Tour company: Cruz Andina
Salar de Uyuni is the kind of place that can make you question your vocabulary. ‘Beautiful’ does not even begin to describe how it is. Going here on your own is very difficult and people have been denied entry in the past who were trying to go there by themselves without a guided tour.
I’m not complaining because it is very difficult to find your way in this massive place. Routes are narrow and can be difficult to ride on.
To keep things easy, it’s better to just hop on a tour. As with most tours you have the risk of being the only one traveling solo in a group of friends, or ending up with hostile people or just about any such random unpleasant situation. I didn’t do much research on reliable companies and just went looking for the cheapest option a day before I wanted to leave.
I was extremely fortunate with my group as I had the best group I could have asked for. Those 3 days would make it to my top memories from this journey. I have not laughed as much in the last two years combined as I did in those 3 days spent on the way to Salar de Uyuni.
The tour went like this-
After being picked up from the respective hostels we headed to the Bolivia border. There were quite a lot of vehicles so immigrations took time and there was no toilet there. No traditional toilet I mean. There was an old rusting, decaying van which was being used by many as the toilet (Over the course of three days, we would learn to be less awkward about peeing behind rocks).
We saw some beautiful emerald color lakes against the backdrop of dormant volcanoes, natural geysers with very strong pungent smell, lake with flamingos (But what I do remember from there more prominently is the dead baby flamingos). We later went bathing in natural hot water springs, This is not entirely a unique experience as most people had already been to natural hot springs earlier but the backdrop was breathtakingly beautiful. The medium size pool with hot water and nothing else till as far as we could see except the mountains of course.
Earlier that evening we reached our first hostel. This is where we met fellow travelers. Three of us from the group who were not affected by the altitude and were not as tired went for a walk in the village taking the moonlit pathways. It was absolutely quiet and maybe that added to its serenity.
Alarm rings, I wake up, get ready and then I get to know I’m up an hour earlier. I had completely forgotten about the time difference between Chile and Bolivia. So, how did I use the extra hour I got in the morning? Slept of course.
We started our exploration with some rock formations then sat by a serene lake where we all went quiet. We just sat there staring into the water which was a clear blue reflection of the sky.
While returning to our car we see this wonderland with lush green patch and many Lamas. We contemplated kissing one but none of us tried it especially after knowing they spit on you if as a defense mechanism. We weren’t very keen on being spit on by a lama that day.
After a brief stop at the train cemetery (where I barely saw any train) we reached our second hostel on the trip also the last night stay.
This day you can choose to pay for a hot shower. I love this hostel stay as our group was the only one staying there and it was the first time I had seen a hostel made entirely of salt – table, chairs, beds, walls, floor – EVERYTHING was salt.
The last day of us being together, I was already a little low.
This is the day we were waiting for – Salar de Uyuni. We wake up early to see the sunrise on the Salar and it was worth every minute of sleep we all lost. It’s absolute magic. We all went quiet (being the chatterbox we were it was quite unusual) for some time and just soaked in the place. Soon, we were back to our chatting selves though.
We did every cliche pose that we could think of in the Salar. The good thing was we took like three major stops, the first one was filled with water, the second was partially filled with water where we could see the crystal salts, the third stop was dry. That way we got to see all the faces of Salar.
Some problem areas of the tour:
Every washroom costs there and the ticket cost does not directly reflect its hygiene quotient. I had to use EVERY toilet there as I was on my periods then (Wish I had moved to menstrual cups before I did) but the good thing was I still had the option to do so. I was a bit nervous about the sanitary hygiene before leaving.
I was really confused if I should take the tour from the Atacama or take a bus to Uyuni and take the tour there. I asked random people on the road if they had any idea about the prices. Checked online, eventually, I decided to take it from the Atacama just to save time and hassle. According to my research, it was not going to make much of difference (I was right, I later checked at Uyuni). I ended up spending less money by taking the tour from Atacama.
Have you ever been to a place that left you literally speechless?