Travel - Bolivia
I'll post the link to photos here when I've uploaded them. Hoping to get pictures/videos from others too.
Salar de Uyuni & Uyuni
As I mentioned over in the Chile topic, I booked my trip to the Salt Flats with Atacama Mistica for 100000 Chilean Peso. Another girl who was on the same tour with me got it for 90000 so it might be worth shopping around but I was told Mistica was good so I didn’t really want to chance it as I’d heard some poor experiences from people and met a few who came from Uyuni to San Pedro that had food poisoning. So I was a bit cautious regarding it. Anyway I can safely say that things went well and none of us in the group got sick.
The tour itself takes three days and two nights. The important things you need to know/bring:
- You'll need at least 250 Bolivianos for entrance fees and maybe snacks.
- 6 litres of water
- Toilet roll
- It's a good idea to bring some extra snacks.
- Definitely bring warm clothes. The first day is very cold and I reckon I got lucky the other two days.
You’re picked up at roughly 8am. Now even though I said I was happy with Mistica, it’s pretty clear that all these guys are kind of in some group. As I was collected with 3 other people and we made our way to the Chilean Border and Bolivian Border. Then we had some breakfast and after that I was sent one way and the three girls another. Then the new group I joined was split too and I ended up with two Chileans, one French and one Columbian. While only the latter two could speak english, I had a lot of fun and it was extremely useful as our guide didn’t speak a word of english. This seemed to go for a lot of the guides so hopefully you’re as lucky as me. It seemed to work out for others anyway.
So our stuff was packed on the roof, we got in the jeep and made our way through the desert to the salt flats. On our first day started with stops at lagoons and parts of the deserts. Even though the sun is out, it’s freezing as the wind is very strong. The landscape is pretty incredible around here so take it all in. Then at the half point of the day we were taken to some thermal baths which cost 6 Bolivianos to get into (you had to pay this if you wanted to go to the toilet too). The good news is that this bath is a lot warmer than the one I was in the previous day in Atacama! Once we’d finished up there we went into a nearby building for lunch which was pretty damn good. I was slightly worried beforehand due to the food poisoning I’d heard of so no complaints here. Mash, meat and vegetables. I’d recommend eating as much as you can as you’ll probably get hungry waiting for dinner. Our final two stops of the day were really cool. Some more geysers which looked very cool due to the wind and a red lagoon with flamingoes. The latter looked really cool from the distance, just seeing this huge (shallow) red lagoon surrounded by a blue lagoon. We made it to our hostel for about five I think and dinner wasn’t ready until 8 which is pretty small really but again it was better than expected and again my concerns from stories were vanquished pretty quickly. I’d heard one of the nights was very cold but where we stayed in was fine.
We started the second day at about 7:30nam I believe where we had a tiny breakfast so this is where you’ll need some snacks. We hit the road (well.. not much of a road, desert) at 8 am and our first few stops was checking out some very cool rock formations. No I didn’t really care too much about the formations but it does give the adventurer in you a bit of fun as the guides don’t really say a thing to you so you can climb what you want. Just be careful as it genuinely is dangerous but I did really love doing a bit of climbing. need to do more of that. Afterwards, we made our way to a kind of enclosed lagoon. It was surrounded by rocks but within it was a nice green area. This is where we stayed for lunch which was solid. Again, eat a lot! Now I’m honestly struggling a bit with the rest of the day. We did go to this canyon where there was apparently a waterfall but we couldn’t see that. It didn’t matter as the place was really cool . And then we went to two villages. One where we basically stopped a t a shop f and the other where there were some trains that weren’t in use any more. Now the cool part is we stayed the night in a salt hostel. The majority of the place was made of salt, salt concrete, salt on the floors… it was really cool to stay in and a decent place. We got our food at around 7 this time as we needed to be up at 4am for the following day. Once again, no major complaints, food was fine if small, got some wine too and the place was warm!
And onto the final day. This time we went straight to the jeep and towards fisher island where you must pay 30 Bolivianos to enter. This is where you get a great view of the sunrise. It’s a really nice area as the little ‘island’ is full of cactus and all you can see surrounding you is the salt flats. They go on for miles. So the sunrise looks amazing here. It’s even really nice seeing a few other jeeps in the middle of the flats, it just makes it look better. Once you’ve had your fill of the view, you’ll find your breakfast ready back where the jeep is parked. This time it was actually a decent size too. Finally we made our way out to the salt flats themselves. The driver will take you out to an extremely remote place to take some silly perspective pictures and videos. Even as a person who doesn’t really like a posed picture, I had a bit of fun here. We must of spent about 90 minutes out doing this too. Afterwards we made our way to a salt hotel and salt mines which wasn’t particularly impressive but it did have a jeep made of salt outside which was nice. Next stop was another isolated village which like all the rest, seems insane that anyone would be living here. There was just a bunch of stalls for tourists to buy stuff and we had our lunch/dinner here. The final stop of the day was a train cemetery which is a fancy way of saying a junkyard. And after that we were taken to Uyuni and to the office.
Uyuni itself isn’t much really. I’d been told by several people not to bother staying here so I took on that advise and booked a bus to La Paz with Todo Turismo online which cost over 300 Bolivianos. It very much aimed at tourists, the bus is very nice but if you don’t care about that then you can get buses for only 80 or so Bolivianos there which I would of done if I’d known. So hopefully that helps you. But back to the place itself, it’s not great but it isn’t as bad as I was told either. There is an okay square and market places around the area. It’s just the outskirts really that are pretty poor and dirty. So an evening here is definitely enough! You probably will spend a five or 6 hours here waiting for a bus or plane to La Paz.
The one thing I do want to say is that I was incredibly disappointed by one thing. I’d seen some absolutely incredible pictures where the sky reflected off this huge area in the salt flats. You could take these pictures where it literally looked like the sky was surrounding you. This was the thing I was most looking forward to in the tour and got even more excited on the second day when in the distance I could see these patches of land that looked as if they were floating in the distance and assumed that was the area. However it actually turned out that this only happened when it rained in the salt flats. So the water would just hover over the salt and reflect the sky and unfortunately it only rains around January to March. So if you go, go then. For now, just look up on google images. It’s spectacular.
I arrived here at about 5:30am. Unsurprisingly, not after much sleep as usual. If you get cama seats, make sure it’s not at the back of the bus as they don’t tend to go down as far. That’s enough complaining. I made my way to the bus station where I met with the columbian girl again as we were on a pretty similar trail for a while. We stayed at Bunkie hostel which was really close to the bus station and pretty decent (breakfast wasn’t great though). We stayed in an 8 bed dorm the first night and an 18 bed the second night. The reason for the switch was it was cheaper and there was a guy who had an insanely loud snore in the smaller room!
La Paz itself is a crazy busy city. Traffic can be insane and will just keep on driving even when the pedestrian lights are on so be careful. You’ll find lots of beggars and people trying to clean your shoes. it’s also over 3000 meters high (continuing my high altitude trend currently). That all sounds pretty negative but it has some nice areas, small parks and building around too. It’s interesting to go through the witches market where they sell everything, even love potion… good luck. Basically this place kind of felt like Thailand again. It’s even lauded for it’s nightlife.
Normally I’d do very little on the first day in a place as I’m generally wrecked (which I was too) but since we decided to only spend two nights, we made the most of it. Got laundry done, got a safety filter for my camera, ate breakfast at one of the markets (standard empanada) and waited for the walking tour at 11am. The tour was actually really good as it went through the general history of the city and president but also the two girls were pretty funny so they kept us entertained. Recommended.
Then we made our way to a street full of tour providers as we wanted to check out Death Road. This used to be an infamous main road where over twenty vehicles a year would disappear, as they fall off the side of the road. Scary stuff! Nowadays it’s mostly for tourists to cycle through as they realised the road was insanely dangerous and built a new one. I’d recommend shopping for the best price. We were able to get the bike for 300 Bolivianos each which included transport, snack, buffet and return back. Now that was the cheapest bike too. After doing it, I’d recommend at least paying a little extra to get a bike with double suspension as my hands were absolutely killing me at times. I even got blisters on the palm of my left hand which I’d never got before. So spend a little more.
And with that I’ll just move straight to Death road as the rest of the day in La Paz was spent booking a bus to Copacabana (and Cusco) and finding some traditional food. Now, we were picked up at 7:45 and got out to the starting point at roughly 9am. Out here we got our bikes and some gear like helmets, jackets and gloves. Once we’d put them on, our instructor chatted with us and off we went. The first few kilometres are on the good road so it’s not dangerous at all but it is absolutely spectacular. You’re at an altitude of 4700 meters and everything around you looks amazing. Clouds coming over the mountains, just beautiful. After an hour or so of this, we stopped for our snack and were taken to the real beginning of death road. It starts off like Silent Hill, mist (or cloud) is surrounding you initially but as you make your way down, it gets clearer and hotter. The road is basically a rock track. You’re going to be hopping all the way down. If you’re not sporty don’t worry, just take it slowly. The more I went on, the more I enjoyed overtaking others and going relatively fast. Now this road is genuinely dangerous and if you are afraid of heights I wouldn’t recommend it. One guy fell and dislocated his shoulder and you do get very close to barrier-less cliffs basically but it was an incredible experience. I honestly loved it. Just get double suspension on your bike! Pictures wise, they take all the pictures for you which is nice but I have to admit I was a little gutted not being able to stop and take the odd picture as it was incredible. Oh its a full day too, you won’t be back until about 8 at the earliest. Also, I was actually more terrified on the way back. The driving around this area is crazy, you might be better off not looking in front of you.
As I mentioned earlier, we booked a bus from La Paz to Copacabana and were able to book a cama bus to Cusco the following day which cost 170 Bolivianos at the station. It was a little strange as they actually collect you at your hostel too which was a first for a bus for me. It’s only a 4-5 hours journey to Copacabana but good luck enjoying it. The road is terrible, it appears to be entirely under construction. You also have to get a boat across for two bolivianos which isn’t mentioned at all and seems like a scam really but… you have to do it.
Continuing on, we were here for about 1pm. This post shouldn’t be too long as honestly, we did very little. The columbian girl had a fall the previous day too and hurt her foot so she wasn’t up for much walking really and out of absolutely nowhere, torrential rain came down for about an hour and then the sun came out again. So the first day we just spent resting really and booked a trip to the Sun Island for the following day. We did wander around the place a bit. It’s very small, made for tourists to check out Lake Titicaca.
We started the day off with breakfast at the top rated place in Copacabana which happened to be an irish place and was honestly the best breakfast I’d had in a few weeks. Poached eggs and soda bread… more of that please! The guy running it was lovely too, give us some great tips.
We made our way to the dock (Boat was 35 Bolivianos) and got the boat to the north side of Sun Island. I think it took about two hours to get here and you’ll have to pay 15 bolivianos to walk to the ruins. So basically you have to pay. To add to that you have to pay a further 15 bolivianos to walk through the centre of the island and another 5 when you get to the south part. So ya, they really over do it. We only checked out the north side as that was enough walking really and the place actually is spectacular. Really beautiful views of the Lake and loads of tiny islands surrounding it and a beautiful snowy mountain in the distance in another part of Bolivia. It was just a really nice place to relax as it was so peaceful here.
We got the boat again at 1:30 which stops at the south part (so ya, we spent that 5 bolivianos… ridiculous) and honestly we didn’t have time to do much here so just walked around the close vicinity and back to the boat for 3:30m, back to Copacabana for about 5 and got the bus to Cusco at 6. Make sure to eat or bring food for that as you won’t get any on the bus.
Forgot to mention we stayed in Hostel Luz Yhobimar, it was one of the highest rated in the area and a private twin/double room with shared bathroom was only $10 so it was well worth it. No breakfast though (hence the irish place) and the wifi is pretty damn slow but for a private room, very happy with it.
So that ends my short time in Bolivia. I probably should have went to Potosi or Sucre at least but I have to admit I’m really looking forward to going to Cusco in Peru. It might be the highlight of my trip.