Salar de Uyuni

Jeeps across Altiplano – from Uyuni to the Chilean border

The huge area covered with a layer of salt several meters thick is not only important transport-wise, but also has a great economic value for Bolivia.

Although the Lonely Planet has described it as ‘the greatest nothing on the planet’, the salt contains lithium, which is the main component of most batteries, and Bolivia holds about 43% of the world supply.
The trip from La Paz to Uyuni is long and quite painful if one travels by bus.

Uyuni at the end of the world

Of the total distance of 570 kilometers, two thirds are not paved, and the bus drives like crazy. Going to the toilette is quite an adventure and you must be very careful not to end up in the conductor’s lap with your pants down. There is also a train operating on one part of the route, but only a few times a week, so you need to plan the trip in advance.

From Uyuni, jeeps take you on a three-day adventure to the Chilean border!

There are only a few inns on the way, which can be used to eat dinner and catch a few hours of sleep, but some of them don’t even have water. The exception is the salt hotel – completely made of salt, with even the beds made of salt bricks! The place is decent, if you consider that it is located in the middle of nowhere. In this entire area there is hardly any cell phone reception, so you can switch your cell to airplane mode and use it solely for music and photos.
On the way, you are surrounded by the most amazing landscape: salt desert, volcano, colorful lagoons, and the indispensable pink flamingos. The colors are incredible, as if someone had used Photoshop heavily, but they are real! The different colors of the lagoons come from the many kinds of metals that Altiplano is replete with. The temperatures are also unbelievable, ranging from some 20°C in the day, down to -10°C at night, with a cold wind that blows incessantly (the altitude is over 4000 m).
After 3 days, our eyes set on the Verde Lagoon and behind it the Licancabur volcano, which meant that we would soon reach the Chilean border and the end of our trip. The landscape is by far the most beautiful nature I had ever seen, and regardless of the painful and demanding parts of this adventure, it is very much worth the effort!

Text and photos by Ivana Hađina