The Salar de Uyuni, or salt flat, will provide you with an unforgettable visual experience as well as an album of photographs friends will envy you for. However, the experience is not for those who love luxury, pampering or comfortable temperatures. Suffice to say that God did not design the huge and barren salar, located at 3,660 meters above sea level, with the tourist in mind, and that in the eons since creation humanity has done little to improve on the Creator’s work.
1st Option: La Paz/Uyuni/La Paz
2nd Option: La Paz/Uyuni/San Pedro de Atacama
The night before the tour we will take the semi cama bus at 9pm to Uyuni, arriving at 5 in the morning on the next day, for clients that don’t want to take the bus, there is the option to fly from La Paz to Uyuni.
1st Day: UYUNI SALT FLAT LAKE
At hrs. We left about 9:30 a.m. towards Pulacayo Uyuni to visit the train cemetery, then continue to Colchani a small town where is the exploitation and refining of salt. There we have our first lunch. After recharge energys
Then, we enter the salar, doing a walk through the piles of salt and watching the show from the extraction of salt blocks, salt eyes and traditional crafts.
Later, we visited the Inca Huasi Island (better known as Fish Island) with huge cactus and a perfect panoramic view of the place. Continue to Chuvica where we overnight in a basic hostel.
Day 2: UYUNI SALT FLAT LAKE
After breakfast, we will continue our trip, visiting the highland lakes, the Siloli desert, the Tree Stone and the Laguna Colorada. Overnight in a basic hostel.
Day 3: UYUNI SALT FLAT LAKE
This morning we begin at 05h30, we will go to the Geysers "Morning Sun", then we’ll continue to Termas de Polques(hot springs), then to the Laguna Verde, Laguna Blanca. There you will have the last breakfast of the tour.
After breakfast we have two alternatives
During and after December-March rainy season a thin mantle of salt may, like river ice, collapse to plunge people or vehicles who stray off of the main routes into a salty muck. Also, unguided groups have gotten lost on the almost featureless 10,000 sq. km. salt flats. Experienced guides follow established routes and navigate using the mountains on the horizon and constellations.
History The salar is part of the altiplano (high plain), the huge flat plain stretching between the east and west ranges of the Andes mountains. The altiplano has been made flat and smooth by the silt deposited by innumerable eons of water rushing off the mountainsides into the inter-range valley, which has no natural outlet except evaporation.
The water has carried in salts and other minerals, leaving the altiplano soil saline and some of its smaller lakes extremely saline. The same plate tectonics which have pushed up the Andes mountain range have also raised the altiplano to an altitude nearly equaling the summit of the Matterhorn. The human history of the Uyuni area began at least about 12,000 years ago, the age of the oldest human traces discovered in the region. The region is quite rich in archaeological remains and researchers have found many objects left by pre- and post-ceramic civilizations, including stone tools, pottery, buildings and at least one cemetery. Based upon rock paintings, some speculate that it was in this region where llamas and alpacas were first domesticated. One theory is that the two domesticated camelids are descendents of the wild vicuñas and guanacos. But the cold and arid region was never densely populated. Most likely its primary role was as a trading route between the Pacific coast and the tropical valleys on the Andes’ eastern flanks. Examples of the famous but misnamed
Both the Tiwanaku civilization, which collapsed mysteriously about 1,100 A.D. (and the ruins of whose capital can be visited near La Paz), and the more famous, but ephemeral Inca Empire, dominated the Uyuni region. Archeological remains from these civilizations.
As well as the colonial era, which began here with the first Spaniards’ arrival in 1538, have been discovered. Those particularly interested in archaeology may want to ask about visiting the Colchaca excavation site, located about two hours southeast of Uyuni near the town of the same name.The site has produced both colonial artifacts and objects from the period between the Tiwanaku and Inca empires.
A brief burst of riches During the colonial era, the altiplano experienced an economic boom based on mining which lasted until its sudden end with the disbanding of the Bolivian national mining company COMIBOL in 1985. (See section about Potosi.) Throughout much of Bolivia the indigenous peoples were subjected to a sort of serfdom which ended only in 1952. However, due to the Uyuni region’s harsh conditions, the Spaniards and later the Bolivians had little interest in the region, and the people remained free.
Most of the native residents of the Uyuni area are Quechua peoples, descendents of the Inca Empire. Quechua was the official language of the Inca Empire and the language is still widely spoken on the altiplano, as is the Aymara tongue, which preceded the Inca’s arrival. Traditionally, the Uyuni region’s economy consisted of raising llamas and alpacas. The region is so high and cold that only very limited agriculture is possible, but the hardy quinua real and barley are grown. Historically, families also possessed and worked plots of land at lower elevations and traded their livestock products to lowland peoples for tropical fruits and vegetables. In recent times, however, both of these traditional patterns have broken down.
Today, the harsh and barren area’s main economy is tourism, although livestock raising and small-scale mining of salt and sulphur also go on.
The Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. (Avaroa, incidentally, is remembered for defending not the environment, but Bolivian territory. He is one ofthe few Bolivian heroes of the 1879 War of the Pacific, in which Bolivia lost its patch of seacoast and the port of Antofagasta to Chile. When Chilean soldiers demanded that Avaroa surrender, he yelled back ‘Your grandma should surrender, carajo!’ The Chileans overran him - and the rest of the Bolivians -anyway. Almost all of Bolivia’s wars have been equally disasterous.)
Eduardo Avaroa National Park is located 240 km south-west of Uyuni and is bordered by the Chilean and Argentinian frontiers. It covers 715 sq. kms and ranges in altitude from 4,278 meters up to 5,780 meters above sea level. It contains two major rivers, the Quetena and Silala, and two mountains, Torcopuri and Tocotacare. According to the National Protected Areas System, the average year-round temperature is only about 2.2 degrees Celsius and has an annual rainfall of about 65 mm, most of which falls in the summer, between December and April. The park was established in 1973 and expanded in 1981, principally to protect the area’s populations of flamingos, vicuñas and suris.
The park has about 250 residents, who, like other rural Bolivians, are migrating steadily to the tropical lowlands and cities.
Several of the bird species are considered to be in danger of extinction. Local pressures on the populations include hunting for their brightly-colored feathers and egg collection. Mass, unmanaged tourism may also disturb the flamingos, particularly
during their breeding season months Yet another threat to the area’s ecology is the use of huge quantities of yareta or queñua bushes as fuel for the drying ovens of the area’s borax mines. The andean fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus) is a natural predator of the flamingos.
Tours can be arranged in either La Paz or Uyuni itself. Tours arranged in La Paz usually include transportation arrangements to and from Uyuni and lodging in Uyuni, as well as tour arrangements in the area with a reputable company.
Be on your guard, because some Uyuni companies use old, unreliable vehicles prone to breakdowns and flat tires.
The town of Uyuni is eleven hours south of La Paz. Visitors may reach Uyuni either directly by bus, or bus and then train from Oruro which runs Mondays and Fridays.
Between December and March visiting is not recommended, as the salar is flooded by rainwater and the area rivers are very full and dangerous. This is the altiplano’s lowest elevation area, and so collects all the region’s water.
Uyuni can also be reached from Potosi, a seven hour trip. And from San Pedro de Atacamo, via a three or four hour trip with a tourism company.
Get ready for a wild visual experience in the salar, but expect a frigid one, too. So, along with your camera, sunglasses and sun block, be sure to pack a warm hat, gloves and sleeping bag. Remember that this is the coldest part of Bolivia, where nighttime temperatures can drop to 20 degrees celsius below freezing. It’s also a good idea to carry basic medicines, such as rehydration salts and eye drops, as there is a lot of dust.
Shortly after leaving Uyuni you will plunge into the salar, a spectacular expanse of shining white salt which appears to overflow the horizons and makes all adjectives understatements. Contrasted to the earth of salt is one of the bluest and most crystalline-pure skies you will ever see. Between the two is a range of quite-active volcanoes, some of them steadily puffing out smoke. Tours visit Colchani, where salt is mined and processed by hand and iodized. Because Bolivia has no seacoast, until the government required salt iodization goiter was endemic among many poor people. Soon after, your tour may visit two of Bolivia’s - and the world’s - most unique hotels. The Hotel Playa Blanca and the neighbouring Hotel de Sal are built almost entirely out of salt. The Playa Blanca’s strange mix of decor: cigarrete boxes, handicrafts and business cards, also sets it apart from most other tourist destinations. Built about ten years ago, the architect experimented with a variety of mixtures and chemicals before discovering that the mixture of salt and water below the salar’s hard surface provided a workable substance. The ----- is a mixture of salt and water from the salar. Today, the hotel owners don’t bother placing salt shakers on the dining tables. Guests need only take a pinch of the tables themselves.
Fish Island has no fish and much of the year, when the salar dries, is not even an island. But from the distance the island’s shape suggests a fish’s. Despite the island’s inhospitability, a unique fauna, including viscachas (long-tailed Andean rabbits), colibris (green hummingbirds which feed off of the giant cacti and which tire quickly in the thin air), as well as lizards and insects survive here. Huge cacti, reaching seven or eight meters in height, also grow on the island. Rain falls here only very rarely here, as in the rest of the salar, because the clouds tend to lose their water when crossing the surrounding mountains. The animal and plant life survives off of the humidity and and occasional showers, while the tiny human population trucks in water.
The first night you spend on the salar will be unforgettable – and not only because of the cold. The sunset’s wild and deep mix of colors glowing in the thin, unpolluted air is unmatchable, and the night sky which follows – glowing with southern constellations and slashed by shooting stars – provides a remarkable show.
The second day provides tours of striking lagoons, whose waters are colored deep shades of red, blue and even white. The most famous is Laguna Colorada, whose waters are made a deep red by the flagellate algae Dunaliella salina and a high ocher level. The lake receives its water from hot springs and runoff from wetlands. On an island of borax, rock and excrement in the middle of the lake, the birds have found a refuge protected from foxes and warmed year-round by thermal waters.
On the way to the Laguna Colorada you will cross the Siloli Desert, whose bizarre wind-carved rock formations sometimes appear to defy gravity. The most famous is the Stone Tree - Arbol de Piedra -really shaped more like a mushroom, which somehow manages to stay balanced upright atop its narrow ‘trunk.’ The ‘Rocks of Dali,’ so named because the wind-sculptured forms suggest the creations of the famous Spanish surrealist painter, are found in this and some other valleys.
The desert is surrounded by volcanoes which provide a dramatic spectacle. As the light plays on them, the ancient hardened lava flows sometimes resemble water flowing down their flanks. Very seldom in your life will you feel as tiny as you do standing in the midst of this immense landscape. From there, tours visit the a 4,850-meter elevation geyser basin. Towering over the basin is the Sol de Mañana steam geyser ¿?fumarol, which squirts 10 meters tall ??at a constant rate. Father on are thermal baths, where the more daring strip down in the cold air and take mineral baths.Tours visit the famous One of the final sights is also for many the most spectacular.
That is 4,260-meter altitude Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon), whose turquoise waters are coloured by various minerals, including cobalt. Laguna Verde, however, has been polluted by sulphur mine runoff. Behind the Laguna Verde is the dramatic and usually steaming 5960-meter tall Licancábur Volcano.
Physically fit and altitude tolerant visitors can scale, by vehicle and then by foot, part of this 5,600-meter mountain, to a site where local peoples made offerings to local gods. In indigenous religions, mountains played an important role.
Along the way, you’ll probably see herds of llamas and alpacas, domesticated camelids used for their meat and warm wool. You can distinguish llamas from alpacas by..... If you are lucky, you might also spot groups of vicuñas, slender and graceful wild relatives of the llamas and alpacas. The cashmere-like fineness and insulating property of vicuña fir makes the animals targets for poachers, who cut away the wool and leave the bodies to rot. Years ago, the vicuña was threatened by extinction. However, government protection in Bolivia and neighbouring nations has helped the animal recover so much that managed live-shearing programs are now being carried out. Nevertheless, poaching continues. Another prominent wild mammal native to the area are the puma Felis concolor and the pampas cat F. colocolo. There are also many waterfowl, particularly flamingos. The most common flamingos are the James (Phoenicoparrus jamesi), the Andean P. andinus and the Chilean Phoenicopterus chilensis. Two other native birds are the Puna rhea Pterocnemia pennata tarapacensis and the Horned coot Fulica cornuta.
The major threat to the flamingos is the illegal collection of their eggs for eating.
A bit re the flamingos - behavior, description, telling sp.s apart
About one kilometre outside of the town of Uyuni tours visit the ‘train cemetery.’ The railroad did not arrive in Bolivia until about 1890, but it played an important role in the development of the mining industry. The train cemetery was actually a repair yard, and the dead trains are those machines which the mechanics decided were beyond all hope of treatment.
What to bring: Regional Attractions: X hours north of Uyuni is the colonial mining town of Potosi. Potosi has a magnificent and terrible history which contrasts dramatically with its presentcondition as the very poor capital of the poorest department in Bolivia, South America’s poorest nation. The Inca’s knew that Potosi’s Cerro Rico (Rich Hill) contained valuable ores, but because they considered the place holy, they never exploited it. The Spaniards had no such compunctions, however, and they brought in innumerable numbers of indigenous peoples as well as some African slaves to labor - and often die - in the mines and mint. Potosi became Spain’s crown jewel in South America, and for a while its population even exceeded that of London. The result of all these sufferings were many beautiful works of art and enough silver, the saying goes, to build a bridge from Potosi to Spain. Today, Potosi’s mines are worked by low-budget cooperatives run and owned by the miners themselves. Boys and men dig out a living in conditions which ruin both the environment and their own health. Tourists can visit the Spanish mint (Casa de la Moneda) and admire the city’s colonial architecture. Mine tours, memorable, but not necessarily pleasant, are also available. Observe how, ironically, the poverty becomes more grinding the closer that you get to the Cerro Rico. To the South visit San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis in what Guinness has labelled the world’s driest desert. ......If you go in ---- and are lucky enough to visit during a year of rare rains, you may get to see the spectacle of wildflowers blooming in the desert.
Prices in US American Dollas per person