Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni and Lagoons of all colors

Bolivia’s train cemetery close to Uyuni

The small village of Uyuni has recently become popular because of the tourist obsession with the salt flats. It offers dusty streets crowded with gringos, restaurants with prices like the ones on 5th Avenue and smelly hotels. For all my friends saying on Facebook that they envy us for our travel and the exciting places we visit, I wish you could see the hotel room we slept in before entering the salt flats. It was the smelliest, dirtiest room I’ve ever been to. It seemed the sheets haven’t been changed since the last rainy season.

After a night like that and a matching breakfast, we entered Salar de Uyuni, not in our best mood. Just a few kilometres later, everything changed. This is a place of another world, with unusual beauty and magic. It is known for its incredible vastness – Salar de Uyuni spreads over 10 582 square kilometres and flatness – it varies just one meter in its whole area. The satellites orbiting the Earth use Salar de Uyuni to calibrate their measuring instruments.

To say that the place is beautiful is an understatement. It is unimaginable. The pictures can show only a small fraction of its strange and out-of-this-world beauty.

A long time ago, Salar was one huge prehistoric lake with volcanic islands. When the lake dried up, the islands were left as the only darker and higher spots in the white deserts. We planned to camp there for the night and were advised to camp somewhere on the islands.


When we stopped for the night at Pescado island, the first thing we noticed was the gigantic cacti. They grow only one centimetre per year. The one in the picture below, using Ivan as a measuring tool, should be around 900 – 1,000 years old. Respect, old man…

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That night was totally different than the stinky Uyuni hotel. We slept in the car and enjoyed every bit of the night. The air was crispy and cold and the stars were shining above as. Ivan didn’t have enough breath to snore at 3,600 meters altitude, so the night was beautiful and peaceful. The wind, never stopping, was shaking our car like a cradle.

The morning was even more captivating if this is even possible. The flats had some pinkish tint and looked like a teenage girl’s room. Our island was surprisingly filled with life. We spotted two types of hummingbirds, one other small bird, a few mice and a Bolivian viscacha. Looks like they were not used to people and were not afraid of us. It’s a strange feeling to have a hummingbird perching on your green hat when you are trying to pee behind a rock. Sorry, no pictures of this private moment.

With my obsession to bring stones from everywhere, I got a salt brick and safely tucked it under my car seat against all Ivan’s arguments, with every intention to bring it back to Canada.

There are two posh hotels made entirely out of salt. This is the place where they cut the bricks

Lagoons of all colors

Laguna Colorada

When we were in Death Valley, California a few years ago, they used to say that nature is naked there. Now, when I visited Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde in Bolivia, it looks like Mother Nature is in her swimming suit in California. She is truly naked around Laguna Verde.

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This is the most hostile place I’ve ever been to.


When I was young, I used to dream to be an astronaut and to visit other planets and other worlds. So far, this place is the closest to my dreams.


When we slept in our car at Laguna Verde at 4700 meters altitude, the outside temperature was minus 10 Celsius. I am not sure how cold was in the car, but in the morning, we found that the few bananas we were carrying were frozen.


I used to do mountain climbing in my so distant younger years. One of my friends once said that mountain climbing is the most dangerous, difficult and expensive way to go to places where you have nothing to do at all.  I can easily say the same about going to Laguna Verde.

Laguna Verde

It was 200 kilometres drive in each direction on a dirt road (actually, more sand and rocks road), mostly in first or second gear, praying every minute that the next rock on the “road” will not break something on the car.

Yes, there was no single reason to go there. But I didn’t regret it for a bit once we were there…

And by the way, driving on the Salt flats could also be fun…


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