- Unesco World Heritage
All year round
All year round
Uyuni and its vast salt flat is an extraordinary and unusual place. This is a star Bolivian tourist attraction. I can't imagine that any trip to Bolivia could be complete without spending several days in this incredible desert. Tourists flock here and, as a result, it can be hard to find a good tour operator. I spent my 3 days there asking my guide to follow the pre-agreed itinerary. As with most tour guides there, all he wanted to do was get off duty and go home as early as possible. So I'm going to take things in hand and give you a guided tour myself!
So here we go - a three day tour... A few kilometres out of town and you'll reach the 'train cemetery'. Here you are, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rusty locomotives waiting for goodness knows what. They seem to be counting the hours, eternally waiting for something to happen. Maybe they're expecting the ghosts of drivers who used to fire up their engines?
With their desert backdrop, it's a surreal sight where time seems to stand still. Further on there's Colchani, a town set in this outer-worldy environment, where the only means to survive is to work for the salt production industry. It was in one of the town's houses that we learned more about how this 'white gold' is manufactured.
The salt rocks are firstly dried on a slab over a fire, before being ground and bagged. And it's all done by hand! It's an incredibly tough job and miserably paid. We headed off and soon the dirt road gave way to an immense, white desert. It's 3,650 metres in altitude and covers 12,500 km2. It stretches far off in to the horizon. It's so immense that the white salt seems to blend in with the blue sky. On its surface, the salt cracks and forms a variety of unusual shapes. It's simply mind-blowing. And then suddenly you'll spot the rocky outcrop of Inca Huasi. It's like a volcanic hill covered in huge cacti.
Next up is the stunning countryside of the Valle de Rocas. Huge deformed rocks, some covered in holes, break the monotony of this sprawling, empty desert. Arriving a the Colorada Lagoon is nothing short of magic. The lagoon is circled by volcanic peaks, but what's most startling is its blood-red water. To complete this picture-postcard setting, thousands of pink flamingos can be seen wading around, feeding on the microscopic algae that give the lagoon its amazing colour. Absolutely FABULOUS!