After our amazing Salar de Uyuni trip we headed to La Paz, Bolivia’s capital and largest city. And being set in a valley at around 3800m, it is one of the highest capital cities in the world.
After hearing mixed reviews about La Paz, some people saying they hated it, and didn’t want to go out after dark (chicks) and other saying they loved it and wanted more time, we had no idea what to expect upon arriving in this crazy city.
Our first day in La Paz started with a little bump (very little)…. We arrived at 5am, and it was dark.
Now obviously we know this is only a VERY little bump, but we have always tried to avoid arriving anywhere when it’s dark, and after the stories we’d heard La Paz was not somewhere where darkness appeared to be our friend. And as our bus was meant to arrive at 7:30 am we were surprised. Surprised about arriving in the dark and also about arriving somewhere EARLY in Latin America for once. I guess it was bittersweet.
We waited in the bus station for day light and headed off on foot to find our hostel, Loki.
Upon arriving at our hostel around 7:30 we were told we couldn’t check in until 2pm… Fantastic. We lurked around the hostel for a bit, caught up on wifi matters and then headed out for some breaky, lunch and an explore around the streets with a few different people we had met on our bus from Uyuni.
That night we were all exhausted. Bed at 9pm? Yes please.
Tomorrow we're planning on doing a city tour. We'll fill you in.
Our 3 day, 2 night journey to Uyuni took off from San Pedro de Atacama. We were picked up promptly at 730am from our hostel and hustled the Chilean Immigration (one dude with a stamp).
From here we hustled onwards to the Bolivian border and Immigration control. This was legitimately one single building and a large Bolivian flag above it. It was awesome. Noone’s bags were checked because well.. it’s Bolivia.
From here we were split into our respective groups for the next 3 days and given our driver. We were with the tour company Lithium, that we booked through our hostel. It cost us $95000 Chilean peso’s. We could have done it cheaper but the company was safe and after hearing tonnes of bad reviews involving car crashes and drunk drivers we were happy to fork out the extra $30AUDish.
We boarded our Land Cruiser. There were 6 of us in our car; myself, Sean and Sammy, a couple (American and Scottish) and a girl from Germany. Quite a mix, and we could all speak english!
Majority of the places we visited are named because of how they look (as you will see in the coming photographs), and the reason they look the way they do is hugely in part due to the different minerals that are found in the soil and water of the surrounding area. Resultantly I’m going to let the pictures do the talking for majority of this post, as otherwise I could type for days.
Also the info I would be relaying to you was told to us in Spanish, and although we’re beginning to grasp the language, we haven’t yet got to the chemistry and physics lessons. Thus our info could be wrong or at least a little misunderstood.
Here is a play by play of our journey.
Day 1 begun with entering the national park Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. The entrance cost $150 Bolivanos, and went towards park maintenance.
The first stop of Day 1 was Laguna Blanca, or “White Lagoon” in Spanish.
Due to the clarity of the water there was a perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains and clouds on the lagoons surface, it was really, really beautiful.
The next stop was Laguna Verde, or “Green Lagoon” in Spanish.
On the way to Laguna Verde we saw a cute little native fox, who had developed a keen liking for ham and cheese rolls
We then passed by Desierto Dali before heading to some thermal hot springs, that were 36 degrees! Absolutely delicious!
From here we headed to our hostel for the night where we ate lunch, at 4:30pm.
After lunch we headed out to Laguna Colorado. A huge red lake filled with thousands and thousands of Flamingoes. Very cool! Apparently the flamingoes get their pink or red colouring due to the colour of the tiny shrimp they eat!
We headed back to the hostel for coca tea and cookies. Coca tea is popular amongst all those in Peru and Bolivia at altitude. The tea, or leaves alone (when sucked) are said to help ease altitude sickness. And as we had been above 5000m A LOT that day our driver thought it was probably a good idea. Luckily though none in our group was feeling sick…. yet.
That night after dinner our group headed out to see the stars.
There were lots! But not quite as many as we had all expected because the moon was huge, and resultantly outshone the stars, However it was still amazing, it’s not every day you get to stand out in the desert surrounded by almost nothing.
However…. it was BLOODY FREEZING and even with thermals, a singlet, a polar fleece jacket and a down jacket I was ice cold. Sean and I headed in a little earlier than the others (because I was way too cold) and went to bed.
We wake at around 6:30 the next morning, and for sleeping at an altitude above 4200m, I had had an alright sleep.
We ate breakfast, packed our things into the land cruiser and headed off.
Our first stop was Arbol de Piedra, or in english The Rock Tree. Named so because….. yep you guessed it, it is a rock that looks like a tree.
The surrounding area was sand and rocks as far as the eye could see, with large red cliffs. It was beautiful and an amazing contrast with the lagoons from day 1.
Onwards we travelled. To our next destination’s, various altiplanic Lagoons. These were all again beautiful, so Ill let the pictures do the talking.
Unfortunately by this point in the day Sean had begun to feel really quite unwell, he had developed a cold and wasn’t dealing well with the altitude, he was getting dizzy and had an upset stomach. Resultantly he needed to take the day super slow, which was okay, but no fun for him.
After the lakes we headed onwards to Uyuni via a small town called San Cristobal. We were meant to stay ythe night on the salt flats in the Salt Hotel however due to the rain it was inaccessible, so resultantly we were spending the night in Uyuni town.
San Cristobal town was tiny and didn’t have too much besides a large church, that was closed. However as this was my first time buying anything in Bolivia I was BLOWN AWAY by the price difference to Chile, Argentina and Brazil…. For only $8 Bolivianos (Roughly $1.20 AUD) we bought, 2 icy poles, 2 bags of popcorn, 2 bags of banana chips and 8 werthers original lollies…… Yes I know, amazing right.
After our quick stop in San Cristobal we headed for Uyuni, stopping at the Train Graveyard.
That evening we all had warm showers (so bloody good) and headed out for dinner with our group leaders. We went to bed early as we had a 4am wake up to see the sunrise over Salar de Uyuni.
We awoke, as promised, early and headed off for the Salar. When we arrived there was a little more water than our drivers expected, however as we were in Land Cruisers, they continued on anyway.
We reached the point for the sunrise and parked the cars.
It’s important for me to note here that from the end of Jan through Feb is Bolivia’s rainy season and resultantly there is a very unique pooling of water on the surface of the flats, causing a perfect reflection of the sky and surroundings. It basically becomes the worlds largest mirror and looks amazing.
Once our cars were parked we got out into about 3 cm of water. Sean and I had removed our shows so that they wouldn’t be wet for the whole day however after only 5 or so minutes our feet were completely frozen and stinging from the salt, so we had to put our shoes back on.
We watched the sunrise and headed to a different part of the Salar for breakfast and lots and lots of photos.
Picture’s will do all talking here.
After all the photos had been taken we headed onward to visit the salt hostel we would have stayed at if it wasn't for the weather, and stopped to have lunch on the flats.
From Lunch we headed to the local Artesan Markets before being dropped off back in Uyuni to book a bus to head onwards to La Paz.
And here I am. In Uyuni, freezing, my clothes and shoes from this morning are soaked and salty but I have a ridiculous grin on my face because the last 3 days were incredible. When you come to Bolivia (not if, when) you should definitely visit these locations. They are amazing and the landscape is absolutely breathtaking.
We’re off for dinner now.
Next stop, La Paz.. Another overnight bus. Fantastic.
The tour company picked us up at 4pm after our morning thermal pools quest for our trip to Valle de La Luna. The trip to the valley national park took only 10 minutes from town. We stopped to pay our entrance fees and jumped back on the bus to head into the park. The first thing that came to mind was “I can see why they call this place Valle de la Luna”, which means Moon Valley in Spanish.
We drove 15 minutes into the park past some seriously freaky and barren landscape before first stopping at some ancient eerie looking rock formations surrounded by sand. Around the time we got off the bus the wind started absolutely howling so it was pretty interesting taking photos of each other whilst trying not to be blown over, oh and as well laughing at people chasing their hats in the wind.
We jumped back on the bus and stopped again at the bottom of a sand dune pushed up against a cliff. Here we got to walk up and around this huge dune and across the top of a ridge that had the most amazing lookout over more lunar landscape and the huge Chilean Salt flats in the background. Basically trying to describe what the views were like here and how amazing these places are is well beyond the stretch of my vocabulary, so I’m just going to let the pictures talk for themselves. On the way back down though the wind really whipped up and I think we all lost about 3 layers of skin due to all the sand and small rocks flying around.
Back relatively safely on the bus and down the road towards “Valle de la Muerte” or "Death Valley" for the gringos. All of these scary, inhospitable and amazing places in the Atacama Desert are largely due to this being one of the driest regions in the entire world. On average, San Pedro de Atacama rains only 3 days a year. The last time it rained was in June 2014, a storm that lasted only 2 hours, however several roads were washed away as a result, cutting the town off from the rest of Chile for an entire week!
Anyway, as we headed to Death Valley, it started raining. It wasn’t super heavy, but the lightening storm accompanied was absolutely amazing and our tour guide lost a $20 bet. This storm luckily enough wasn’t long lasting and that wind I mentioned before managed to blow the clouds away in about 15 minutes. Still, absolutely amazing. Our guide told us that “Valle de la Muerte” (Valley of Death) was actually originally meant to be named “Valle de la Marte” (Valley of Mars), however because the guy who found and named it was French the spanish speakers misunderstood Marte for Muerte. I guess either could be accurate due to the dry red rocks and clay everywhere. We also saw a road that had been washed away in that same short storm in June 2014.
Back on the bus and on to the edge of a canyon looking over valleys and distant mountains for an amazing sunset. So many amazing sights here, again I’m just going to let the photos speak for themselves.
Next stop is a 3 day, 2 night tour to Bolivia and Salar de Uyuni, as long as it isn't cancelled due to the rain!
G'day I'm Bec
I'm an Aussie who loves travelling, hiking, trail running and pretty much any activity you can do outdoors.
This blog may contain several affiliate links to products and services that I use and love. By clicking on these links, I might get a teeny tiny contribution towards my travel fund, at no extra cost to you!
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