What is now referred to as Salar de Uyuni wasn’t always pure salt. It used to be a huge lake similar to Titicaca, except that not both of them had the same fate. But whatever, at least they both have world titles tied to their names now. As Titicaca went on to become the world’s highest navigable body of water, Salar de Uyuni is now the planet’s biggest salt flat. Unlike Titicaca, though, Potosi’s number one tourist destination falls entirely within the jurisdiction of the Bolivian state.
Perhaps I’d get some flak generalizing that Salar de Uyuni is camwhore heaven, but in my defense, I don’t think there is anything else to do here aside from striking a pose. To reiterate, this used to be a lake, until all the water evaporated leaving just that. Salt. And so now it looks like a waterless beach, a white and blinding bright shore that never ends where you can go sunbathing if you want to die early of skin cancer. Okay, having mentioned that, let’s now discuss the must-haves you should bring with you on this trip.
Or maybe let’s talk about how to get there first? From La Paz, you can fly with Amaszonas to save you some time, but as this would have cost some money, I decided to just take the bus. Return trips from the capital will set you back around USD80, which I don’t think is enough for a one-way plane ride. The bus is really comfy. The seats recline. There is one hot meal served before you leave. They play a pirated movie onboard. And they provide thick blankets too. The bus also has WiFi, but only from La Paz to Oruro.
The trip lasts 9 hours. If you’re not comfortable sleeping while on the road, this trip is not for you. Taking the bus is economical because it saves you the cost of accommodation for one night. If you can sleep well on a moving vehicle, this means saving time as well because you will be ready for sightseeing once you wake up. The return trip is the same. A word of warning: the agency office won’t be open once you return to La Paz, so might as well get off when they stop at the airport if you have to catch a morning flight.
Once you get to Uyuni, you will be dropped off at the Todo Turismo office before being herded like sheep to the various tour companies they assigned to you. The tour agency will then pick you up to bring you to their own office, which may or may not have WiFi. Forget about the internet while you’re here. The connection sucks anyway. You have until 10 AM to exchange money and buy all the stuff you need before the tour begins. The most important thing on their list? They say sunscreen. I say shades.
Okay, fine, I am not that friendly to my skin. But you have been warned that the altitude of this place is around 3 KM above sea level. That brings you closer to the sun, and the UV rays have less obstacles getting to you. I did not really care. I was wearing four or five layers anyway. Only my face was exposed. Water is also necessary but I did not bring any because I’m a stubborn SoaB. What I did not regret bringing were my sunglasses, because believe me when I say that you’d be blind without them. All you’d ever see is white.
The drive from Colchani is not a long one, perhaps just 15 minutes or so before you finally reach the hotel made of salt, which happens to be the only one there because further construction has been prohibited in the area. You will see a collection of flags right next to it, and I was happy to see one for the Philippines, except that some a-hole took away our sun and left a gaping hole in its place. BREXIT jokes were also rampant, with people suggesting that they isolate the UK flag because it was next to other EU ones.
You can grab a snack at the hotel. Other than that, this stop is all camwhoring. There is a giant Dakar salt monument of sorts constructed in front of the hotel. This is a good selfie spot, although I prefer the flags. What follows after this is a long drive to get to the middle of the salt flat, finding your own unique spot and minimizing the trace of other homo sapiens in the background. Ideally, you’ll end up somewhere halfway between the salt hotel and the cactus island of Incahuasi.
What happens next? You strike a pose. Bring your own props. Our tour guide really loved his T-Rex, so most of our photos were kind of Jurassic Park themed. Given the unique background that you have, adjusting distance to denote size is the norm. Heck, we even had a video of us coming out of a Coca-Cola can dancing the day away. Be creative, and make sure your batteries are fully charged. As for that mirror image you often see on Google, that only happens in January according to the guide, when there is enough water on the surface causing this illusion of the ground and the sky merging. Plan your trip accordingly.
[UYUNI] Purely White and Blinding Bright