The four day, four by four trip that I took to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia stretched across one of the most unique and breathtaking landscapes that I’ve ever seen. Everything about the adventure, from start to finish, was like entering a different universe that I couldn’t of even imagined. For four days we ripped through the Bolivian interior coming across almost no infastructure, human disturbance or civilization. All we saw for four days straight was just nature, raw and stunning, surrounding our little 4×4 from all sides.
The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world and is located in South Western Bolivia, close to the Chilean border and near the crest of the Andes Mountains. Getting there truly is an adventure, driving from La Paz, Bolivia on a very long and horrible bus ride before arriving in the small town of Uyuni for a night. No matter what bus you choose, or how much you pay, this part of the journey is inevitably terrible as at least 2 full hours are spent driving over a road which is entirely potholes.
It’s from La Paz (where we did) or Uyuni that you can easily book a trip to the Salar de Uyuni and we lucked out with a great driver and three great amigo’s. A cool couple from Ireland and a solo adventurer from Denmark, myself and my two Aussie mates, we piled into the 4×4 with a four day itinerary: to spend the first at the Salar de Uyuni and the next 3 moving between hot springs and glacier mountains, pink flamingos and endless sunsets.
Most of the Salar de Uyuni was my friend’s idea and her lead, so putting my money down I really had no idea what to expect. But looking back on what we found I would have believed you with just as much difficulty as I’m having while trying to explain to you how breathtaking this region is.
need to know about the Salt Flats
I consider the whole four day adventure to be my trip to the Salar de Uyuni, though in actuality we only spent one day here. The highlight is to marvel at the massive amounts of salt and to take pictures and play with your camera: because of the endless white reflective salt, images appear much farther on film than in real life and if you spend any time on google before you go you will get some ideas for fun props. (we brought dinosaurs.) There is also a salt hotel that no one really stays at, some modest souvenir shops, a few benches and chairs to eat lunch and then you will be on your way.
Just outside of Uyuni and included in most trips is the train cemetary and exactly as it sounds, is an old abandoned train yard in the middle of a hot, sandy desert. Although the place isn’t good for more than 30 minutes of playing amongst the trains and taking cool pictures, it definitely is one of the more memorable parts of the trip and made for a really great backdrop.
the Way – rent a 4×4 and a driver and depart form Uyuni. From here the trip is pretty self guided with your driver knowing the best places to pull over and always keen to stop when you ask.
By arranging a driver and car, you’ll also be securing a place to stay (in the middle of nowhere!) and some quinoa and chicken dinners which will be carted around in the smelly trunk for the duration of your trip. These trips are all one price and one interaction which makes for a thoughtless four day vacation and though it may seem at times like your driver is taking you to the middle of no where (he is), try to trust your instincts and you’ll end up where you should.
Bring a tooth brush, but don’t expect to shower. Dress in layers, and don’t expect to sleep well. Bring a full camera, but don’t expect to care by the end. Remarkably, it was only after when I came home and developed all of my photos and really remembered the adventure from my air conditioned bed room, that I appreciated just how beautiful a place I had witnessed.
the Food – isn’t great food but our tour did an honest job of providing hot meals for us when they could. If you think ahead bring trail mix bars or crystal light, something to make water more interesting and add nutrients to your belly.