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Uyuni - Day 1

Added: June 15, 2010

Tags: Bolivia RTW SouthAmerica lagoon photos
Travelling in Bolivia and not going to Uyuni is inexcusable mistake. Yes, it is quite far from La Paz and getting there is tiring, but the place is amazing. And word amazing does not do it justice. I made about 1100 photos in those 3 days. And some are actually nice :-)

We went there during rainy season. We knew it is not the best time, but that was time we were in Bolivia. As a result we were not sure until last moment whether we will get there or not. Todo Turismo we wanted to travel with cancelled trips couple of days before we wanted to go. Then they cancelled also our bus due to deteriorated road.

Bus to Uyuni

Fortunately Kanoo Tours, travel agency we bought our 3 days tour with (3 months ahead, online) offered us Panasur bus. It is cheaper, but not so good. It is only Semi Cama, so we were not sure. But our will to go there won. To our surprise the bus was fantastic. Semi in its name was the most underrated part. Wide, well cushioned seats could be lowered to about 20° that is more I've ever seen before. And there was enough of space for feet (but we are not giants).

Agency told us that price difference will be refunded to to my card, I used to pay with, but while we were waiting at bus terminal in La Paz a woman from Panasur ticket office found us, gave us something to sign and returned us 90BOB. That was nice.

The bus leaves in evening and travels for whole night. While seats were fantastic, the rest of bus was less glamorous. During whole ride the bus was making terrible sounds which did not allow for any other thoughts apart from those about broken bus and ruined trip. It got worse after about 4-5 hours when we left tarmac road behind and started to travel on road that could break also a tractor. A TV in front was madly shaking and I only hoped the person it falls at will die without any pain :-) My imagination fortunately proved to be wilder than reality. After 13 hours of ride we arrived to Uyuni.

The most surprising thing I have learned is that roads are much worse in villages. They are full of deep craters, no sane bus driver would go directly over. We were slowly dodging them in every village we passed through, Uyuni was probably the worse. But we got there!

Salar de Uyuni

We found operator we had vouchers for and we realized 8 people arrived there, but jeep can take only 6. Rest of group were 6 Britons and they could speak Spanish so it was clear they will go together with Tunupa Tours. For 2 of us they found a jeep from another operator. Driver did not speak English, but fortunately there was a couple from Uruguay (Bibiana and Ariel) and they offered us translation. Thank you Ariel! Other couple from Argentina did not speak English.

Important thing for Uyuni tours is to have daysack with water and some snacks (kept inside of car) and rather small backpack that is put on roof. That means it is accessible only at the evening (during night). Meals were included, we were lucky driver's wife went with us and she was cooking. We liked all meals very much. Our cook was very nice, she was willing to make different meals for Zuzka to comply with her allergy. Fantastic!

Area around Uyuni (village) is completely covered in rubbish. The driver told us those are Uyuni flowers. Creative, but sad. The first place we visited was salt factory in Colchani. But we have not seen any factory, only gift shop.




Salar is a salt desert. But in February, due to rainy season, it is salty laguna. Whole huge area is under water, I would guess 5-10cm. That, however, does not make it less impressive. Contrary, it offers very nice reflections. If only wind was not blowing so that the surface would be reflecting better.

reflections at Salar de Uyuni during rainy season

reflections at Salar de Uyuni during rainy season


We passed other jeeps many times, traffic was quite heavy here. But it offered very nice photo opportunities.
Car passing through water covered Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni under water with salt  hill

After 30 min we arrived to salt hotel at small island. From distance it looked like a narrow dark band surrounded by blueness of sky, but it was a hotel.

We stopped there, took photos, looked inside, and had a lunch (outside). Then again, pull off shoes and back to salty water for more photos :-)

Salt hotel at Salar de Uyuni

Salt hotel at Salar de Uyuni




A perspective does nice things here.

We could not enjoy Salar enough, because after this experience we left the Salar and went to other places. For rest of year, when it is dry, there are more stops around, but they are closed when it is under water. I think we should return to see it in proper state (and everything).

Back to Uyuni village

We returned to village, our driver wanted to clean the car. Leaving salt on it would not help much. And toilets were welcomed too.

Typical street in Bolivian village :-)


Toilets in nearby hotel. Flushing is manual.

Train cemetery

I have seen many beautiful photos from Train cemetery near Uyuni. I wanted to go there, but not every tour stops there. Only if there is time left. Due to our short time at Salar we could.

Unfortunately it was not like at photos. The light was terrible. Cloudy, everything was washed out, it was very easy to overexpose the sky. Despite it, I am going to show a few photos. They are heavily processed.

Train cemetery at Uyuni

Train cemetery at Uyuni



San Cristobal

Our next stop was in San Cristobal. It was short stop, just to look at local church, buy something at local market and again toilets, if needed. I think there was nothing else to see.

After that we continued to village San Juan. It was boring to get there. Others were sleeping, as we learned later they just arrived from lower altitude and have some problems here. To my surprise, the main road was rather bad. Too shaky. So we went next to it in old tracks, they were much nicer, only we were tilting to the right or left periodically.

Church at San Cristobal


Church at San Cristobal

Sleeping in San Juan

Our last stop on the first day of this trip was in Hospedaje de Los Andes in San Juan. We had nice dinner, opened a bottle of wine we bought in Uyuni (as a way to say "thank you" to our driver according to advice we received), but he did not want to. So then it was for us, Ariel and Bibiana. Good start of chatting with them.



Looking around our accommodation. It seems hot water will not be easy to get in the morning.
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We met group of Czechs here. We swapped our stories, experiences and they told us we can look forward for tomorrow. They also suggested we should go to look around the village. So I went. Sun was setting and it enhanced an atmosphere of this place.



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I really liked the sunset here. Unbelievable colours, strange shapes of distant mountains. Wonderful.