Thanks to our guide, we arrived at the salt flats for sunset after a long day of driving. We joined a few other groups at the edge of the salt to watch the sun disappear. We decided to shed our shoes and walk out to distance ourselves from the rest of the crowd.
This time of the year, the salt flats have about two inches of water covering most of the area. The water level changes frequently depending on the amount of rain and wind. For our one and only sunset on the salar, we were lucky to have just the right amount of water and lack of wind to create the perfect reflection.
We walked out far enough to be the only ones in sight. It was a strange feeling standing out there, almost like your walking through a dream.
We were the only group to stay for the entire sunset, and we watched the colors change before heading back to our hotel.
This area, although it is a national park, it is still used for harvesting salt. Local workers would rake the salt into piles, give it time to dry, and later shovel the salt into trucks. The salt can be used for eating, after iodine is added, but they seem to mostly use it for construction.
We stayed in a hotel in which the building blocks were made out of salt. They also made the tables, chairs, and bed frames out of salt. You could just feel your blood pressure rising just standing inside the hotel.
This area can get very chilly at night, but the salt bricks did a pretty good job keeping the cold out. We convinced our guide that we also wanted to see sunrise on the salar, and being the good sport that he was, he agreed. After a delicious “last supper,” we bedded down early in anticipation of another amazing day.
After another early morning wake up, we were back in the jeep heading to the salt flat, about a twenty-minute drive from our hostel. This time we would actually drive onto the flats and in to the water.
Our guide knew just where to go to avoid the crowd and give us an amazing sunrise.
After sunrise we drove further into the salt flat, and again found a spot all to ourselves. We had a nice breakfast (pancakes on the salar!), and started to explore. We of course, took far too many pictures.
In dry season, this place is all hard pack salt and it is possible to drive all over, but during wet season, this is not possible. Most of the jeeps stayed within sight of each other, and we only ventured about five miles in to the salar. There have been recent stories of tourists talking their guides into going further. Most of these stories have ended happily, but a few jeeps found themselves lost or stuck in the salt flats for a few days.
Our guide, who always played it safe, was not going to take any chances. He told us how easy it is to get out there, lose your bearing, and get lost, so we didn’t try to talk him in to anything.
We walked about a mile away from the jeep and felt like we were all alone in this unique place. It is easy to take a million pictures, and we probably did.
The water was so salty (duh, it is a salt flat), that by the end of the day, our pants could have almost stood on their own from the amount of salt that had collected on them. Also, walking around on the coarse salt provided great exfoliation for the bottoms of our feet. We told our guide that people in The States would pay a lot of money to have this type of treatment, and had a good laugh at this.
In the dry season the entire place is covered by dry, octagonal salt formations. We were lucky to still see a little of this shape intact under the water.
Because there are no real points of reference, it is easy to take some interesting perspective pictures. These usually work better in the dry season without the reflection, but we were able to make a few (kinda) work.
It was a fun experience to walk around not really knowing where the horizon began or ended. It all just blended together. When something was a distance away, it looked almost like it was floating.
We were even treated to a flamingo fly by! They don’t hang out in the salt flats, but sometimes fly by to enjoy the view, or to get to another non-salty pond.
There is an old “historic” salt hotel that is on the actual salt flats. No one is allowed to stay here when the salar is wet, but you are still able to visit and buy something. Similar to our hotel, everything is made out of salt.
We took a few more pictures and spent a few more minutes in these great surroundings before heading back to Uyuni. This was the last day of our tour, and from here we would start our “adventure” to Chile.
Our guide never pressured us to leave, even though we are sure he wanted to start his drive back home. He helped us take great perspective pictures and answered all the questions we could come up with. It was an amazing trip with spectacular scenery and unimaginable views, but without our guide and cook, the trip could have easily not gone as well.
On the drive back to Uyuni, where the tour ended, the car was quiet and we all reflected on our recent adventure. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience. Yet one more reason why Bolivia is amazing. (Take that, Tee!)
From Uyuni we took a 2 day jeep ride to Chile for yet another interesting border crossing. We passed a lot of the same scenery, but this time there was no slowing down to enjoy it.
Pedal to the metal, Chile awaits.
Ree’s not going to be happy with that “Take that, Tee” comment. She always gives me a long hard silent stare whenever I ask her if she has read your latest blog.
Bee has finalized plans to visit you guys in Argentina. Maybe you can make sure she misses all the good stuff too.
Unreal ethereal photos you took. I could see getting seriously lost on those flats with a total loss of any sense of direction.
Yeah, I agree Ree might be mad. Kristen wanted to say, “Sorry, Tee,” but I changed it at the last second.
But don’t worry, she hates us already, just read her comments. I am sure she will make it here one day soon.
These photos are AMAZING!!!!! I want to GO!
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I’m with Mom.
You don’t know me but I have been searching the interwebs for information on Toro Toro (there isn’t much out there that I can find) and the Salar de Uyuni for a trip I plan on taking in July. Can you tell me (apologies if it is elsewhere on your blog) which tours/guides you used? Did you wait until you got there to book them, or have it organized in advance? Would you advise a solo young female not to travel alone between Cochambamba / Torotora / La Paz / Uyuni or do you think it would be ok, based on your experiences?
Fantastic photos. And I am very envious of your trip.
Kate (an Aussie in NYC)
Glad you find the information helpful. Bolivia was an amazing country!
For Torotoro- I recommend contacting Rigo at http://www.elmolinotorotoro.com/. We went with him for Torotoro and it was perfect. He combined us with another couple which made our stay even cheaper (the price declines with the number of people in your group- see the website for details). While it would be pricey by yourself, he might be able to combine you with another group/couple which would make it affordable. It was four days with everything taken care of: transport to Torotoro, transport to all the sights, a guide, all food, and great accommodations. Or, you could take public transport there (there are a few buses that leave from Cochabamba to Torotoro per week), and there are hostels in town, but once you arrive you will have to find transportation to the sights and a guide. We found it so much easier to go with El Molino b/c there isn’t a ton of information out there.
For the Salar, I recommend booking a trip from Tupiza (as opposed to Uyuni). The tour operators seem to have a better reputation and you get an extra day on the tour. We went with our hotel’s company (Hostal Los Salares) and were pleased with them. Plus Tupiza is a MUCH nicer town to spend some time in to organize a tour ($5/hour horseback riding). Uyuni is kind of a pit.
We booked everything there because we had plenty of time. If you are looking to go to Torotoro, you might want to contact Rigo a bit earlier (a week or two) so he can try to match you up with someone. You should be able to book your tour to the Salar from Tupiza within a day or two. When you arrive in Tupiza, just know what you are looking for (how many people, what’s included, etc.) and shop around.
I think you should be fine in Bolivia traveling alone, especially between bigger tourist destinations because there will probably be other tourists with you (you will probably meet many others along the way). Just use general travel street smarts, and you should be fine. I would recommend brushing up on some Spanish as it would be helpful while traveling around.
Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions. Enjoy Bolivia!
Hi Kate. I’m Kristen’s Dad, and being a Dad one always worries a bit about daughters traveling solo anywhere. I haven’t been to Bolivia, but if you’re solo in New York City, after that Bolivia should be a piece of cake! (That’s American slang for “No worries, mate!”.)