Bolivia certainly is an interesting country to travel.
It has quite a lot to offer, it has beautiful landmarks, very rich culture, colourful cities and generally, things to look at.
It is hard to miss Bolivia if you travel by land. And it is pointless to miss it, because you can cross the whole country in about $15.
Bolivia is one of the “true” backpacking experiences, which not many are probably ready for. All the complaints that we hear about “too touristy” places and even countries that are solely designed for “tourists” can be put on hold, because nothing like that exists there. Of course there are hostels and of course there are bus companies that cost more than a flight and take you from border to the border. But if you’re on limited budget, you would probably do the way locals do it. So you can forget about heating in your rooms, or barely warm water can be called Hot, you may not see vegetarian options listed on the menus in weeks and you might forget what supermarkets look like.
Salar de Uyuni is the most popular tourist attraction in the country and even competes for the top of the most visited sites in South America.
Internet seem to emphasise that Salar de Uyuni is almost the only opportunity for the locals to rip off the tourists, that’s why it costs A LOT.
Our experience was a bit different.
So after crossing the border between Argentina and Bolivia (which absolutely deserves a separate post) we headed (as tripadvisor suggests) to a little town called Tupiza. From there, reviews seem to tell, you can get a nice deal for Uyuni Saltlake tours for a BIT more money than from Uyuni, but apparently there, they are meant to be so much better. I’ve heard that the cars are better, their schedule is better and everything seems brighter from Tupiza.
Well, when we arrived there, they offered us a tour “deal” for 4 days for $160 (with hidden expenses). By then we were travelling for over 6 months, and spending $40 per person per day in Bolivia for us seemed like a huge expense.
That just didn’t add up. The price seemed too high, and we almost agreed not to go, but from Tupiza we still went to a little village of Uyuni, just to check it out.
The trip from Tupiza to Uyuni was itself something special. We got on old rusty and super dusty bus, which was meant to take us to a place called Atoche, from where we were meant to get another bus to go to Uyuni.
Nothing seemed wrong with that. Only that Atoche city is located in the middle of desert and no road goes there. Literally. Only dried river, which the bus used as highway! Road from Atoche to Uyuni didn’t seem much different. But it was quite an adventure! Bolivia is a really specific country. Sometimes, on the bus you realise that for hours there is no presence of civilisation. The never ending deserts and dry highlands and hills swap each other on the way and sometime all of a sudden you can spot three totally isolated houses in a row and kids watching lamas. Probably that explains why country is poor and people are uneducated. It’s fairy hard to supply them (I am not trying to excuse Evo Morales for lousy job).
We arrived to Uyuni by night, went to the first hostel we’ve seen on our way ( which I couldn’t find again on Google) where we got a room for less than $10 ( obvs no heating).
There we asked a landlady if she could recommend any agencies for tours, and she signed us for a trip for one day for less than $18 (transport-guide- lunch).
Tour itself was amazing. Maybe we went there in low season, but all the talk that you should pay more to avoid other tours seemed a bit silly to me, because our driver just took the opposite to scheduled tour and we never seen another car in front of us.
Salars are huge and there is space for all.
We went to see pink flamingos, salt hotel , hot springs and inca island. We tried to do cool optical pictures, but we failed and it was fine 🙂
We eneded our day watching another beautiful sunset and later that evening we took an overnight bus to Sucre.
Salars de Uyuni is an exceptional place. You shouldn’t miss it, even though it is hard to describe it. But don’t settle for the first deal you see online and don’t trust too much reviews of spoiled gringos.