3 Day Salar de Uyuni Excursion
Travelers bold enough to venture into one of South America’s most untamed environments will be rewarded with an otherworldly experience. Bolivia is oozing with natural beauty and there is no better way to see it than with an excursion through Salar de Uyuni and the surrounding region. The Salar de Uyuni, or the Uyuni Salt Flat, is the world’s largest salt flat, a remnant of a lake dried up long ago.
The three day adventure takes you across various landscapes ranging from otherworldly to almost apocalyptic. The first stop just before arriving at the Salt Flat is a train graveyard where abandoned train cars have been left to rust. Covered in graffiti and decrepit from decades of disuse, it feels like a step back into the optimistic past when the vast swathes of Bolivian desert were seemingly conquerable. Aside from the few big cities that litter the massive South American country, Bolivia remains largely undeveloped, a dream come true for adventurous spirits.
Following the brief visit to the train graveyard is the main draw of the Salar de Uyuni tour: the famed salt flats themselves. The coarse, white landscape stretches as far as the eye can see, allowing for some fun with photographic perspective. Your driver will probably have brought along some props, including dinosaur toys to set up for some iconic perspective shots. The Salar De Uyuni feels otherworldly, a salty wasteland that is completely barren aside from an island of cacti.
In the middle of the salt flat is Incahuasi Island, populated by large cacti and little else. It adds to the mystique of an already puzzling environment. You can explore the small island for a while, beautiful in its own right but also one of the best viewpoints to catch panoramic views of the Salt Flat. It also boasts one of the only bathrooms in the 11,000 square kilometer Salar, so make sure to take advantage of that.
Shortly after, you hop back into your Jeep and ride off into the sunset, one of the best you will ever see. Watching the sunset over the Salt Flats is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is freezing, windy, and harsh but you will fight every second of that bitter cold just to see it with your own eyes.
Day one of the weird, salty adventure concludes with sleeping in a hotel made entirely of salt. Huge blocks of salt are the only thing protecting you from the freezing temperatures at about 12,000 feet above sea level. Rest up because because the adventures have only just begun.
Despite knocking out the main attraction on the first day, the natural wonders are far from over. The second day will take you from vibrantly colored laguna after laguna, with the highlight being the red-tinted Laguna Colorada. Flamingos blend in with the water, an oasis of red and pink and blue in the mountainous desert. The landscapes of Bolivia don’t make too much sense, many of which you would have to see to actually believe. Another quick stop on the second day will take us to a large rock which the wind has carved into the shape of a tree. It is far from the most jaw dropping sight you’ll see along the way but it is just another testament to the wide range of things the untamed Bolivian desert has to offer.
If you thought that sleeping in a hotel made of salt was a rough experience, the second night isn’t that much cozier. Luckily, there is a hot spring that has been transformed into a pool that you and your tour mates will undoubtedly take advantage of. Being underneath the stars with no light pollution for hundreds of miles is an unreal experience. I’ve never seen stars as clear as I have that night, making the five minute waddle soaking wet back to the hotel in the freezing temperatures well worth it.
The third day of the excursion takes you to the Bolivian-Chilean border where deserts, lagunas, mountains, and more strange rock formations welcome you. Laguna Verde, if the weather conditions are right, glows a luminescent green. It is the final epic stop before Jeeping it back to the village of Uyuni or moving onwards to Chile, depending on your itinerary.
These three days will make you question whether you’ve somehow gone to a different planet entirely. Colorful lagunas, deserts of salt, islands of cacti, all the llamas you can dream of, and many more await.