The Best Of Bolivia!
Bolivia can boast it has the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni, which is fantastic in its own right. But if like us, you love the great outdoors, we discovered that Bolivia also has something just as special, the magnificent Altiplano, a remote highland plateau that is one of the world’s harshest wilderness regions, and is simply a photographer’s paradise.
From dusty plains with giant prickly cacti, making it feel like you’re driving through the Wild West, to colourful lakes with shimmering reflections of pink flamingos, to steaming geysers and bubbling, hot pools of mud, to curious rock formations that change colour with the setting sun, the Altiplano is a vast expanse of breathtaking scenery and by far one of the best reasons to visit Bolivia.
Panorama of one of the many breathtaking views of the Bolivian Altiplano.
Our first glimpse of the expansive salt flats.
Spectacular sunset over the Altiplano on our first evening.
Altiplano Southwest Circuit To Uyuni
Setting off from the small town of Tupiza, we embarked on a four day/ three night ‘Jeep Tour’ of the Altiplano and famous Bolivian salt flats, which was a last minute addition to our itinerary and very much an unexpected treat being the penultimate week of our trip.
We toured the Altiplano by jeep, setting off from the town of Tupiza.
Fantastic views across the valley.
The gorgeous colours of the Altiplano.
A stunning 4 day drive that showcases the best of Bolivia.
Our extensive route, that involved around 8 hours of driving each day along bumpy dirt roads, was one of the most scenic and spectacular we have ever experienced. As passengers, we could both enjoy the amazing views and change in landscapes along the way and appreciate our tiny place in the world standing in the heart of such rugged and remote terrain.
A beautiful start to the day…
Enjoying the spectacular scenery of the Altiplano.
Llamas feed off reeds growing in the lakes.
In harsh environmental conditions, we were still able to spot a variety of wildlife.
In keeping with my love of llamas, here they are donning their fancy ribbons.
We finally got a picture of the elusive South American vicuña.
Driving past sleeping volcanoes of around 6,000m in height, numerous colourful lakes, abandoned villages known locally as ‘ghost towns’, fields of wandering llama, and exploring a ‘train graveyard’ were just some of the highlights of this amazing trip.
Laguna Colorada – Just one of the many colourful lakes we visited during our scenic drive.
The unusual rock formation, Árbol de Piedra, (‘Stone & Tree’) carved by wind-blown sand.
Photography fun in the Altiplano.
A photographer’s paradise – the colourful contrasts of the Altiplano.
Through our photography we have tried to capture the very best of our ‘Altiplano Adventure’ and share it with you here!
Entering the National Park – The Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa.
Panorama of Laguna Verde, a vibrant turquoise green lake.
Wowed by the wonderful, intense colour of Laguna Verde.
In Search Of Flamingos…
Straight from an artist’s palette – lovely pastel shades of colour.
In the pink…
Shimmering reflections of pink flamingos.
The Altiplano was the first time we have seen flamingos in the wild.
Such elegant creatures.
Rock pools covered in salt as lakes evaporate in the sun.
Giant volcanoes lay silently sleeping…
Beautiful reflections in the steaming waters of the lake.
An intense sky as we drive through the Altiplano.
Salar de Uyuni
It’s difficult to imagine 10 billion tons of salt stretching out before you, 12,106 square kilometres of white nothingness. That’s the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni, in effect, a salt desert completely devoid of life. It’s even harder to imagine being completely disorientated by the affect of where the salt flat meets the horizon, as in every direction everything looks the same.
A spectacular sunrise over the salt flat on Isla del Pescado that sits in the heart of the salar.
Avoiding the crowds of day trippers by getting to the island early.
Gigantic cacti that grow in the Altiplano.
The magnificent expanse of salt that makes you lose all sense of perspective.
Waving the Bolivian flag.
Rocks of salt like these are used to create ‘Salt hotels’ in the village of Colchani.
Standing on the salt flat is a surreal experience. You expect it to be cold but smooth like ice. With the sun burning overhead it doesn’t feel cold at all, and the salt, far from being smooth, is really rough on the hands. The surface is particularly striking as it is a flat, white sea of hexagonal salt tiles that seem to never end.
Introducing ‘Mexican Man’! Look out for him on our future travels…
Lights, camera, action!
Expert balancing skills!
Blowing away the cobwebs!
My little salt guru in the midst of a sea of white, hexagonal salt tiles.
Piles of salt in the village of Colchani ready to be processed.
More of the Altiplano…
A perfect spot for a dip! Warming up in the hot spring pool – Termas de Polques.
Intense colour of the Altiplano desert.
A spot of rock climbing…
“I feel on top of the world!”
Some of the wilder terrain we drove through.
Caution! Navigating around the bubbling mud pools and steaming geysers at Sol de Manana.
Close up of a bubbling mud pool. Only in South America could you get THIS close!
One of the first train lines built in Bolivia. The north south line down the Altiplano from La Paz to Villazon on the Argentine border.
Fun on the deserted tracks!
The Dakar Motorcycle & Quad Rally passes through southwest Bolivia on its route through South America.
The Train Graveyard At Uyuni.
The final stop before heading back on the circular route to Tupiza was a visit to the Cementerio de Trenes (train cemetery) located 3km out of Uyuni. It’s a popular tourist attraction as you can find the remains of the first locomotive to enter Bolivia as well as the train purportedly robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid before the end of their career.
Rusting steam engines and carriages are sprayed with graffiti for a new lease of life.
Exploring the Cementerio de Trenes.
Wayne on the look out for the famous train robbed by Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.
Life On The Road
Our four day trip included all meals and accommodation. Food was freshly prepared and cooked on route by two accompanying Chuletas (indigenous women of Bolivia) and our Refugio accommodation in various villages, although basic with shared dormitory style rooms, was perfectly adequate for a few days. The latter of which was actually a salt hotel with private rooms, and it even had hot showers!
Our two accompanying Chuletas preparing lunch on the road.
Barbecued chicken and an array of fantastic salads on offer.
Tentatively petting a hand reared llama that was abandoned by its mother and is now looked after by a local farmer.
South America’s Hidden Gem
We had a fantastic time on our Altiplano adventure! After visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, we were starting to feel like our trip had come to the end and that we had already experienced much of what South America has to offer. How wrong could we be!
We had never really heard of the Altiplano or even realised that Bolivia had such amazing scenery. After leaving Peru and arriving at the Bolivian border in the chaotic town of Desaguadero, we had low expectations of what Bolivia would have to offer us. But here and now we can confirm that Bolivia is a ‘must’ visit destination. Aside from the run-down and chaotic nature of the towns and villages, Bolivia is slowly developing its infrastructure and accessibility and making its mark on the map as a worthy tourist destination.
We only had 11 days in what is deemed as South America’s ‘poorest’ country, but we could see that Bolivia has the potential to be an amazing hiking destination. Just look at our photographs. The breathtaking, unspoilt landscapes of the Altiplano certainly have that ‘wow’ factor. The remoteness and rugged feel of the Altiplano, as well as its simplicity, also add to its appeal.
What unexpected highlight have you experienced whilst travelling?
We highly recommend adding this to your South America itinerary as we would place the ‘4 Day Jeep Tour’ in our ‘Top 5’ experiences. Visiting the Altiplano and the Uyuni Salt Flats turned our penultimate week into an amazing adventure and a fabulous end to our six month trip!