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February 2018, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile to Uyuni, Bolivia
Day 1: San Pedro de Atacama – Laguna Colorada
San Pedro de Atacama – border crossing Chile to Bolivia – Laguna Blanca – Laguna Verde – Desierto Salvador Dalí – Aguas Termales – Geiser Sol de Mañana – Laguna Colorada
*night spent in Hospedaje Huayllajara
We’re leaving San Pedro in explorers’ style, knowing that from now on, we say goodbye to electricity and GPS signal. Our driver, Elvis, announces he’ll also be the guide and cook(!) for the next for 3 days.
“Solo español!”, we hear. Ok, we’re gonna talk 100% Spanish with him. Full experience. 🙂
We’re 6 people in a 4×4 jeep, that’s gonna be our moving home until we reach Uyuni.
In a few hours we already reach 5000 meters of altitude, starting from 2500 meters in the morning. We just left Atacama, the driest desert on Earth. My head is exploding from the pain. It’s cold, so damn cold!
We get out of the car from time to time, and start exploring the lagoons, invaded with pink flamingos chilling around. All we can see is pure nature, untouched by humans.
This, finally, feels like freedom.
Exhausted, we reach a shelter for the night, built at 4300 meters of altitude. We’re gathering around a table to drink coca tea and make fun of ourselves until sunset. We’re all struggling with the hard breath in this oxygen deprived environment. We have no electricity, and most probably no proper warm clothes.
When the night comes, we’re sharing the same room, cramped with 6 small stone beds with 2 matresses each and covered with lots of rough covers. Easy to tell we’re hardly waiting for 5 in the morning to hit the road.
Day 2: Laguna Colorada – Salt Hotel
Árbol de Piedra – Desierto Siloli – Lagunas Altiplanicas: Chiarcota, Honda, Hedionda – Mirador Volcan Ollagüe – Valle de rocas Sora
*night spent in Colcha “k” region, Hotel de Sal Tambo Loma
The second day we’re so happy we get down to 4000 meters. What’s on the schedule today? “Lagunas, lagunas, más lagunas!”, jokes Elvis.
The landscape starts to change. We enter a world of sand and stones, carved by wind for millennia. We’re so relieved we can breathe now, that we start to jump all around and climb the huge rocks, only for the sake of being able to move.
Close to the salt hotel where we’re stopping for the night, there are green fields and llamas feasting with no worries.
After 2 days without a shower, here at the hostel we have hot water for 2 hours! And some light. Enough to start a party.
Day 3: Salt Hotel – Salar de Uyuni – Uyuni village
Train Cemetery – Salar de Uyuni – Salt Museum – Handicrafts in Colchani village – Uyuni village
Day 3 starts at 4 in the morning. No complaints, everybody knows what’s the reward.
Soon we enter a cemetery of steel giants destroyed by salt winds, on the outskirts of a deserted village. The Train graveyard becomes our playground for a few hours, before heading to Salar de Uyuni, the ultimate goal of this trip.
At one point, the jeep enters water and we’re almost floating. Elvis tells us to close our eyes until his signal. He needs to concentrate so we don’t get stuck.
“Ahora (now)!”, we suddenly hear. The line of horizon meets the water in a perfect mirror effect. We’re actually standing on 12 000 square kilometers of flooded salt flats.
He keeps driving until the middle of the lake, so that we can open the doors. We jump out like mad, walking in bare feet through water, running on cristalized salt. My feet are almost bleeding, but I feel nothing but pure joy. We’re in a milky ocean, spreading as far as our eyes can see.
What to bring
- Painkillers for altitude sickness
- Toilet paper
- Trekking footwear
- Flip-flops for Uyuni Salt Flats, if it’s rainy season; stepping on the flooded salt in your bare feet can be excruciatingly painful, as we found out on our own skin 🙂
- Bathing suit for thermal waters
- Warm clothes (polar + waterproof jacket)
- External battery charger for phone/camera; there is no electricity source nor phone signal, for almost the whole trip duration
- Passport + Bolivian Visa; check requirements for Bolivian Visa Groups I, II, III depending on your country.
Budget & where to book
- Where to book
Chile, San Pedro de Atacama: Estrella del Sur travel agency -> transfer to Bolivia, Uyuni: Tambo Loma travel agency
Tour includes: 3 days transport (minibus/Chile + jeep 4×4/Bolivia), accommodation 2 nights, food (breakfast+ lunch+ dinner), water&tea during meals
115 000 CLP (200 USD)/pers.
Not included: Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve entry 150 BOL (21 USD)/pers. + Thermal waters entry 6 BOL (1 USD)/pers.
In January 2018 we booked one-way tickets, took our backpacks and left cozy old Europe, for (hopefully) the greatest adventure of our lives: South America. If you like our story, don’t forget to spread the word!
Happy travels and stay safe!