestingly made! Once the sun went down, I tried to go outside and do some stargazing, as it’s supposed to be insanely amazing here, but with the moon being very close to full, I wasn’t able to see the Milky Way as I had hoped.
Tour Day 3:
Finally! This was the day I’d been waiting for. We wake up at 5am to pack and get on the “road” (there really aren’t roads here) so that we can see the sunrise in the middle of the salt flats. Everything about the salt flats was amazing. Being silly with the pictures, not being able to comprehend how infinite everything felt, just all of it.
These are the world’s largest salt flats (by surface area), being over 4,000 square miles and still standing about 12,000 ft above sea level! I can’t even begin to describe how strange it was to look off in any direction and have no comprehension of size or distance. It all truly seemed infinite. We also visited an “island” in the middle of the flats that was covered in cacti, some of which are supposedly over 900 years old! I’ll let the pictures try to speak for this place, but it really is something you need to experience in person. It won’t let you down.
It was also quite awesome how lucky I was with the group of people I got to go on the tour with. There were two super fun and energetic Colombian guys that worked at the hostel I stayed at in San Pedro, an Australian girl, French girl and Polish guy. There was another really fun Chilean couple in the other jeep, too. We all truly enjoyed each other’s company and have stayed in touch since. I’m glad I lucked out meeting these great people on this tour!
After finishing the tour, the majority of us were taking night buses out of Uyuni (the city). Uyuni really is just a tourist town without much to do except see the salt flats, so no one was staying there. As we waiting through the afternoon for our buses, we found a restaurant with WiFi (so we could catch up with the real world) and enjoy each other’s company over some beers and good food.
Here’s a couple of our “fun” perspective shots:
The world’s highest capital, sitting around 11,000 ft above sea level. During the day, you likely wouldn’t consider this the prettiest city, but at night, with all the houses built up the surrounding mountains, it can be quite spectacular. Plus, off in the distance, you can see huge, snow capped mountains. I arrived extremely early in the morning where I proceeded to relax and lazily see a couple close parts of the city.
My second day in La Paz I had to do the famous (or infamous) Death Road tour on bicycles. Death Road, appropriately named, is considered to be the most (or one of the most) dangerous roads in the world, with narrow roads that have vertical drop offs hundreds of feet straight down. This was one of the most impressive tours I’ve been on my entire trip. I expected it to be good, but the views throughout the whole tour changed so much, and the views were so much more spectacular than I expected, absolutely worth every penny. We started about 14,000 ft high and ended somewhere around 4,000 ft high.
My final day before heading to Copacabana was also pretty laid back (granted it’s easy to get tired at such high altitudes). I walked around and saw a lot of the markets and watched sunset from the top of one of the highest points of the city. La Paz has a super interesting, effective and modern funicular that will get you around the city faster than any vehicle (if you’re close to one of the stops). I took this to the top to see the sunset and watch all the lights come on around the entire city.
I was super excited to get here and go see Isla del Sol (which I’d heard so many great things about). But due to some unfortunate circumstances, the northern (and from what I hear, better) part of the island was closed. I was also feeling a little sick by the time I got here, so I just walked around a little and tried to sleep off my sickness before heading off to Peru! Getting sick while traveling really sucks, but is also an inevitability. The fact that half the island was closed just made me consider keeping this place on my bucket list for a later date rather than rushing and half-experiencing everything.