The Bolivian Altiplano or “high plains” in Spanish actually stretches from Puno to La Paz to the north and parts of Argentina and Chile to the south. While you can do Salar de Uyuni in one day, it’ll be sad if you miss out on the beauty of the Altiplano. Here is a breakdown of what you will see in this jam-packed trip.
Day 1: Uyuni-Train Cemetery-Salt Flats-San Juan
The Train Cemetery
Uyuni has always been an important transportation hub in South America. In the early 19th century, there were plans to build a bigger network of trains out of the city. However, conflicts with neighboring countries and technical issues caused the expansion project to be abandoned.
The Salt Flats
This is the largest salt flats in the world at 10,582 sq km (4,086 sq mi). Several prehistoric lakes make up the flats, and it is covered a very thick layer of salt.
San Juan wasn’t very memorable except for the salt hotel. But the sunset was beautiful.
Day 2: Volcan Ollagüe-Many Lakes-Rock Formations-Geysers-Laguna Chalviri
This volcano got its name from the Aymara language meaning “viewpoint”. Scientists believe lava flowed from this volcano some millions of years ago. Although it hasn’t erupted for a very long time, it is still considered an active volcano.
Laguna Cañapa is a salt lake located on the Bolivian Altiplano. I’m not sure how it got its name, and my tour guide didn’t have the answer either. But it was my first flamingo sighting.
Laguna Hedionda and Laguna Chiar Khota
Laguna Hedionda means “stinky lake” in Spanish. I don’t know why it was named that. Laguna
Rock Formations and the Stone Tree
The rocks in the Bolivian Altiplano are just as impressive as the landscape.
Árbol de Piedra or Stone Tree stands at 7 m high and can somehow stand up considering its narrow stem.
The reddish color of this lake is because of the algae in the water. As it was raining when I arrived, I didn’t spend too much time here. If I had binoculars, I could’ve seen some more flamingos.
Geysers are pretty amazing to see. As
Located 4,398 m (14,429 ft) above sea level, this lake was my home for the night. It was cold here!
Day 3: Dalí’s Desert-Laguna Verde and Blanca-Bolivian/Chilean Border-Uyuni
Dalí never actually painted this particular area of the Bolivian Altiplano, but the arid, stark desert skyline coupled with unusual rock formations bears a strong similarity to the famous surrealist’s work.
Lagunas Verde and Blanca
These lakes were not as impressive as the other Lagunas de Altura. But, then again, it was cloudy, which hid the green and white aspects of the lake.
At the Bolivian/Chilean Border
I said goodbye to half my group here. My favorite bit was that I illegally crossed over to Chile to pee behind a boulder.
Back at Laguna Chalviri
As we headed back to Uyuni, my driver, Willy, decided he wanted to take a bath in the hot springs of Laguna Chalviri. He just failed to tell us this information. But, I got to see a vicuña in the wild, so all good.
On the way back to Uyuni, there wasn’t much stopping except for lunch and a few bathroom breaks. Because of the rain, the roads were in bad shape. Instead of the regular six hours to get back, it took us eight. But I got to spend eight more hours looking at the Bolivian Altiplano.