El Altiplano

The Altiplano is one of the highest elevated plateaus of the earth, located in South America, with an average altitude of 4000 masl covering part of northern Argentina, western Bolivia, part of northern Chile and part of southern Peru.

After having visited the altiplano Chileno (POST) we are about to discover the altiplano Boliviano.

A bus that lasts almost 10h takes us from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni, a small town that has taken fame thanks to tourism thirsty of seeing the largest salt flat in the world located in this region.

The Uyuni salt flat, which occupies more than 10,000 square kilometers, is located at the southern end of the Bolivian Altiplano at 3650 masl. The area that today occupies this desert was covered 40,000 years ago by a gigantic prehistoric lake. This salt has been traditionally harvested by the local people known as the Aymara, which still predominates in the area. However, Uyuni is also one of the richest lithium deposits in the world.

To visit the salt flat the best option is doing it with a private guide or a tour (it is not recommended to do it on your own since there are hardly any signs on the road being the perfect place to get lost and in any case you will need a 4 × 4 ), you will find thousands of offers in the town, find out the options and the quality of the service.

The tours usually offer, in addition to visiting the salar, make a route through the most outstanding points of the altiplano. These tours go from 1 to 4 days.

We (Cristian, Estefanía, Idoia, Joseba and Clo) hired a private guide and thus adapt that 3 day tour to our preferences.

Knowing the whole environment is an unforgettable activity since it has unique landscapes in the world, but being at high altitudes between 3600 and 5000 meters high, cold, far from cities, with limited services and difficult roads, makes it a kind of tourism not suitable for everyone, to me, it has been an incredible experience!

January 17th

In a Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4 we left the town towards the Salt flat. We are in Bolivian winter (summer rainfall) and that implies that the salt will be covered with water and therefore we can see the mirror effect so desired.

The first stop is the Train Graveyard. Once there was a railway line in Bolivia that communicated Uyuni and Antofagasta that served to transport minerals such as tin, silver and gold.

With the time and the loss in the war of its only portion of sea, the trains never returned to slide on these rails. Today rust is all that remains on these trains.

 

We continue to the artisan village of Colchani, where artisans and tourists meet trying to negotiate their prices.

Before deciding to enter fully into the salt flat we make a stop at the Salt Hotel (all made of salt) for lunch and to plant, proud, my Canarian flag along with the others that welcome the great salt flat.

As we enter the salt flat I begin to wonder if I am still on the earth, because a huge sea of ​​clouds surrounds me, and I realize that I do not know where the sky begins and the earth ends. I'm inside the biggest mirror in the world! Mirror, mirror Who is the happiest of them all? I am!

We spend the afternoon walking, jumping, making videos and waiting for the longed moment of sunset, where the colors mix with the clouds and lightning that announce that the storm is approaching.

Tonight we will sleep in one of the salt hotels, which according to his owner, he has built everything himself, from its structure to the beds!

Good night from the salty kingdom.

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January18th

Good Morning! breakfast before continuing going up *!

* I recommend adapting to the altitude before starting the trip, we were first a few days in San Pedro de Atacama. There are people who can suffer the well-known altitude sickness, headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue ... I did not feel anything, a little more tired if I tried to run. Go up little by little and if you need it you can chew coca leaves, the Bolivians chew them all the time.

Laguna Hedionda ( stink lagoon) at 4,532 meters above sea level is one of several salt lakes that you can see in the Andean Altiplano. And you will ask yourself and that name? The smell is very stinky due to the combination of minerals among which the sulfur stands out. The colors of the water are magnificent but the smell is horrible.

We continue touring this landscape, there are no roads or traces of human life, to cross the desert and the stone tree, a natural form shaped like a tree.

The last stop before the sun begins to disappear is Laguna Colorada (red lagoon), a lagoon that impresses by the surrounding landscape, by its color, and by the large number of flamingos that inhabit its waters.

The red coloration of its waters is due to the sediments of the red color and pigments of some types of algae, which make it the perfect place for the breeding of Andean flamingos.

We´ll sleep tonight at the Huayllajara refuge, located at 4,400 meters above sea level.

You will see one of the most spectacular sunsets of your life that, after disappearing, will let you touch the stars.

 

We wrap ourselves well, at this point the cold is quite intense, and we ascend a little more to leave behind the little light pollution to tell stories about the constellations.

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January 19th

At almost 5000msnm we see the sunrise at the Géisers de Sol de Mañana( morning sun) that offers one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in all of Bolivia.

This desert area of ​​about 2km is characterized by intense volcanic activity.

During the morning there is a more marked difference of temperature between the air and the steam, added to the illumination of the sun during those hours, it is when it is more enhanced and magnifies the spectacle that it offers.

The road to La laguna verde (green lagoon) is spectacular, we are alone, the dawn, the clean air and this landscape of another planet.

 

La laguna verde, which owes its name to the green color that is appreciated thanks to the combination of minerals, is not only spectacular because of its color but also because it is the carpet of the incredible Licancabur Volcano. The volcano, dominating the Andean mountain range, is located on the border between Chile and Bolivia. With its 5900msnm it amaze you seeing it from the lagoon that is in a flat desert. We could not see its color because of the position of the morning sun, but we saw the reflection of the volcano and it was incredible.

Is there anything better than taking a bath in a hot spring? Passing through the Dalí desert, which owes its name to the painter Salvador Dalí, who never knew the existence of this place he painted landscapes with a great resemblance. We headed to the hot springs.

Thanks to volcanic activity, these hot springs aguas termales de Polques, allows you to enjoy a warm bath with an unforgettable landscape.

We return to Uyuni enjoying the scenery.

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January 20th

After spending the night in a bus, we arrived at La Paz.

La Paz is located in a canyon and surrounded by the high mountains of the high Altiplano, among them the imposing snow-covered Illimani, whose silhouette has been the most important emblem of the city.

It is the most important political, cultural and financial center in Bolivia and we have only one day to discover it!

We put on some comfortable shoes and let's enjoy the city!

  1. El Mercado de las Brujas. One of the most famous markets of La Paz, and almost of all Bolivia, is this Market of the Witches. Sorcery is present thanks to the local sorcerers, called «yatiri». Here you will find from fertility potions, to souvenirs of all kinds.

  2. La Basílica de San Francisco

  3. La Plaza Murillo. City center

  4. La Calle Jaén. It is one of the most colorful corners of the city. There, in a short street with colorful facades and colonial aspect, are the main museums of the city.

  5. El Teleférico y Feria del alto. This market is chaos! I think it's the biggest market I've seen in my life. You'll find everything and you'll never finish discovering.                                              Grab the cable car to get incredible views of the city.

We ended the day enjoying a dinner, alcohol and games to derive from Idioa and Joseba. Tomorrow we return to Chile.

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