Uyuni: salt flat, trains, llamas and mirrors

Today I’m going to talk about Uyuni, a little town located in the region of Potosí, in southwest Bolivia at 3600 meters over the sea level. Probably, you heard about the world’s largest salt flat, but that isn’t the only attraction of this little town.

Uyuni salt flat

One thing that you need to have always present is the altitude, some people forget that you can die if you don’t pay attention to the symptoms. When I went never felt bad, only get tired a little faster than in Chile, but one of the girls felt really bad for a few days, she felt dizzy, loose color and even couldn’t eat properly. So, respect the altitude, don’t run or do anything that requires to much effort. I recommend you to take coca tea or even chew some coca leaf to help you adjust to the altitude, also some pharmacies sell medications for this, you only have to ask for pills to treat the ‘Mal de Altura’.

How to get there?

Depends from where are you coming, you have three ways to get into Uyuni. If you are already in Bolivia, the easiest way is taking a bus from La Paz, and if you can, take a night bus because the trip is around 10 hours. Some people take a bus to Oruro, stay there one or two days and then continue to Uyuni, supposedly, is more cheap take a bus to Oruro and then to Uyuni than a direct bus from La Paz.
If you are in Chile, you can come from Calama or from San Pedro de Atacama. The cheapest way is taking the bus from Calama, the ticket is around 10000 – 15000 Chilean pesos (15 – 20 US dollars), the buses go out on Monday, Wenesday, Friday and Sunday at 5 AM and you have to change the bus in the frontier, the trip takes around 12 hours. The good thing is that during the trip you are going to see free Llamas and beautiful landscapes of the Altiplano, but the bad thing is that the second bus is awful and doesn’t have a bathroom.

Altiplano

To go from San Pedro is necessary to buy a tour, a three day tour. Sure, you are going to see more nature and things than if you go directly to Uyuni from Calama, but in Uyuni you can find the same tour two or three times cheaper than in Chile, the price difference between Chile and Bolivia is huge.

Hostels and Food

Well, Uyuni isn’t big, so is really easy find a place to pass the night. You only have to walk around and there’s many hostels, just enter and ask, a good price should be 20 bolivianos the night.
About the food, there’s a street full of restaurants selling pizzas, burgers and any foreign food. But, I personally prefer to try local food, so I walked into a Bolivian place and order a meal called ‘Charkecan’ and was really tasteful, the secret ingredient was, surprise surprise… Llama meat. I couldn’t believe that such a pretty and cute animal (that I really love) tastes so good, you definitely have to try it.

Charkecan

Other traditional food that you can find is the ‘Salteñas’, is a kind of sweet empanada, personally I didn’t like it, but that is probably because I love Chilean empanadas, so for me, any other kind of empanadas are bad.
For cheap food you can go to the Mercado Central and find fresh fruits and vegetables. Something that was really curious to me is the way that they sell the meat, they don’t use any kind of refrigeration and the meat is just put on a table.

And finally the wonders of Uyuni…

Well, we took a one day tour because we didn’t have too much time to stay, but you can take a 2 or 3 day tour and see lagoons, desert and Geisers if you like it.
All the tour agencies are in the same street close to the bus station, and all offers the same, the difference is the price. One thing that you can do in Bolivia is negotiations with tours, usually between more big is your group, the price is lower. Also, you can bluff and say that other agency offer you a better deal, they are not going to question you and you can end with a great price. Sadly, we didn’t knew this (LOL), so we paid 120 bolivianos, is still cheap, but the other people that did the tour with us paid 80 bolivianos.
Anyways, the tour includes a visit to the train cemetery, to Colchani and of course the salt flat, starts at 10 AM and ended around 5 PM and you have lunch too.
So, we show up at the meeting point at 9:45 AM and we left our backpacks there. The first place was the train cemetery, a place that has many abandoned trains and where you can play a took loads of pictures. The place is nice, but is crowded, you have to be patient if you want great and funny photographs.

After staying around 45 minutes here, we went to Colchani, a little town where the houses are built with salt blocks. Here you can find many things made with salt too. At first we didn’t believe that everything was made with salt, so yes! we lick a wall to test this, and was really salty jajaja.
Here we found a little old lady selling Llama Chicharrones and obviously I wanted to try this, and was amazing.. one of the best meals I had in Bolivia.

And we finally went to the famous salt flat, was gorgeous. The driver was driving very slowly, so took us ages to get in at the center of the salt flat. We stopped at the salt hotel (yes, is made of salt and, yes, we lick a wall again) to go to the bathroom and have lunch. After this, we proceed to take many photos trying to obtain the perfect shoot, we took off our shoes and the ground felt really soft.
Something important to consider if you have a sensitive skin is putting a lot of sunblock and use sunglasses and of course be creative to have amazing and funny pictures.
Enjoy !!

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