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How to See Machu Picchu for Less Than $30

I wasn’t going to see Machu Picchu.

I’d travelled through Brazil and Bolivia, but I still wanted to see Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. And Machu Picchu was an expensive detour. I knew that the train alone would cost between $150 and $850!

In fact, I saw that some bloggers spend at least $400 or $500 on their trip to and from Machu Picchu – but most spend MUCH more.

But then I thought to myself: the “Lost City of the Incas” is one of the most incredible archaeological sites in the world, so why don’t I try to get there on my own terms?

And I did.

Besides the entry ticket, I managed to get to and from Machu Picchu – including an overnight stay – for less than $30. I also travelled through South America for less than £2300, so I feel qualified to give you the advice you need to see Machu Picchu on a budget.

In this post, I’ll share my cheat sheet itinerary AND everything else you need to know to plan your journey to the citadel. Read on for your Machu Picchu cheat sheet….

Machu Picchu

How NOT to see Machu Picchu on a budget

First of all, there are two things to avoid if you’re on a budget:

  • Don’t take the train. The jungle walk alternative is definitely worth it.
  • Beware the tourist traps around every corner. Aguas Calientes, the “Machu Picchu town”, is a complete tourist trap. You think you’re looking at different souvenir shops and restaurants, but they’re all selling the same stuff. I’m all for supporting the local economy but…I’d rather give a hefty tip to the girl working in the market all day than the cheeky restaurant owners who serve rice and beans for ten times her wage.

Aguas Calientes, The Machu Picchu Town

How I saw Machu Picchu for less than $30

Now it’s time to reveal my Machu Picchu itinerary (I have never shared this before)!

Note: My friends and I chose to stop off at the Santa Teresa Hot Springs – a secret paradise on the Urubamba River. These waters have medicinal properties to treat skin ulcers, bone pain and rheumatism, and damn do they feel good!

If you’re in a hurry, however, you can get a minibus or taxi straight from Cusco (or wherever) to Hidroelectrica – the super-cheap method I chose for the first cheat-sheet itinerary below.

But how can you spend less than $30 on transportation, food AND accommodation?

Well, accommodation is incredibly cheap (you can get a private room for ten bucks), and there are plenty of ways to get to and from the site.

This is the cheapest way to see Machu Picchu:

Machu Picchu Itinerary A (not including a trip to the Santa Teresa Hot Springs)

  • Purchased the Machu Picchu tickets from the Cusco office.
  • Early rise in Cusco the next day.
  • Shared taxi/minibus to Hydroelectrica = $8 per person, 4 hours

Note: There are over 100 bends, so prepare for motion sickness by taking a pill or these babies.

  • Walked 6 kilometres along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes = 2.5 hours

Woo! You made it to Aguas Calientes! Here’s what to do in the “Machu Picchu Town”:

  • Dinner at San Pedro market = $2
  • Night in a hostel = $6 per person
  • Walk to Machu Picchu first thing in the morning, 1.5 hours (you can get the bus, but a return ticket costs $24)
  • Leave by 11 am
  • Walk back down to Aguas Calientes
  • Walk back along the train tracks to Hidroelectrica, 2.5 hours
  • Minibus back to Cusco = $8, 4 hours

Machu Picchu Itinerary B (including a trip to the Santa Teresa Hot Springs – highly recommended!)

  • Early rise in Cusco.
  • Taxi or minibus to the town of Santa Teresa = $8, 5 hours

Note: There are over 100 bends, so prepare for motion sickness by taking a pill or these babies.

  • Taxi from Santa Teresa to the hot springs = <$1 per person, 10 minutes
  • Enjoyed the hot springs for a few hours ($4) and had a packed lunch.
  • Taxi from the hot springs to Hidroelectrica = $0.50 per person
  • Followed the train tracks to Aguas Calientes = 3 hours.

Woo! You made it to Aguas Calientes! Here’s what to do in the “Machu Picchu Town”:

  • Dinner at San Pedro market = $2
  • Night in a hostel = $6 per person
  • Walk to and from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu = 1.5 hours
  • Walk back down to Aguas Calientes and walked back along the train tracks
  • Minibus back to Cusco = $8, 4 hours

Walking along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes

Notes:

  • Take your passport for the checkpoint at Hidroelectrica.
  • Many people walk from Aguas (the Machu Picchu town) to Machu Picchu. However, there are regular bus services. The bus takes 30 – 40 minutes and the first one leaves Aguas at 5.30am. You’ll see the ticket kiosk when you get into town, so buy them the night before if you plan on taking the bus. The bus stop is next to the ticket kiosk, but you’ll spot the queue straight away (See picture below).
  • To avoid an additional night in Aguas, go to Machu Picchu early and don’t spend hours there like we did! That way, you’ll have enough time to walk back to Hidroeclectrica and grab a minibus to Cusco (or wherever you need to go). We arrived back in Aguas in the late afternoon, which meant that it was too late to walk back to Hidroelectrica (don’t walk in the dark!), the train prices had risen incredibly, and our hostel owner had pushed the prices up. No bueno.

Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu Town

How to buy Machu Picchu tickets

You might be wondering why I didn’t include the entry ticket in my <$30 cost calculations. My answer is that it’s impossible to give you a solid number – Residents and Peruvians pay $26 and foreigners pay $47.

With that in mind, you can aim to spend about $55 for your entire trip if you’re Peruvian (or a resident), or $75 if you’re a foreigner.

But, you must buy your entrance ticket in advance. You can buy your ticket online, in Aguas, Cusco or any major city with a Banco de Nacíon. I would recommend booking online or in a bigger city like Cusco, because they do sell out during the high season (June to September)!

Click here for more info on tickets.

When to go to Machu Picchu

When to fly

If you’re planning on walking to Aguas Calientes (the cheaper option), I would recommend taking your trip in April or May; the rainy season will have passed and Machu won’t be as crowded as it is in the Summer.

April and May opening times: 6 am – 6 pm

If you’re happy to pay for the train, however, go in February when the Inca Trail closes. This is the wettest season so it’s not safe to walk on the train tracks, but the site is much less crowded.

February opening times: 6 am – 5:30 pm

When you’re there

Skipping forward to when you’re in Aguas: the best time to visit Machu Picchu is first thing in the morning – to have a chance of getting your train out of Aguas Calientes. If you’re not in a rush to leave the same day, the times are up to you!

Where to stay

There are hotels in Aguas Calientes that charge $800 or more for one night. It’s no wonder that some tourists spend thousands on a trip to Machu Picchu!

Although I don’t remember the name of my hostel, I just checked out Booking.com and saw 6 options under $9.00. You can easily book a single room for around $11.

Note: If you book using the link above, I’ll earn a commission at no extra cost to you 🙂

Where to eat

In Aguas Calientes:

Eat dinner at the market. When you first arrive in Aguas, you’ll see a big building on the corner on the left-hand side. This is San Pedro Market and you can eat here for less than $2. This saved us a lot of cash! Although there are plenty of places to eat in Aguas, they all offer the same meals at inflated tourist prices.

At Machu Picchu:

Take a packed lunch. There are two places to eat when you’re at Machu Picchu: Tinkuy Restaurant at the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel and the Machu Picchu snack bar. The prices are extortionate, so it’s better to take your own food.

How to see Machu Picchu on a budget

Phew! It took a while to get all that down.

I hope I’ve helped you to plan your trip, but feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below 🙂 Have a great time in Aguas!

The Ultimate South America Bucket List

Looking for the must-see places in South America? You’ve come to the right place.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“Amber, you’re more of a ‘stumble-across places clumsily’ kind of girl”.

Yes, I am. But I also give the people what they want!

Oprah

https://imgflip.com/memetemplate/Oprah-You-Get-A

Yaaaaaas!

So, here’s the thing: If I were to go to the continent now that I’m more the wiser, I would definitely leave a few attractions off my list.

Here are ten places that still hit the mark for my South America bucket list:

The Ultimate South America Bucket List

1. Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Peru

I’m not one for clichés, but Machu Picchu is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen in my life. I was also surprised to learn that although this is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the citadel was discovered just one century ago!

Where to find it: Peru, set high in the Andes Mountains.

Amber’s Tip: Save money by opting to do the three-hour hike from Hydroelectrico to Aguas Calientes (The Machu Picchu “Town”). Also, avoid looking at too many pictures before you go! The fewer photographs you see, the more gobsmacked you’ll be when it’s in front of you.

2. Iguazú Falls

Iguazu Falls

Wowzers. Niagara falls ain’t got nothing on this.

Iguazú Falls (or Iguaçu Falls) is the largest waterfall system in the world. I often wonder why travellers haven’t caught up on this.

Where to find them: You’ll find the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná.

Amber’s tip: The consensus is that it’s better to see the ‘falls on the Argentine side. Although the Brazilian side offers panoramic views, there are more viewpoints and trails on the Argentine side.

3. Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

The Bolivian Salt Flats are one of the strangest, most unique places on earth. From pink lakes to bubbling geysers, smoking volcanoes and multi-colour lakes, a trip to the Salar is guaranteed to blow your mind. Interestingly, the setting – which is known for its “Martian” look – is also used to test Mars rovers in simulations.

The Atacama Desert

Where to find them: Just outside the little town of Uyuni, about 10-12 hours’ drive from La Paz.

Amber’s tip: Take a three-day jeep tour and ask your driver to drop you off at the Chilean border.

For more on the Salar and how to do it the RIGHT way, click here.

4. Huacachina Oasis

Huacachina

As South America’s only natural desert oasis, Huacachina is a fascinating town.

You’ll be captivated by the green waters of the Huacachina Lagoon, which, might I add, are thought to have therapeutic properties. If this doesn’t sound cool enough already, the lagoon’s shores are dotted with palm trees, bars and clubs. A wonderfully bizarre place.

Adventurers will also be pleased to hear that they can tear up and down the dunes on a Dune Buggy or Sandboarding tour.

Regardless of what you do when you’re there, I really do think that this is one of the most magical places in South America. But, like me, you might be wondering how it came to be in the first place.

Peruvian legend says the oasis formed when a beautiful princess was caught bathing in the waters by a local hunter. Humiliated, she dove into the water and wept. Her tears formed the oasis, but her humiliation has continued to curse the land, turning everything to sand. They say she still lives in the bottom of the oasis…

Where to find it: Four hours south of Lima, Peru.

5. Rio Carnaval

Two ladies enjoying Rio Carnaval

Rio really knows how to throw the best parties! The city itself should be on anyone’s bucket list, but Rio “Carnaval” deserves its own spot. Two million people fill the streets for days of parades, parties and open-air performances. It really is the biggest carnival in the world!

Copacabana, Rio

6. Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar)

Looking for the most breath-taking viewpoint in Brazil? Look no further than Sugarloaf Mountain. I’ll certainly be making another stop here one day. Make your way up to the summit with the two-stage cable car system – you’ll immediately understand why Rio was nicknamed the “Marvellous City”.

Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Cars

Amber’s tip: If you’re wondering how this compares to the view from Christ the Redeemer, it’s better! And much less crowded. The best time to go is in the evening to see the city light up.

7. Baños, Ecuador

Baños has a lot to offer visitors including lush cloud forests, wildlife, and activities such as zip lining, rafting and beautiful hikes. There also happens to be two must-see attractions here: “The Devil’s Cauldron” and “The Swing at the End of the World”.

The Swing at the End of the World

 

Venture up into the lush mountains in Baños, Ecuador, to find Casa del Arbol. The swing offers incredible views of Mt. Tungurahua, the nearby active volcano. But don’t worry, it’s only one of the most active volcanoes in South America!

Apparently, the volcano erupts once every couple of hundred years, killing the town’s population. Then, more people move in and the cycle begins again. Logical.

The Devil’s Cauldron

“El Pailón del Diablo” is a thunderous waterfall located along the Rio Pastaza, a tributary of the upper Amazon River Basin. It’s also a favourite of photographers. You don’t want to miss this natural wonder!

8. Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine is one of the best treks in the world. Located in Chile’s Patagonia region, the park takes its name from its granite towers and horn-shaped peaks called Cuernos del Paine. During summer, there are 17 hours of daylight to explore the bright blue icebergs and the grasslands sheltering rare wildlife. It’s a spectacular place.

Amber’s tip: Be there for sunrise to see the horns glow purple and red.

9. The Amazon Jungle

Amazon Rainforest

Also known as the “lungs of the earth”, the Amazon Jungle is the biggest in the world. Although the majority of the forest is contained in Brazil (60%), it also extends into Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Go swimming with Pink River dolphins, go kayaking or paddle boarding, or explore the wildlife on a jungle walk.

10. The Quilotoa Loop

The Quilotoa Loop

Quilotoa is an extinct volcano that blew up over 800 years ago, leaving behind the most beautiful crater lake in South America. The surrounding mountains have since become the most popular trek in Ecuador – for a good reason.

Spend two to four days walking the ring-shaped road from the Panamericana to the backcountry of Cotopaxi province. Along the way, you’ll encounter snow-capped volcanoes, a crystal-blue lake (that the local people believe has no bottom), and colourful indigenous markets. But perhaps the best thing about the loop’s isolation is that it brings you into contact with the Kichwa-speaking indigenous people and their centuries-old way of life. For many, the Quilotoa Loop is a highlight of their trip.

Amber’s tip: You don’t need a tour guide, but it is a nice way to support the local economy. I would also advise taking a stick to fight off the dogs. Click here for more on that.

The Ultimate South America Bucket List

You might be a little surprised right now. Why did I leave so many hotspots off the list? What about Isla del Sol? The Galapagos Islands?

If you want to know why, drop me a comment below.

What’s your favourite spot in South America?

8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Bolivian Salt Flats

[This is the final post in a 4-part series. If you’re new here and have yet to read about my disastrous experience in the Bolivian Salt Flats, click here to read part 1: “That Time I Got Stranded in The Bolivian Desert”.]

I did a lot of research before I went to the Bolivian Salt Flats and the Atacama Desert, but my trip was still a mess. Experience definitely trumps the internet in some cases.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of tips that would have completely transformed my trip. Here are 8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia:

Before you visit the Bolivian Salt Flats

  1. Do NOT pre-book a tour!

It frustrates me to see so many bloggers advising their readers to book in advance. A quick Google search will show you that the big tour operators are charging over $200 per person to pre-book a tour. Shockingly, Banjo Tours charges $1525 if you’re on your own, but I’ve heard that other people have paid this much as part of a group! TripAdvisor recommends one of these rip-off companies (because they will receive a commission, of course) but take my word for it and pay a driver when you’re in Uyuni. Unless, of course, you’d rather spend $1525 than $50? Finding a driver is easy-peasy – the streets were lined with reasonable drivers when we got into Uyuni. Your tour will also include food and accommodation, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Important: You CAN find drivers that understand English for this price.

  1. Don’t listen to everything you read.

My favourite part of the tour – by far – was the Eduardo Avaroa National Park. Some bloggers incorrectly state that you’ll only visit the park on a four-day tour, but I did so on a three-day tour. Just ask your driver for his itinerary before you hand any cash over.

  1. Pack everything you need.

There are no pharmacies for tampons or medical emergencies. There are no stores for the last-minute bits you didn’t pack. In particular, I would recommend first aid supplies, Imodium, and PLENTY of water. Water will not be provided during the tour, so I recommend grabbing as much as you can from one of the little stores in Uyuni.

  1. Take CASH!

Most, if not all of the ATMs in Uyuni will reject your card. You’ll also have some surprise expenses – to pass checkpoints on the tour (at least 200BOB), to use the toilet (depends on your bowel movements hehe), and even to use the shower.

  1. Take spare batteries for your camera.

Assume that you will not be able to charge your electronics in the accommodation. Seriously, there were two charger points in the entire hostel I stayed in. To make things worse, the hostel managers chose to turn on the electricity for a very brief period. It became a race to charge my electronics AND have a three-minute shower. Did I mention that I also encountered a scorpion in the shower? No? Click here for more on that.

  1. Give yourself time to acclimatise

The Salt Flats are um, pretty high up. You’ll need a few days beforehand to acclimatise.

If you’re suffering when you arrive, don’t panic. You can ask for Soroche Medicine in a pharmacy. I’d also recommend drinking the coca tea (it really does help). Just don’t cross the border with it – coca leaves are used to make cocaine, so most countries’ laws don’t distinguish between the two!

  1. Pack enough clothing

Given the soaring daytime temperatures, you’ll be surprised to learn that the weather can drop below freezing at night. Pack enough warm clothing and your own sleeping bag – the hostel duvets won’t be enough! A silk sleeping bag saved me on countless occasions during my three-month trip in South America.

  1. Get travel insurance

This is perhaps the most important tip on the list. Please, please get travel insurance. You may think that the worst accident would be a sprained ankle, but vehicles have overturned in the past. Bolivia, generally, can be a bit dangerous – even this idiot had travel insurance!

A car, Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats

8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Bolivian Salt Flats

Follow these tips and I guarantee that you’ll enjoy your trip a little bit more. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

The Best Time to Visit the Salar de Uyuni: Never

[This is part 3 of the 4-part Salar de Uyuni series. Click here for part 1, “That time I got stranded in the Bolivian desert”]

BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS TOUR: DAY 1 CONT.

Nuevo Amanecer Hostel, Salar de Uyuni

Our accommodation for the first night was a hostel in the middle of nowhere. The “Nuevo Amanecer” hostel is located in a “village” called Atulcha, but best of all, it’s made of salt.

Nuevo Amanecer Hostel, Salar de Uyuni

The power was also out. Fantástico.

“Everything is dark, like my broken soul”, I thought.

But it wasn’t so bad, after all. It turned out that those Peruvian hostel workers were rather…romantic. We’re talking candle-lit benches. Candle-lit rooms. Candles everywhere. Frankly, it was a fire hazard.

The food was even more surprising. It was so good! I can’t remember what they served but it was great.

I recently read a blog post from an American couple who felt the need to rant about the hostel and its menu. They were particularly offended that the Indigenous workers had not served them a Thanksgiving dinner. It took all my might not to go off in their comments. Pushing aside their lack of sensitivity regarding the food itself, I can tell you that this place is like most hostels. If you’re looking for luxury, don’t go on a Salt Flats tour. Moreover, if you’re an insensitive twonk, please do everyone a favour and stay at home.

We stuffed our faces that night until the announcement came. One of the hostel workers announced that the electricity was back on, and that anyone who wanted to use the shower had to report to… the kid next to him.

A six-year-old kid was stood by the bathroom. To add insult to injury, he requested payment from anyone who wanted a shower.

It was in this moment that I realised that the “no electricity” claim was a lie. But it didn’t end there.

I walked into a little shower stall…

I turned on the shower…

I looked down…

And there It was.

A scorpion stood at my feet.

The strangest part of all this is that I didn’t feel the immense fear that I SHOULD have felt. My soul had become a very dark place.

So, I did what anyone would do. I kicked the scorpion with my flipflop.

That’s right. I kicked it with my flippy-floppy. And carried on with my shower.

It could have killed me in a split-second. 430 million years of evolution versus a Primark flip-flop. Sometimes travelling is awful and I wonder why I do it.

BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS TOUR: DAY 2

After 24 hours of hell, day two managed to blow my mind. We’re talking multi-colour deserts and lagoons abundant with flamingos and other Andean wildlife. We’re talking bubbling geysers, smoking volcanoes, and herds of grazing llamas. It was incredible.

First, we were taken to Sora Canyon to see llamas in their natural environment, followed by a drive through the Eduardo Avaroa National Park – my favourite part of the trip.

Stop 1: Sora Canyon

Jeep tour through the Salar de Uyuni

Llamas drinking water

Llamas at Sora Canyon, Uyuni

Just me, herding my llamas.

Stop 2: The Siloli Desert

Strange rock formations in the Siloli Desert

Stop 3: Eduardo Avaroa National Park & Laguna Colorada

The Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth (besides the poles) – receiving less than 1mm of rainfall each year. Interestingly, the setting – which is known for its “Martian” look – is actually used to test Mars rovers in simulations.

A lake at the Eduardo Avaroa National Park

Jeeps at the Salar de Uyuni

To add to its mystery, flamingos forage in pools of salty water, bright pink against the wind-sculpted canyons.

On this occasion I got lucky. As if the setting didn’t feel dreamy enough already, tornadoes began to form in the sand.

Flamingos at the Colorada Lake

Flamingos and tornadoes at the Colorada Lake

I realised at this moment that the final destination is not as important, or fulfilling, as the journey.

How to Avoid Being Lynched: Run Away

At the end of this mind-blowing day, we took a break in the tiniest town you’ve ever seen. Six buildings kind-of-small.

I played football with some local kids there until I decided to grab a drink from the town “store”. Because I realised that the owner lived there, I also asked if I could use the bathroom. She sternly replied with “Dos Bolivianos” (30 cents).

I got back in the jeep and our driver began to drive off. He also decided to share with us that the townspeople lynch people for any wrongdoings. I looked down at the drink in my hands and realised that I did not pay for it.

BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS TOUR: DAY 3

Ah, the final chapter of my Salar de Uyuni disaster. The final day of my trip passed quickly, thank Jesusito.

As part of the day three itinerary, we drove deeper through San Pedro de Atacama – stopping at the “Dali Desert” and Volcan Licancabur.

Jeep Tour through the Salar de Uyuni

First stop: Volcan Licancabur – a 19553 ft volcano located on the Bolivia/Chile border.

Volcan Licancabur at the Eduardo Avaroa National Park

Volcan Licancabur

Our next stop was the “Dali Desert” – named so due to the uncanny resemblance with Dali’s work. His paintings often featured surreal desert landscapes and elements of time (and psychoanalysis). Although it is unclear whether the desert inspired Dali’s work, you’ll see the shocking resemblance when you’re there.

Here is a very dark, awkward picture:

The Dali Desert, Bolivia

Maybe there’s an eerie resemblance to the Dali painting because the rocks were placed there? Who knows. I guess mystery is part of the charm in this wonderfully weird place.

I also want to give a shout out to our driver here. We were worried that we didn’t have enough gas to get back, but we managed to drop the girls off at the Chilean border and get back to Uyuni in time! All was well in the end.

My Salar de Uyuni Verdict

Am I glad that I went to the Salt Flats? I think so. The scenery was jaw-dropping. I would, however, do many things differently. This includes ignoring a lot of online nonsense, so if I’ve not already put you off the Salar (I’m sure lynchings are rare!), I’ve compiled a handy list of everything you need to know to make your trip smoother than mine. I’d also like to reconsider the original title of this blog post. I guess that the best time to go to the Salar de Uyuni is anytime – as long as you remember to pack the damn Pringles.

Click here to read “8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Bolivian Salt Flats”.

Is the Salar de Uyuni on your bucket list?

My Salar de Uyuni Disaster: Car Chases and Salty Pringles

[This is part 2 of the 4-part Salt Flats series. Click here for part 1, “That time I got stranded in the Bolivian desert”]

My Salar de Uyuni Disaster

We had ten minutes until every jeep in town left for the salt flats. That meant that we had ten minutes to find enough seats.

I flung myself around Uyuni to find an ATM. After about eight minutes, I miraculously found one that accepted my card. I ran back to the driver and threw my money at him. Rack City.

I want to point out here that my driver asked for fifty bucks for a three-day tour. A quick Google search, however, will reveal just how much the famous operators rip-off tourists. If you pre-book a tour online, every company on the first page of Google (including Banjo Tours, Kanoo Tours, and Red Planet Expedition as recommended by TripAdvisor) will charge you anywhere between $200USD and $1600USD for the same tour I paid $50 for. Always book when you’re there, people!

We loaded our stuff on to the jeep. “Finally, the madness is over!”, I said. But something always goes wrong when I say that.

Everything seemed normal enough at first. We drove out of Uyuni and into the desert.

But then I noticed two other cars coming towards us. Our driver put his foot down. “They’re chasing us”, he said.

It was the strikers again. They were trying to cut us off from entering the salt flats. So, I guess I went from trying desperately to get into Uyuni to desperately trying to get out within two hours. Life is really funny and humorous tehe.

The chase lasted around half an hour before we managed to lose them. One of the most bizarre experiences of my life. But this was still not as bizarre as what happened next!

BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS TOUR: DAY 1

Our first stop was Colchani, a very tiny village where the salt is made.

The main attraction here was a house made entirely of salt. They like to call it a museum, but it’s more like a tiny little house with two rooms.

Perhaps the strangest part of this ordeal was the Kamasutra statues. No, I’m not joking. Literally, we were greeted inside by statues of creatures in sex positions. Absolutely done with all this s***, I whipped out my salty Pringles.

Here are said statues for your viewing displeasure:

Salt sculpture of a person bending over

Then it was time to make our way to the salt flats.

On the way, we took a super-fast lunch break in a salty tent. La comida was surprisingly tasty! Meat-eaters were given a plate of salad and Llama/Alpaca, whilst vegetarians were given quinoa.

A car, Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats

 

Salt Flats Lunch

Now it was finally time for the main attraction: the Salt Flats!

After a long-ass day in the desert, I suddenly found myself engulfed by a flat white sea of hexagonal salt tiles. An evocative and eerie site. Nothing will prepare you for the feeling you get when you’re standing in a never-ending sea of white. After my nightmare in the desert, this felt like a wonderful dream.

I visited during the dry season, when the ground hardens and polygonal patterns of salt rise from the ground. At certain times of the year, nearby lakes overflow and a thin layer of water transforms the flats into a stunning reflection of the sky. You’ve probably seen the pictures. This probably sounds like the more appealing option, but due to the lack of rain, we were able to drive to places that wouldn’t have been accessible in the rainy season (such as Isla Incahuasi).

Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

 

Salar de Uyuni

 

Salar de Uyuni flags

Certainly not my usual Christmas surroundings!

BOLIVIAN SALT FLATS TOUR: Isla Incahuasi

We also stopped off at Isla Incahuasi. This is an island covered in Trichocereus cacti, surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of salt. It’s a surprisingly lonely, otherworldly place.

Isla Incahuasi, Bolivia

 

Isla Incahuasi

 

 

Isla Incahuasi

Salar de Uyuni salt bricks

Edit: I have since learned that just after my visit, the flats were used as the battlefield location for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. More importantly, it was used for “La La La” by Naughty Boy Featuring Sam Smith. FYI.

For Part 3, “The Best Time to Visit the Salar de Uyuni: Never”, click here.