Salar de Uyuni Tour with Red Planet Expeditions
We got up bright and early on Friday in the town of Uyuni. Quickly we packed our bags (1 bag per 2 of us), ate breakfast, and headed over to the Red Planet Tour office. Our tour had 14 people heading out in Toyota 4×4’s, 4 cars total. Oscar was the main tour guide, explaining to the entire group the rules, what to except and car assignments.
We immediately crossed our fingers hoping he would join us in our car. We had five passengers in our car and while loading up we met the new addition to the family; Brandon. Brandon was a mid-twenties basketball coach living in Kuwait. From Florida he had played basketball in Europe until getting hurt and starting the coaching position a year ago, he seemed great, nice and social; we got a good new addition to the family!! Another stroke of luck came our way when we realized that Oscar would be sitting with us in our car. Extremely knowledgable, nice and funny we couldn’t have been more pleased with our car situation. Francisco, our driver, didn’t speak english so I chose middle seat so I could participate and practice Spanish in Oscar and his conversations.
Abandoned Train Graveyard
First stop was the abandoned train graveyard. Here is where we started learning about the history of Bolivia and the major problems that have come from Chile winning the Salt Petre War and turning Bolivia into a land locked country with no easy means of exporting their abundant natural resources.
The trains originally ran across the country, transporting goods and mineral, but stopped functioning some years back. Today there are just a ton of old rusting trains that are fun to climb around on and take pictures with.
Salt Factory in the Salar de Uyuni
But first we headed back through Uyuni (stopping to pick up a 5 Liter jug of wine and 24 pack of beer …
(You should have seen Oscar and Francisco’s surprised laughing faces when they spotted us exiting the liquor store). We headed out toward the salt flats, Salar de Uyuni. Before actually entering the salt flats we stopped in a little town where we toured a local Salt Factory.
Learning the process how the locals excavate and purify the salt was fascinating. We even got to watch one of the men at work, sealing the packages of salt to sell to tourists.
Today the exportation of natural salt from the Salar is almost non-existent because of how difficult it is to transport out of the country and the ease and making salt chemically. Afterwards we wandered the little artisanal stands ( alpaca sweater!) and sat down in a salt building for a delicious lunch.
Into the Salt Flats of Salar de Uyuni + Dakar
Back in the 4×4’s we were racing through the salt flats. It was such a weird sensation to drive over seemingly nothing.
We stopped to check out some mounds of salt, which is how the people who harvest salt collect it to start the drying process. We then continued to the infamous salt hotel. Next to the hotel was a big monument to the Dakar, a car race that apparently has gone through the salt flats the past couple years, and a flags placed together waving in the wind (surprise – there was no US flag…).
Some years back UNESCO had declared the salt flats a world heritage sight, which in turn forced the salt hotel to shut down. Being in the middle of nowhere they had no place to put the waste. Therefore they drilled pipes into the salt that eventually connected into a lake that sits deep and were polluting the lake. By creating the world heritage site they were forced to shut down, preserving the integrity of the salt flats. However it is still possible to walk through the hotel, where every single thing inside is made from salt!
Classic Salar de Uyuni Pictures
Next stop was the moment everyone was waiting for; the funny odd perspective photos everyone takes on the salt flats. Oscar took us to a pretty empty part of the flats where he took everyone in small groups and set up really funny and awesome photos…. He obviously had a ton of practice at it!
Back in the cars we sped off to Fish Island. A rise of land, that originally formed as a volcano, in the middle of salt flats as far as you can see in every direction. It is completely covered in enormous cacti and crazy coral looking rocks.
After a brief history lesson on the island we were free to meander around the short loop hike enjoying the beautiful alien type views and funky huge cacti.
Sunset Pictures on the Salar
The sun was setting as we made it back to the car and Oscar took a couple more individual and group pictures.
Jordan and I got into a brief argument and I ended up having to karate chop her to keep her from attacking me….
Lodging in a Salt Hotel
Sightseeing done for the day we headed to the hotel on the edge of the flats. Another building made completely of salt; our bed frames, bed side tables, chairs, everything. We had teatime (coca tea!) and another delicious meal. We opened our 5 Liter jug wine and attempted to enjoy the drink which tasted more like grape fruit juice mixed with vodka than wine.
After dinner Brandon pulled out a deck of cards and we started playing a variety of games. The rest of our tour group went to bed right after dinner (it was about 8 pm) which we weren’t to sad about as two of the Canadian ladies on our tour did not always have the most pleasant contributions to conversation. After a couple games a Danish guy wandered out of his room to join us. As my dad is 100% Danish and at the Paulsen Christmas we have loads of Danish traditions we had a great time asking questions and trying to show off our obviously very authentic Danish knowledge 🙂 He taught us a bad word (c’mon it’s necessary) and made fun of us quite a bit.
Eventually I had to go to bed, I started to yawn every time I even thought about what time we had to get up the next morning… I slept like a rock in my salt bed, toasty warm and happy from a fun day.