Salt bricks at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Bolivia, Latin America, Travel

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?

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