Today was the day that the salt flats tour was all about. If you’re coming from Chile it’s basically random wild rice and vegetables on your plate until you get here which is the perfectly cooked steak to your likings. I had heard of the salt flats before and everyone who went said it was incredible. I can officially say that everyone who said it was incredible was absolutely, positively, correct. It was like sailing on a sea of salt in a jeep with photos and memories you’ll forever keep…
The day started early after the New Year’s celebration but luckily I had a somewhat early night as once it was 2014, it was back to business for this gent. We hit the salt flats and they aren’t joking when they say flats. It’s so barren and endless that you can drive forever and it looks as though you’ve made no distance. We hit up Isla Incahuasi on the way and it seemed to never get any close despite how long we drove.
We hiked the island and at the very peak it was one of those surreal travel moments as you look around at the endless sea of salt with a brilliant breeze cooling you down from the fifteen minute or so climb it takes to get there. The island is covered in cactus and has a lot of charm; it actually felt like I was on an island in the middle of the sea and the views were solid.
Afterwards it was time to make moves towards Uyuni, this day is even a bit shorter than the first day so if your group isn’t too large, you may finish up not long after lunch. We stopped a few times to take the photos you see and the classical self photos in the endless sea of salt. The photos tell you a story but it’s somewhere you need to see and experience for yourself to really get an idea of what it’s all about.
We hit up a small tourist settlement on the way to Uyuni where we had our last lunch which was quite nice before heading into Uyuni. There isn’t much going on in that town and when we arrived it was very cold and pouring in a most torrential style. Hit up a hotel and while waiting for my room I ran into a lady from the tour who was going to the bus station to inquire about tickets so I decided to follow along.
There is no real bus station in Uyuni, just a block or so where lots of companies sell tickets and the buses pull up in front. I think Uyuni could have a little charm in the sun but in the cold rain it wasn’t a very welcoming place. Met some friends leaving to Potosi so I joined them which turned out to be an alright move; not bad, not good just alright.
I recommend you spend one night in Uyuni when you arrive, lots of interesting restaurants and beyond reasonably priced hotels. That aside, you’ve been in a jeep for days and being able to check into your room at say 1PM to have a shower and a snooze sure beats kicking the curb and taking a bus to say Potosi at 4:30pm where you won’t end up in your hotel room until say 9pm.
In closing, the tour was good but got a bit long at times. If you’re in the area I recommend you give it a go and a very unique way to cross between Chile and Bolivia. Don’t do one of those tours where you start on one side, make it to the other and come back if you don’t have to. Everyone I spoke with who opted for the 4 day tour aka going back to where they started on the last day seemed ready to be done with sitting in the jeeps…
Also, if your driver did you right don’t forget to tip him as it’s not an easy gig.