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Explorer's Journal: The salt Uyuni-verse with Destination Expert Jeanie

Secondary Categories: Bolivia

Expedition Atacama to Uyuni Part 2 of 2 – As a team of explorers first, our Destination Experts (DEs) are constantly on the move. After exploring Chile’s Atacama Desert, Jeanie, along with Shaina and Julia travel on to Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats. Tag along for the second edition of this two-part series.

Hi! I’m Jeanie, one of SA’s Destination Experts. After treading the otherworldly landscapes of Chile, we were ready to take our journey across the border to Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats. Follow along for our next adventure!

Exploring the beautiful Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve

Our Bolivia adventure began with crossing the border at Hito Cajon, about an hour drive from the Chilean desert town of San Pedro de Atacama.

After completing formalities for each country, we hopped in our private 4x4 vehicles and began to explore the vast Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve. This semi-desert region boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes of Bolivia.

We managed to spot flamingos, Andean ostrich, Andean fox and viscachas (a cute type of rodent) on the way.

SA Expeditions Destination Experts and Andean fox at Salar de Uyuni salt flats Bolivia
Left: Julia, Jeanie, and Shaina take a break from lots of drive time to soak in the views. Right: A curious Andean fox comes over to say hello. (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

Visiting this part of Bolivia means a lot of drive time, however the scenery is constantly changing and the landscape allows for plenty of interesting stops along the way.

Our first hotel stay in Bolivia was at Hotel Mallku Cueva, in the remote town of Villamar and literally tucked into a huge rock. After a long day of exploration, our eyes lit up at the sight of a home cooked meal and hot water bottles in each bed.

The world’s largest salt flats

On our second full day of driving through incredible landscapes, we began to see white on the horizon!

While I’ve visited other salt flats around the world, Uyuni is the world’s largest and, for me, the most spectacular. Stretching over 4,000 square miles and overlooked by the cone shaped Tunupa volcano, the striking beauty of the flats seems never-ending.

Apparently, it’s even visible from space!

Perspective shot wine bottle during dry season at Salar de Uyuni salt flats Bolivia
When in Uyuni, perspective photos are a must! (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

We visited in May and were lucky enough that parts of the flats were still flooded so we could catch that mirror effect. The dry parts of the flats also made for some fun perspective shots, and we even got to enjoy a delicious picnic lunch out on the flats.

Bolivian meal and cuisine, quinoa rellena on Salar de Uyuni salt flats Bolivia
Left: Enjoying a home-cooked meal as we gazed upon the horizon. Right: The quinoa rellena was a group favorite. (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

My favorite was the quinoa rellena, a fried dumpling filled with meat and veggies. After dropping our bags at our new hotel, we returned to the flats to appreciate a once-in-a-lifetime sunset and got to celebrate with some local Bolivian wines and cheeses – delicious!

Wandering around Bolivia’s Capital, La Paz

After a night spent at a cozy hotel made of salt bricks, we took a connecting flight to La Paz, Bolivia’s capital.

Upon landing in La Paz, I was on a mission to taste Salteñas (a Bolivian empanada with a sweet and buttery crust) and our guide made sure we included a "Salteña stop" en route to our hotel.

SA Expeditions Destination Experts on a colorful street in La Paz Bolivia
Shaina, Jeanie, and Julia exploring La Paz’s colorful streets. (Photo: Jeanie O’Halloran)

I last visited this city as a young backpacker and was excited to see how it has changed in the past decade. La Paz has a plethora of quality hotels to choose from, as well as world-class restaurants. Despite its leap into modernity, the city still proudly holds onto tradition which can be seen in the local markets and architecture.

Our tour through the city brought us through the witches market, where we learned about different Andean offerings, as well as the city’s successful cable car network and colorful and reformed neighborhood of Chualluma.

Walking amongst the starry night sky

From flamingo filled lagoons, cacti covered islands to star saturated skies, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Bolivia.

For those who enjoy unique experiences, beautiful landscapes, and like to go "a little further," this is an ideal destination. An expedition like this requires a lot of vehicle time and off-roading, therefore a sense of adventure is essential.

SA Expeditions Destination Experts and sunset at Salar de Uyuni salt flats Bolivia
Left: Destination Experts Shaina and Julia enjoying the Uyuni Salt Flats at twilight. Right: Sunset is a special hour in Uyuni. (Photo Jeanie O’Halloran)

My favorite memory was heading on to the salt flats in the dark of night, switching off the vehicle lights, and seeing the sky explode with constellations. The water on the flats also reflected the stars so that you felt like you were walking in space.

Having a private guide and vehicle for two nights from the Chilean border all the way to Uyuni airport ensured we made the most of our short stay in the region.

Should I return to Uyuni in the future I would certainly stay a little longer, allowing myself some quiet moments to enjoy the remoteness and spectacular surroundings.

Part I - Explorer’s Journal: The allure of Atacama with Destination Expert Shaina

In case you missed it, before Jeanie, Shania and Julia explored Bolivia's Salt Flats, they traveled to Chile’s Atacama Desert where they hiked through unique rock formations, took a dip in natural spas, and went horseback riding. You can read about it here!

SA Expeditions Destination Experts at Salar de Uyuni salt flats Bolivia
Dancing in the salt desert (Photo Jeanie O’Halloran)

Do you love adventure? Fulfill your dream of unique landscapes, starry skies, and horizons as far as the eye can see. Chat with Jeanie , our Destination Expert, to start planning your customized trip to Bolivia today!

About the author: Born and raised in Ireland, Jeanie O’Halloran has long been a part of SA Expeditions and has since become a leader of our destination team. Currently based in Santiago, Chile, Jeanie is a certified sommelier, a voracious bookworm, an avid world traveler, and she's helped many hundreds of guests explore our unique world in unforgettable ways.

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