Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas in all of South America, if not Earth. Stretching more than 4,050 square miles of the Altiplano, it is the world’s largest salt flat, left behind by prehistoric lakes evaporated long ago.
02 Night's Accommodation
First Aid Kit
Round Trip Transport
Tea and Coffee
Entrance to Isla Incahuasi (Bs 30)
Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama - Chile (USD 11)
Parque Eduardo Avora (Bs 150)
Departure & Return
SKYLINE TRAVELLER UYUNI, Av Ferroviaria, Uyuni, Bolivia
Returns to original departure point
What To Expect
Uyuni – Colchani – Salt Hostel – Incahuasi Island
It’s a cemetery for trains, for locomotives. And it’s so big that it looks as though all of the trains in South America were moved to Uyuni, Bolivia, to chug their last chug. It’s only about 3 km away from the Uyuni train station.
Filled with hollowed out bodies that have completely rusted over and other remains, the “Great Train Graveyard” (also known as Train Cemetery or ‘Cemeterio de Trenes’ in Spanish) can be found on the otherwise deserted outskirts of Uyuni, a small trading region high in the Andean plain.
Uyuni has long been known as an important transportation hub in South America and it connects several major cities. In the early 19th century, big plans were made to build an even bigger network of trains out of Uyuni, but the project was abandoned because of a combination of technical difficulties and tension with neighboring countries. The trains and other equipment were left to rust and fade out of memory. There are no restrictions in approaching the trains, so visitors often climb atop or go inside the train cars for taking pictures.
Most of the trains that can be found in the Graveyard date back to the early 20th century and were imported from Britain. There are over 100 train cars with unique structure and occasional graffitis. In other places in the world, the mighty steel trains would have held up better. The salt winds that blow over Uyuni, which hosts the world’s largest salt plain, have corroded all of the metal. Without guards or even a fence, these pieces were picked over and vandalized long ago.
ust outside the Salar de Uyuni salt flats lies the quaint salt-processing village of Colchani. This tiny village of just over 600 people is home to Bolivia’s largest salt-processing cooperative. Years ago, the inhabitants of Colchani used to exploit salt to exchange with other indigenous communities. Every year packs of llamas would travel incredible distances (up to 560km to Tarija) carrying salt, returning with coca, maize and other goods not produced in the Altiplano. This has since changed with the improvement of transport infrastructure and the salt is now sold by the cooperative in Bolivia and Brazil.
The Salar de Uyuni contains an estimated 10 billion tonnes of salt, with an impressive 25,000 tonnes of it excavated and processed at Colchani annually. During your stop in Colchani you can see handicrafts made of salt, and textile art made of llama and alpaca. This is the perfect opportunity to buy authentic Bolivian souvenirs to bring home.
The tour also includes a visit to a traditional salt factory where a local will teach you the process of extraction and refinement of salt. Despite this tour of the salt factory being free, those who take it are expected to give the local a donation for his time and effort. The tour is highly recommended if you’re interested in learning about how salt ends up on your kitchen table.
A visit to the Salt Museum is also popular among those who stop off at Colchani. This tiny yet picturesque space consists of salt bricks and a multitude of carved sculptures. It isn’t your typical museum as it takes no longer than 5-10 minutes to see all that it has to offer which makes it the perfect quick stop off for those passing through the town.
Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas in all of South America, if not Earth. Stretching more than 4,050 square miles of the Altiplano, it is the world’s largest salt flat, left behind by prehistoric lakes evaporated long ago. Here, a thick crust of salt extends to the horizon, covered by quilted, polygonal patterns of salt rising 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. This beautiful and otherworldly terrain serves as a lucrative extraction site for salt and lithium—the element responsible for powering laptops, smart phones, and electric cars. In addition to local workers who harvest these minerals, the landscape is home to the world's first salt hotel and populated by road-tripping tourists.
The Uyuni Salt Flat, one of the tourist gems of the Andes, for the fifth straight year awaits its stage of the Dakar Rally to show the world one of Bolivia's greatest attractions when the fleet of motorbikes, cars, buggies, quads and trucks comes racing through this Saturday.
Uyuni's salt desert in southwestern Bolivia is the world's largest and highest, at an altitude of some 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) and covering close to 10,600 hectares (26,000 acres).
Since the world's most famous rally set foot on Bolivian territory in 2014, it has kept its appointment with this vast white plain surrounded by mountains every year without fail.
The Dakar Monument created in 2014 has become a symbol of the desert and a must-see for the tourists who arrive each year.
One of the highlights of a Salar de Uyuni tour is a hike around the spectacular Isla Incahuasi, otherwise knoawn as Inkawasi. It's located in the heart of the salar, 80km west of Colchani. This hilly outpost is covered in Trichocereus cactus and surrounded by a flat white sea of hexagonal salt tiles.
It was once a remarkably lonely, otherworldly place but since the advent of salar tours it receives large numbers of visitors every day. Nonetheless, it’s still a beautiful sight if you forget the crowds.
You have to pay an entry fee to climb the hill (B$30), and tour groups clamber over the hiking trails chasing the perfect photo of cacti and salt. It’s a 15-minute walk to the top of the island, with a trail that loops back, but it's worth it. Note that during the wet season when the salar is flooded, the island is inaccessible.
Ollague is a massive andesite stratovolcano in the Andes on the border between Bolivia and Chile, within the Antofagasta Region of Chile and the Potosi Department of Bolivia. Part of the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes, its highest summit is 5,868 metres (19,252 ft) above sea level and features a summit crater that opens to the south. The western rim of the summit crater is formed by a compound of lava domes, the youngest of which features a vigorous fumarole that is visible from afar.
Ollagüe is mostly of Pleistocene age. It started developing more than one million years ago, forming the so-called Vinta Loma and Santa Rosa series mostly of andesitic lava flows. A fault bisects the edifice and two large landslides occurred in relation to it. Later two groups of dacitic lava domes formed, Ch'aska Urqu on the southeastern slope and La Celosa on the northwestern. Another centre named La Poruñita formed at that time on the western foot of the volcano, but it is not clear whether it is part of the main Ollagüe system. Activity at the summit continued during this time, forming the El Azufre sequence.
This phase of edifice growth was interrupted by a major collapse of the western flank of Ollagüe. Debris from the collapse spread in the form of hummocks down the western slope and into an adjacent salt pan, splitting it in two. The occurrence of this collapse was perhaps facilitated by a major crustal lineament that crosses Ollagüe from southeast to northwest. Later volcanic activity filled up the collapse scar, forming the Santa Cecilia series. This series includes lava flows as well as a compound lava dome on the western rim of the summit crater, which represent the youngest volcanic activity of Ollagüe. While there is no clear evidence of historical eruptions at Ollagüe, the volcano is considered to be potentially active and is monitored by the National Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) of Chile. Hydrothermal alteration has formed sulfur deposits on the volcano, which is the site of several sulfur mines. Later glaciations have formed moraines on the volcano.
We will see this from a view point
Be properly acclimatized before visiting the highest desert in the world at a dizzying 15,000 feet (4550 meters). Dusty, barren and hopelessly isolated, many wonder if they have arrived at the end of the world.
A psychedelic oddity, this 22 foot (7 meter) tall stone tree lies on the edge of the Siloli Desert. It owes its rather unusual shape to strong winds which have eroded its soft sandstone stem over millions of years.
Somewhere around 14,000 feet (about 4,300 meters) above sea level is Laguna Colorada, Bolivia’s stunning white-speckled, red lake. Part of Bolivia’s salt wonders of the altiplano, the lake, and its nearly-extinct flamingo population draw visitors to the bizarre, otherworldly landscape. Besides flamingo, the area is home to various fauna including llamas, alpacas, Andean foxes, cats, and pumas.
The colors of Laguna Colorada stand out immediately upon seeing it. Tinged with red algae and other microorganisms, the water is a deep orange-red hue. Perfectly contrasted, the salt lake is dotted with large white pools caused by massive borax deposits on the lake’s surface. Combined with the rolling mountains and craggy rock shores, Laguna Colorada is an immaculate and beautiful wildlife area. Laguna Colorada is part of the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, and in 1990 it was listed as a “Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.”
Besides tourists, a rare breed of flamingo has also flocked to the area for centuries. James’s Flamingo, also called the puna flamingo, is native to the Andes and the Altiplano area. Although they seem plentiful on the shores of Colorada, they are in fact very rare. During the mid-1950s, scientists had all but written them off as extinct, until a pack was found roaming South America. Today their habitat is continually threatened, and they are classified as an endangered species.
We will spend the night in a basic accommodation.
Polques Lagoon – Green Lagoon – White Lagoon – Uyuni
Geiser Sol de la Manana
Meaning “morning sun” in English, this series of impressive geysers are best observed at first light. Pools of boiling mud abound while the strongest geyser sprays pressurized steam up to 160 feet (50 meters) in the air. There are no safety barriers in place so think twice about getting up close for a selfie.
Named after the surrealist master himself, the Dali Desert is famous for its unworldly landscapes. Hues of brown and ochre contrast sharply with the deep blue sky and the snowy peaks of nearby volcanoes. Meanwhile, random piles of rocks inexplicably scattered around the desert complete the dreamy scene
Nestled beneath the ominous Licancábur volcano lies one of Bolivia’s most colorful attractions. Although not as green as it was years ago (a process blamed on climate change), the lagoon still boasts a vibrant hue and a dramatic setting.
Visitors will pass many volcanoes on the tour, but none are quite as menacing as Licancábur. This 19,555 foot (5960 meter) giant can be climbed by energetic tourists for an additional fee, but be warned, NASA has carried out experiments on the peak to prepare for future missions to Mars, so the environment is not exactly hospitable to human life.