This is part 2 of our Uyuni Salt Flats tour post. If you haven’t read Part 1, click here to read it first.
Day 2 started early with a standard Bolivian breakfast of hard rolls, butter, jam, nescafé, and coca tea. After that we loaded up our gear and took off across the desert towards the town of San Juan where we’d spend the second night. Angela and I refer to day 2 as the “day of flamingos” because it mostly involved driving from one lagoon to the next to see flamingos. The lagoons on the second day weren’t as beautiful as those we saw on day one, but we never got tired of watching the flamingos. My favorite lagoon of the day was Laguna Honda because the high sulfur content made the surrounding ground yellow and there was a small sulfur pool near the lagoon itself.
Day 2 is an awful lot of driving so we were happy to arrive at our hotel mid-afternoon. The hotel was made of salt – the floors, the walls, the tables, all salt. Here we were treated to hot showers and a wonderful dinner of soup, chicken, and dessert. They have to truck that food a long distance so we were really impressed by the quality of the food. We had an enjoyable time hanging out with the folks from the other tour groups, a mix of folks from all over the world – Brazil, China, Germany, Ecuador, Chile, France, Switzerland – kind of like a mini United Nations at dinnertime. After dinner our guide Guido took us out, far from the lights to view the stars. This is something I’ll never forget as I’ve never seen so many stars in my life since we didn’t do a star gazing tour in Atacama. The sky was beautiful and we each saw several shooting stars. I saw 5 of them in the 20 minutes we were out there.
This was the day we had been waiting for, when we’d finally see the actual salt flats. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long as it wasn’t a terribly long drive from the salt hotel to the salt flats. Our first stop of the day was at Isla del Pescado (Island of Fish), an island of petrified coral and shell covered in 1,000 year old cacti that rises abruptly from the salt flat. We climbed to the top and had wonderful views of the salt flats. Seeing it from above really gives you a sense of how vast it truly is. The white salt stretches to the horizon in every direction. There’s no way to capture the experience of seeing this in person but the pictures do give a sense of how big it is (around 4,000 sq miles).
After the island we drove a little ways further before stopping for photos. The salt flats are famous for perspective photos – photos where the person is under someone else’s thumb, or climbing out of a shoe, or standing on top of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the salt flat. Médéric, being French, happened to have a miniature Eiffel Tower with him that was probably 6 inches tall (It’s a law that French people must carry a miniature Eiffel Tower with them at all times. Not really.). Once they’d taken their photos Angela couldn’t resist having her photo taken with the tower. I learned that I’m not very good at doing perspective photos, but here’s one of her standing on top of it.
Once we were done with photos we headed on to the town of Uyuni where the tour ended after a pretty boring stop at the train graveyard. It’s impossible to overstate the beauty of the landscapes and nature we saw during the three day tour and if you only have time to do one thing in South America this should be it. As Angela stated in the first post we went into it afraid of having a horrible experience based on reviews but came out completely blown away by the experience. If you’re looking for an agency go with Cordillera Traveler; you may even luck up and get Guido as your guide.