The Southwest Circuit to the Salar de Uyuni: Day Four
Day Four started off dreadfully early, at 4:30am, as we wanted to get to the salt flats by sunrise. We had gone to bed early though and were all excited, so getting up wasn’t too terrible. We packed up and were on the road, which was only a road for a few miles, until we reached the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Our driver seemed a bit bewildered by the fact that the first section of driving over the salt flat involved plowing through about two feet of water. Too much rain recently! This slowed us down considerably, and led to the first disappointment of the day: we didn’t make it to a stopping point by sunrise. Instead, we watched the sunrise out of the car windows and snapped photos as we drove. Still beautiful, but not quite the dramatic experience I had been hoping for.
Once we finally got to our destination, the Playa Blanca Hotel de Sal (Salt Hotel), we got to take more pictures as the last few sun rays crept over the horizon. This area was still covered in a couple inches of water, and it was freezing outside, so despite our waterproof hiking boots our toes still got numb pretty fast from the moisture. The lady at the tour company had told us before we left that in the rainy season some parts of the salt flat are covered in water and others are not, so we were all expecting we’d go to a dry section eventually. When we went into the Salt Hotel to eat breakfast we got a disappointing piece of news; our guide told us that the whole Salar was covered in water and there were no dry areas! This was quite a bummer to all of us and we felt kind of gypped. We were expecting to be able to take the famous funny-perspective pictures on the blinding white salt flat that we had seen so many of.
Oh well, after breakfast, we went out to do our best in the very wet scenery. Taking the funny pictures was harder than we imagined, especially because we couldn’t put anything we didn’t want getting wet on the ground. The Salar was still amazing, though, the water making trippy mirror images of everything. After spending a few hours taking pictures and videos, we drove off the Salar to a small village selling crafts, then returned to Uyuni for our last included lunch. We tipped our guide and cook, then headed off with Jasper and Annemarie (the Dutch couple) to another hostel since there were no buses out of Uyuni that afternoon. Our epic jeep tour finished, we all needed some showers and some naps!
For some reason, I was expecting to be more stunned than I was by the Salar de Uyuni. I think it’s because I heard so many people rave about it. It was super-impressive, but I wouldn’t put it way above everything else we saw on the tour. To me, the whole four day adventure was full of beauty, and the salt flats were an equally beautiful end. I’m definitely glad we splurged for the full four-day circuit and got to see so much of this rugged and remote section of Bolivia!
We used LaTorre Tours, based out of Tupiza.
We paid 1200 Bolivianos apiece ($176) for a 4-person group. If you go with 5 people, the cost goes down to 1100 Bolivianos.
Extra costs included 150 Bolivianos each to enter the national park, and a total tip of 100 Bolivianos.